Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent
Photos: Caitlin Martin
Baltimore, MD – The Ravens’ Vice President of Public Relations, Kevin Byrne told owner Steve Bisciotti on the way home from New Orleans that he should expect 30,000 people at the parade yesterday. Bisciotti asked what they would do if there were more than 30,000. The answer: “We’ll have to open up the upper deck.”
That is where I found myself yesterday after sitting in about an hour of traffic, in my seats in the upper deck that I sat in for seven games this year. Section 521, row 23, seat 9, 10, and 11 with my brother and father. But I was not there for a game yesterday, I was there to watch my team hoist the ultimate goal: the Lombardi trophy.
I did not see the parade that preceded the ceremony in person, but I watched it on the Ravens Vision board on one end of the stadium and I saw thousands of fans greet the team with “Seven Nation Army” and cheers, following them down Commerce, Howard, and Russel streets leading to M&T Bank Stadium, where they disembarked their floats and lined up for one last introduction onto the field. They entered the field to “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2 like they always do, with the fire walls and fireworks. It was incredible to see the team that had went through so much, come full circle with Lombardi in hand.
They did not do personal introductions, aside from a few exceptions. The first few being Steve Bisciotti, Dick Cass, Ozzie Newsome, and John Harbaugh. They only had two players personally introduced. The first being the Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who walked out with his son. The second being Ray Lewis, who walked out and hoisted the Lombardi trophy over his head. He handed the trophy off, picked up a piece of grass from a cardboard box, and did his famous dance for upwards of 90,000 fans (final estimates are 80,000 in the stands with and additional 10,000 on the field) per baltimoreravens.com. Ed Reed met him where he was standing and the two defensive legends did Ray’s dance together. Not to be out danced, Jacoby Jones did his own version of the Squirrel with Ray.
The crowd went nuts.
Gerry Sandusky introduced five speakers to the podium.
Joe Flacco took his little boy to the podium and said “Baltimore, we did it… this was for you guys… We’ve been through a lot this year– a lot of highs, a couple lows. and you guys stood there through it all. Like you always do… you are a special group and we love you.”
An emotional Ray Lewis took the podium. “Baltimore! There is no nothing better in the world, there is no place on this earth, that is better than Baltimore. This city, this city. We believed in each other since Day One. From 1996 to now. We believed in each other, Baltimore.”
That we did, Ray. That we did.
Ed Reed took the podium and led Raven Nation in “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Seven Nation Army” before saying “Hey Baltimore! the best team, the best team in the world is right here. Right here. No better team right now. Right now, nobody can beat these boys. Not us. Not in the world.”
At the end of the ceremony, John Harbaugh took the podium and led the 90,000 members of Raven Nation in a cheer.
“What’s our name?” he asked.
“RAVENS!” the crowed cheered back.
As the highlights from the Super Bowl rolled, I sat in section 521, row 23, seat 10 and just smiled. The team that walked onto the field with the Lombardi reminded me of why I love this team, why Baltimore loves this team: it’s because this team loves Baltimore, too. It is easy to stick with a team through three-game losing streaks, blowout losses, and uncertainty when the team honestly cares about the city they represent.
And looking forward to the uncertainty of the offseason for the Ravens, I will still believe in the boys in purple. Just like Ray said.
And there is only really one way to put it, like Ed Reed said:
“From New Orleans to Baltimore, who dey say gonna beat dem Ravens?”