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Byrne Identity: Ravens Fan's E-Mail Inspires Team

Posted Dec 28, 2012

Matthew Jeffers has endured life-threating situations and helped put football in perspective.


Ravens Fan’s E-Mail Inspires Team

The Ravens had finished last Thursday's practice in preparation for the game against the Giants.

John Harbaugh returned to his office, and before watching the video of the just completed practice, he checked his phone and e-mails.

"I saw Pam (Lund, the executive assistant to owner Steve Bisciotti) had forwarded an e-mail to me from a fan. Pam's very good about what she sends me. They are usually from an old friend reaching out or someone delivering a message that I might find interesting," Coach Harbaugh said.

"This one stopped me. Really, it made me pause. It came from a fan, and it got me. I immediately decided to share it with the team and e-mailed it to them," the head coach continued.

Here's the e-mail sent by Matthew Jeffers, a Ravens fan who is a senior at Towson University:

The Message

"To Whom It May Concern,
 
"My name is Matthew Jeffers. I am a senior at Towson University majoring in acting, and I have been a die-hard Ravens fan since Baltimore welcomed you with open arms in 1996. As you, the Ravens, continue to battle through tough losses and heated criticism, allow me to share some thoughts with you. You are in uncharted territory. You (and us) have had the gift and pleasure of consistently winning for years, and frankly, you have spoiled us. You have maintained a level of professionalism and inspiring play for so long that we have lost touch with what it feels like to have our feet in the mud. And I'm sure it is an even worse feeling for you, the ones on the field, than it is for the ones in the stands.

"And let me let you in on a little secret. Life doesn't care about streaks. It does not care about three-game losing streaks, or four-game win streaks. It does not care if you WANT to win, if you NEED to win. At the end of the day, life is simply unfair. I am short-statured. I am 21 years old, but stand only at 4'2”. Over my lifetime I have endured 20 surgeries, some small, others life-threatening. I have had a tracheotomy, I have had blood transfusions, I have spent summers in a hip spica cast, and I've had to learn how to walk again. My last surgery was in 2003, and I acquired the naive mindset that I was free from the bondage of heartache. I had the mindset that I had ‘done my time.’ And then, in February of 2011, my mother was diagnosed with a stage IV brain tumor. As I write this, the doctors at JHU are determining whether or not the next step should be Hospice care. So you tell me, is life fair? When you give every ounce you have, and all you have to show for it is a loss in overtime, is that fair? When families in Newtown, CT go into their child's room, but have no child to kiss goodnight, is that fair?

"We live in a painful world, no doubt about it. But let me tell you this: The ONLY disability in life is a bad attitude. The ONLY disability in life............is a bad attitude. A positive attitude is the most powerful combatant to life's misfortune. The will to fight, to survive, to win. It is the secret weapon I use, and I think I'm turning out OK. When you play on Sunday, let it not be to win a division or to silence the critics or prove somebody wrong or end a losing skid. Let it be a dedication to that simple yet powerful notion that life can be conquered with the right outlook. And I promise you, I promise you that everything else will take care of itself. Go get 'em on Sunday. I wish you all the best on your journey to The Lombardi."
 
---Matthew---

Soon after sending the e-mail to his team, Harbs received one back from safety Sean Considine: "Awesome message. Thanks for sharing!"

“It was the right message at the right time,” Considine said. “The writer hit it on the head. It is about attitude and how you look at things. We all have problems, be they financial, health or family, but we can all get through it with the right mindset. I appreciated the reminder."

The next morning (last Friday) at the team meeting, Harbs talked about Matthew's e-mail. "He hit on a couple of subjects we discussed last week and helped put everything into clearer focus," Harbaugh said. "We had lost three in a row, but the players were working hard, and they had been working hard. We still could achieve our first goal: win the AFC North. We could feel sorry for ourselves, or we could take this next great opportunity and beat the Giants to get where we wanted to go."

Ray Rice Inspired

Ray Rice had read the e-mail the night before. "Here was a young man who wasn't talking about winning or losing football games, but was dealing with real life issues in a positive way. He didn't give up with all his surgeries and procedures. He kept moving forward with a positive attitude. That's the right message, and I'm glad John shared it with us," Rice explained. "It helped."

Matthew Jeffers is surprised the Ravens responded to his e-mail. "I'm a huge Ravens fan. The e-mail just came to me. I thought if I could write something that would make one person in the Ravens feel better, I would be doing my share. I'm very happy that Coach and the players read it, but I never thought that would happen. I'm thrilled," Jeffers said.

"I listen to the radio, watch television and read. My sense was that the organization had to feel a little low. I'm still so surprised my e-mail was noticed. I'm just a person who loves the Ravens, loves the Orioles and makes that part of my life fun. There is so much hurt, pain and suffering for all of us. And sometimes people seem to take some of their frustrations out on our teams. I think that's sad. We're lucky to have these teams, and we should have fun with them," Jeffers said.

Where does Matthew get his positive attitude? "From my parents, friends and, obviously, God. My Mom, what she has been through with her cancer makes everything I've been through look like training camp. She would go from heavy chemo treatments to work. Can you believe that?

"My dad (Michael) and I share the Ravens. We've been season ticket holders since the beginning," Jeffers continued. "We have a big group we tailgate with, which is wonderful. When we go to the Ravens game, it's a break for my dad and me. It's a way to kind of forget, for four hours, and root for a team we genuinely care about. We have a passion for it. ... And lots of great memories."

His favorite Ravens memory?

"The game against the Chargers in 2006. I can still see Todd Heap almost fly as he reached for the end zone for the winning touchdown. I remember looking around the stadium and seeing how happy everyone was. … And it was the loudest I've ever heard it at M&T."

Thank you, Matthew Jeffers. Thanks for reminding us how important we can be to fans like you. And a special thanks for helping lift our spirits. You are now part of our 2012 season's journey, and we're proud to have you as a teammate.

And good luck to you as you reach for your stars on your climb to be a great actor. May you reach the heights of Daniel Day Lewis and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the two actors who most inspire you.

(By the way, Matthew and his father, Michael, attended today's practice and got a chance to meet Harbs and the players, including Ray Rice who proclaimed: "I want to meet the guy who sent the inspirational e-mail.")

One more thing, if you think the Ravens are tough – and our team has the toughest of the tough – Google "hip spica cast." Matthew spent a full summer in one of those painful devices while having a surgery a month on his hips and knees. Now, that's tough.)

On Sunday, let's beat those Bengals a second time this season. Later, we'll find out who's coming to Baltimore to play the AFC North Champions on the first weekend in January. Talk with you next week.

Happy New Year!

Kevin

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