Writing this Friday morning while watching the updates about the killers from the Boston Marathon.
How sad, how tragic, how frightening.
Sports are pure. Competition is compelling. We go there to test our mettle and enjoy ourselves with fellow fans. Sports bring us together. They give us common cause and goals. "Our team is better. Your team can't beat us. I'm better than you. Watch me run."
Memories of our recent Super Bowl triumphant ride flood to me now. How magical that journey was, not only for us as Ravens, but for you – the fans. How much fun was that? How much purple can one community wear and display? We probably set some sort of "purple" record.
We were one. Rich, poor, all religions, all races – coming together for the common cause: the Ravens. We stood shoulder to shoulder, side by side. We laughed. We cheered. We cringed. We held our breaths. We leaped for joy when Josh Bynes tackled the 49ers' Ted Ginn Jr. on the Super Bowl's final play.
Today my mind spots John Harbaugh, his arm around his daughter Alison, as the Sandy Hook Choir from Newtown, CT sings "America the Beautiful" with Jennifer Hudson and then Alicia Keys voices "The Star Spangled Banner" with great dignity and poise prior to our Super Bowl victory in New Orleans.
That moment brought tears to some of us. How special was that! Before the most-watched sporting event in the world, father and daughter, standing tightly and proudly together, saluting our country.
We present the national anthem before every professional sporting event in America. Usually, I'll admit, I pay little attention to it. With Ravens games, my thoughts race to what needs to be done and what's about to unfold. But, like many of you, I was moved Wednesday night when the anthem was presented prior to the Boston Bruins/Buffalo Sabres' hockey game.
Singer Rene Rancourt, as he does before many Bruins' games, sang the anthem, accompanied by the Boston Fire Department Honor Guard. Soon after he started, Rancourt, recognizing how special this moment was, lowered the mike and started conducting as 17,565 patrons delivered a loud, dripping with pride and emotion anthem that was one for the ages. Please watch this (below). And if you've already seen it, it's worth another look:
Soon after the anthem, the Boston fans, instead of shouting their normal "Let's go Bruins" chant, yelled "Let's go Boston" over and over again.
Sports can be a powerful, powerful elixir for all of us.
Good, Bad Schedule
Unlike most teams, we don't attach quotes when we release our schedule, as we did last night. I tried to get Coach Harbaugh to say something in his first two seasons with us, and the best he offered was: "Say that we will be there whenever they say we have to be there. Tell them the Ravens will be there for kickoffs."
Getting Ozzie Newsome to say something? Please. Best I ever got from him was: "It doesn't matter in April. We already knew who we were going to play."
That said, we like the schedule. It is balanced and fair. With two Thursday night games and the bye, we essentially have three "byes," with 10 days to prepare for the three opponents (the Browns twice and the Vikings) after a weekend off. Playing the Patriots after competing the previous Monday night at Detroit is a disadvantage with one less day to prepare. But, the Ravens/Pats' game is at M&T Bank Stadium.
We also have an advantage to some degree when we play at the Dolphins after they play the previous Monday at New Orleans. The Bengals, however, will have 10 days to prepare for their game in Baltimore in Week 9 after they play at Miami the previous Thursday.
Go Get 'Em, Oz
As I just indicated, Ozzie Newsome is a man of few words. Most who know him would describe the Wizard as quiet, reserved, intelligent and classy. When he speaks, we all pay attention. When he does so publicly, reporters all show up.
Such was the case on Tuesday when we held our annual pre-draft press conference. Historically, Newsome reveals just enough at these conclaves to give fans a small window to see the strengths of the draft and some of the things we are thinking about this collection of NFL prospects.
Here's another thing I know about Ozzie, a man with whom I have worked since 1981. He is one tough competitor – and he hears and sees everything about our team.
With the departures of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Bernard Pollard, Matt Birk, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Cary Williams, some observers have predicted a "crash and burn" for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Ozzie doesn't believe that and proclaimed it loudly at the press conference: "It wasn't that one day we woke up, and we decided that we were going to let a lot of really good football players walk away and play for other teams. BUT, we had a plan in place. We had to allow that plan to unfold.
"I think we like our football team this year," Newsome continued as he sat up taller and leaned into the microphone. He then looked around the room at all the reporters and continued: "I'd like for someone to be able to tell me that we aren't good enough to go to the playoffs right now. Can anyone say that? OK then. I think what we did is we just wanted to make sure that when we look downstream, we will be able keep the Torrey Smiths, the Dennis Pittas, guys that we wanted to keep. If you don't make tough decisions this year, then it will be tougher to keep those guys in years to come."
Not the typical, public reserved Ozzie. But, it sure made a lot of us feel very good about what he and his staff are assembling for the 2013 Ravens. In Ozzie we trust. ... And, I love when the public gets to see the competitive side of our Hall of Fame general manager. Newsome believes we can play and win tomorrow with the team we have today – and that's before next week's draft and other free agents we will add prior to the opening in Denver on Sept. 5.
Talk to you next week. The days before and the days of the draft are some of the best of the NFL calendar. Enjoy.