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Eisenberg: Ogden's Induction As Important As Super Bowl


When Jonathan Ogden is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, it won't create the same frenzy in Baltimore that the Ravens' Super Bowl victory generated earlier this year. 

While a sizable contingent of Ravens fans are in Canton, Ohio, to cheer Ogden as he goes in and certainly will make themselves heard, there won't be a packed stadium celebration downtown or tens of thousands of fans cramming a parade route to offer tribute.

It's only natural, of course; nothing can match seeing your team score the ultimate football victory.

But having said that, Ogden's induction is almost as important to the franchise as last February's win in New Orleans.

For any team, including the Ravens, the quest to become a substantial franchise comes with two "must-do" items. You must win games to become relevant on the field, and you must create a compelling history that gives fans something to latch onto.

The Ravens have done a terrific job of winning games. They're still a young franchise at just 17 years old (compared to the 92-year-old Green Bay Packers or the 81-year-old Washington Redskins) but they have already earned nine playoff berths and won two Super Bowls. Honestly, it's hard to ask for more.

Building a history involves more than just wins, though. You have to suit up memorable players, provide memorable moments, somehow scratch your way into the public consciousness and build a brand that lures fans who will pass their passion on to subsequent generations. It's a complex, painstaking process that can take decades, and try as you might, you simply can't rush it. 

Putting a Ravens-for-life player into the Hall of Fame for the first time marks a huge step forward in that process.

To become an important franchise, you have to plant your flag somewhere in the Hall ... stake some ground. The three other former Ravens who are enshrined (Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders) suited up elsewhere and are more closely associated with other teams. But Ogden is all purple; he played all 12 of his seasons with the Ravens.

When Ray Lewis follows him into the Hall in five years and Ed Reed joins them later, the Ravens will have planted quite a flag in Canton. Talk about a statement – three Hall of Fame guys who were drafted by the team and played solely for the team, with the exception of Reed here at the end of his career.

Meanwhile, neither of the NFL's two other franchises birthed in the 1990s (Carolina and Jacksonville) have drafted and overseen a Hall of Fame player's career. Nor have the Cleveland Browns since they cranked back to life in 1999, or the Houston Texans, born in 2002.

The Ravens are soon going to surpass them all as well as the 47-year-old Atlanta Falcons and 45-year-old Cincinnati Bengals, each of which has overseen the Hall of Fame career of just one draft pick (Atlanta's Deion Sanders and Cincy's Anthony Munoz).

Ogden's enshrinement is a testament to him most of all, of course. Massive and amiable, he is one of the best offensive tackles ever, a natural who combined immense physical skills and a keen intellect to make playing a rugged position look easy. In his prime years, there were Sundays when he barely even went to the ground.

It's hard to imagine because he's still so young (39) and so approachable around town, but Ogden's story is going to endure for decades as the Ravens' original legend. You certainly couldn't invent a more satisfying script. A team moves to a new city and somewhat controversially takes a lineman instead of a star running back with it's first-ever pick. The back flames out. The lineman becomes a perennial All-Pro and first-ballot Hall of Famer. The team effectively follows his lead, developing into a contender and champion.

It feels real now because we were around to witness it, but it's a tall tale in nature (no pun intended), almost too good to be true. People will recount it for years, how the Ravens hit the lottery with their first pick, and how that set them on the right path. It's high history, no small matter, grand and glorious and hugely important.

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