Memories are not written in pencil. They cannot be erased.
They can be ignored. Selectively misremembered. And over time, even forgotten. But just four months removed from the final snaps of 2007, the memories of a 5-11 season should still have been fresh in the minds of RavensNation: the Phil Dawson double-doink; the Patriots 4th and forever; the Dolphin disaster. All marquee moments for all the wrong reasons that should have been stewing and simmering in their subconscious all winter long. But judging by the thousands of Ravens faithful that made their way to M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday for the 11th Annual Spring Football Festival, I have a feeling they forgot. Or maybe misremembered.
From the moment the gates opened at 2:00, fans of all ages raced through the concourse, seemingly sprinting away from all of the perils the men in purple faced last year, reaching out for what lies ahead for the Ravens in 2008. Children ran towards the field for a rare chance to punt, pass and kick on the same surface they now shared with their gridiron heroes. Adults ran towards the various autograph areas to be the first in line to meet the men they root for; not only to have them sign their memorabilia, but in many cases, to simply shake their hand and wish them luck this year.
As a Spring Football Festival Volunteer, I had the honor of escorting one of the Ravens in attendance to his various appearances and autograph sessions. I choose to chauffer Adam Terry, a fellow Orange alum, who was scheduled to sign and make a stop in to see those fans giving blood as part of a blood drive for the Red Cross. Luckily for me, Terry arrived early and we had some time to relax. And if you had the choice of anywhere in the stadium to kick up your feet for a few minutes, where would you choose? The owner's suite of course.
The players were granted access to Steve Biscotti's suite on Saturday and when I arrived, I found myself watching the NFL Draft coverage with a few guys who knew a thing or two about being drafted on day one: Todd Heap and Willis McGahee. Of course Matt Stover was there too and he jokingly told Heap and McGahee that he was just three picks short of earning the title, Mr. Irrelevant, given to the guy drafted last each year. I think Matt turned out okay for a 12th rounder.
Once the Ravens in the room realized the Ravens in Owings Mills were going to trade down from their 8th pick, Terry and I headed to the autograph zone where he was joined by Lee Vickers. Terry, an offensive lineman, joked to Vickers, a back-up tight end, "You'll get three fans, I'll get six." As it turns out, they both signed more than a hundred signatures in varying shades of sharpie on items ranging from helmets and footballs to license plates, pennants and even t-shirts people were still wearing. A few fans also had jerseys for the guys to sign, although surprisingly none were their jerseys. The collection included a vintage Vinny Testaverde, a purple Kelly Gregg and even a pink Todd Heap.
The fans filing through also had time to take photos and talk it up with the guys behind the table. Among the conversations Terry tackled was one with a young boy who had Terry sign his football, only to ask, "Who's that?" as he pointed at the freshly minted signature in black sharpie. Terry responded, "That's Adam Terry right there. You don't know who he is." Terry added with a smile, "But you will."
Speaking of guys you may not know (yet), Saturday's festivities revolved around another cause for renewed optimism as the Draft was in full swing as fans roamed the stadium. The topic of the day appeared to be the potential of a new quarterback coming to the Charm City. And in a conversation I overheard while waiting in line for hot dogs confirmed, Ravens fans have a way with moving on:
Hot Dog Line Guy #1 – "Looks like [Matt] Ryan's going to Atlanta."
Hot Dog Line Guy #2 –* "Is that confirmed?"*
Hot Dog Line Guy #1 – "It's what they're reporting."
Hot Dog Line Guy #2 – " Okay…[Joe] Flacco then, right?"
Hot Dog Line Guy #1 – "Yea, you don't want to pay that much money to a quarterback anyway."
Just like that. It took 3 ellipses (…) to forget about one potential face of the franchise and start rooting for a slightly taller one, with some logic thrown in. Of course Ryan would be taken by Atlanta with the 3rd pick in the draft, evoking a chorus of "Boos!" and "No's!" on the club level, and eventually Flacco was picked by Baltimore, which received cheers across the stadium and most likely made the hot dog guys feel pretty good too.
Although the draft dominated the SmartVision video, additional performers on Saturday included Baltimore's Marching Ravens, the Ravens Cheerleading squad and the Ravens Playmakers, all of whom drew their fair share of crowds and onlookers. It's worth noting that the fans who flocked to meet and greet the women who root for the Ravens included men, women and most of all, children.
The kids out on the field, however, provided their own entertainment. At one drill, kids practiced passing routes: out-routes, curls and apparently, 'twists'. This was typically the result of a boy or girl running too fast for their own feet as they routinely performed full 360-degree rotations when they tried to stop themselves and turn to catch the ball. Another tactic that proved entertaining, if not effective, was performed by one boy who was no taller than the waist of the SFF Volunteer throwing the passes. The boy sprinted to a spot downfield, turned and almost begging for the ball, held up his outstretched arms. The problem, unfortunately, was when the ball flew towards him, the arms stayed straight, resulting in a bounce off the chest, up in the air, and down to the ground. But fitting for a Ravens fan, even a young one, the memory faded fast as he sprinted back to the sideline with a smile.
For RavensNation, the dawn of spring allows us to not only refresh our memories, but to replace them. Let's hope this year's are written in sharpie.