The Whole World Will Watch Ravens/Jets
There is no doubt about it. Sunday night's game against the Jets is a big-time sporting event.
The game will be the most-watched TV program in the United States on all of television next week. It will be seen around the world.
Players, coaches and NFL executives from every team will be watching also. They all know that the Ravens and Jets are two of the best teams in the NFL right now. They all know the game will likely have serious implications on making the playoffs and seeding. John Harbaugh has even talked to the players about it.
What a start to the season for us. We hosted the Steelers, the team that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in February, at M&T Bank Stadium for the opener three weeks ago. And, now we have the Jets, the team the Steelers beat in that title game here Sunday night.
How dynamic is that! Bring on the "7 Nation Army" chanting. This is going to be a happening.
Electricity At The Castle
While everyone here (at our facility in Owings Mills – the one the media call "The Castle") understands that the season won't be lost for the team that loses Sunday night, there is still a heightened electricity here this week. Maybe it's because guys like Rex Ryan, Bart Scott and Derrick Mason are coming back to M&T. Maybe it's the reality that, right now, both of these teams are really good.
You could just feel an extra sizzle with the NBC-TV folks buzzing around here. There's Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels. There's Michele Tafoya. Bob Costas will be here Saturday morning to interview Ray Rice for the NBC pre-game show. (In fact, NBC has over 400 people in Baltimore and at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday as part of their broadcast crew.)
One of the most impressive people here is Dick Ebersol, the former head of NBC Sports who is now a consultant to the network. Going back to Munich in 1972, Dick has produced for television some of the greatest Olympic moments in history, along with being the father of "Sunday Night Football in America." A number of times in his career, Ebersol has been selected as "The Most Powerful Man in Sports."
One more interesting detail about the longtime NBC Sports chief... In 1974, Ebersol, who had dropped out of Yale when he was 20, was hired by NBC as the Director of Weekend Late Programming. The network was looking for new ideas to get young people to watch television on weekend nights, long a graveyard for programming. In 1975, Dick and his NBC cohort, Lorne Michaels, conceived and developed a show called "Saturday Night Live." Now, that's pretty cool.
Josh Charles To The Ravens' Defense
Baltimore's Josh Charles, the Emmy-nominated actor for CBS-TV's "The Good Wife," is devoted to the Ravens. He's recognized in New York, where he now lives, by the Ravens' logos on the helmet he wears while tooling around the city on his Vespa. Josh has worn a Ravens' uniform on "The Jimmy Fallon Show" and talks publicly about the Ravens whenever he can.
On Tuesday, Charles was on "The Dan Patrick Show." Josh met Patrick when Dan called the game for a recent celebrity flag football contest that was televised nationally. Charles, in fact, caught a touchdown pass from Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino in the game and broke out into an excellent imitation of Ray Lewis' "Squirrel Introduction Dance." Charles and Patrick eventually talked about Josh's devotion to the Ravens, and Charles mentioned that he did not like some of the things Dan and Bob Costas had said about the move of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore way back when. Patrick told him that he should come on his show and talk about it.
Unbeknownst to Charles last Tuesday, Patrick had Costas waiting on a phone line to join the on-air conversation. "They surprised me, but we got to talk about it. I didn't want to be impolite, but I stood my ground without trying to embarrass anyone," Charles said.
Here is the Josh Charles interview with Dan Patrick and Bob Costas. (The discussion about the Ravens starts around the 15:00 mark.) Our man Josh throws it down against Costas. Josh calls Bob out for comments he made prior to our ripping of the Patriots in the 2009 playoffs and about Art Modell and the moving of a franchise at the Ravens' first-ever game in 1996 (against the visiting Raiders.)
Zeus Is Gone
Not lost in the shuffle of going to St. Louis and winning last weekend was the passing of former Raven Orlando "Zeus" Brown. Zeus was found dead last Friday at his downtown Baltimore home. While it appears no foul play was involved, the cause of death has still not been determined.
Many stories about Brown were told by players, staff and some coaches during our travels to and from St. Louis and while we stayed in the land of the Arch. There was one common thread: We all smiled while remembering the imposing and kind-hearted (off the field) man. As a player, Zeus never let up. He had such insecurity about keeping his job, he brought tremendous intensity not just in games, but every practice. His goal was to physically dominate every person who dared cross his football path. Frankly, he played with mean intentions, and at 6-foot-7, 350-to-60 pounds, he was ferocious.
My favorite Zeus story came from Scott Pioli, the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1993, Scott was a personnel assistant with the Cleveland Browns, and he was sent to South Carolina State to work out a prospective draft choice. Orlando heard that there was an NFL scout on campus and sought out Pioli. At the time, Zeus was an overweight (maybe close to 390 pounds) defensive tackle.
Brown told Scott that he wanted to work out for him. Scott explained that he was there to work out someone else and that he didn't have time to work out Zeus. Zeus insisted. Pioli said, "No." Well, he said "No" for awhile until Zeus, according to Scott, said: "You're working me out."
Talk about persistence, intimidation and "He's-a-very-big-human-being-and-I'm-going-to-work-him-out" moment. Orlando impressed enough to get an invite to a rookie camp, and the rest is history.
Before we took the field against the Rams last Sunday, John Harbaugh told his team "to play like Zeus played. Let's be relentless." We were to the tune of a 37-7 victory. Let's be relentless again against the Jets. Let's beat them.
Enjoy the game. Talk with you next week,
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.