Happy Anniversary, Ravens
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me-filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
– Edgar Allen Poe, 1845, The Raven
March 28, 1984. It was the darkest day in Baltimore sports history. Bob Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis under the cover of mid-night skies.
March 29, 1996. 12 years and one day later, Baltimore officially names the new home town football franchise.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the day Baltimore gave their new team a name. Thousands of fans filled the Inner Harbor as the late Art Modell opened the envelope revealing the name of Baltimore’s team to be, the Ravens.
When Art Modell received permission form the NFL to move the team to Baltimore, he had approached the Colts about parting ways with their naming rights. Obviously this was never going to happen. So they whittled down over 100 names down to 17. Focus groups we’re created to listen to play-by-play calls each with a different team names inserted, and we’re instructed to list their top five choices. Ravens were the clear favorite, followed by Colts, then Bulldogs. Thank god we are not the Baltimore Bulldogs. Even though Ray Lewis’ “any dogs in the house,” rallying cry would have fit that bill.
Art Modell teamed up with the Baltimore Sun for a poll the day before the announcement, where folks were subjected to a random telephone poll, and instructed to vote for Ravens, Americans, Marauders, Mustangs, or Railers.
Baltimore Americans sounds like one of those made up team names on an old Nintendo baseball game, where they didn’t yet have permission to use the real names of teams or players. “The Baltimore Americans and their star player Carl Repkin.”
Baltimore Marauders sounds like, I don’t know what. The Criminal, pillaging marauders? Or the WWII fighter plane Marauders? Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Baltimore Mustangs was clearly made up to pay homage to the Colts, keeping with the horse theme much ike the Stallions from the CFL. I don’t think that Mustangs would have been well received by the Baltimore Colts faithful, because every time they’d see a horse logo on the helmet, they’d think Colts, not Mustangs.
Baltimore Railers. For one, it’s just one letter away from being Raiders. I guess many railroads passed through Baltimore in the early days? It’s got bad puns written all over it. Any time they would get blown out, clever writers would title their article, “Baltimore gets railed” or “Baltimore de-railed.” If they played well, “Railers keep chugging along.” Too easy.
The fans and Baltimore faithful had chosen wisely when naming the Baltimore Ravens. “It’s a strong nickname that is not common to teams at any level, and it means something historically to this community, “ said Art’s son, David Modell.
The Raven is a mysterious figure in a poem recognized as Baltimore native, Edgar Allen Poe’s, most popular work. A dark poem linked with a theme of undying devotion. Despite Baltimore football fans losing their beloved Colts in 1984, the city never gave up it’s love and devotion for football, and it’s fight to “Give Baltimore the Ball.” The title given to an exhibition game played in Memorial Stadium to show the league how badly fans want football to return here.
With efforts like that, Baltimore was sure the NFL would award them one of two expansion franchises. Instead, Jacksonville and Carolina we’re awarded those teams, the then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue insisted we build a museum instead. Since 1995, including the playoffs, the Ravens are 164-128-1 with two championships. Jaguars are 145-154. Panthers are 138-160 with a Super Bowl loss. We’ll build a museum all right. Gonna have to, to hold all of our hardware.
Much like Poe’s poem, this display of devotion despite despair, is something that Baltimoreans take pride in, and the reason why the name “Ravens” is only fitting.
I’m just glad that unlike the Irsay’s, Art Modell had the decency to let the city of Cleveland keep the Browns name, colors, and history there. I can’t see myself wearing those god awful colors, toting around dog bones, and woofing at other men. Wondering, why the team is still named after a guy whose family now owns the Bengals?
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]