It didn’t seem to be anything momentous and there certainly was more than minor trepidation on my part. It was the first game in franchise history.
As the game wound down and I was heading down the ramps of Memorial Stadium from my seat in old Section 6, Row 16, Seat 1 – as has become my custom with five minutes remaining in virtually every Ravens’ game I’ve been to since – I knew that I had to secure a guest for my radio show on Monday night. When the Ravens came to Baltimore I made a commitment to try to revive the old “Monday Night Live” feeling from the Colts’ era, when players, coaches, fans and media celebrities would gather at Ordell Braase’s Flaming Pit in Cockeysville back when I was a kid. My Dad and I would listen every week, but because my Dad never drove a car and “ritzy” Cockeysville wasn’t on the bus line, we never went. I still don’t even know what the inside of that place looked like, but as a kid, it seemed like it must’ve been the Taj Mahal of football restaurants. For me – nearly 20 years later – it was a nice relationship with a bar that had toughed it out with me in Northeast Baltimore called, simply enough, The Barn.
The Barn had tradition, local owners, hot steamed crabs, legendary crab cakes, rock bands and a solid base of loyal customers. And more importantly, even if I bombed and only my friends and family showed, it wouldn’t be completely empty.
There was only one person even on my mind as I made my way down to the field. Even though Vinny Testaverde was having a great day, passing for 254 yards and running in the first touchdown in team history, it was clearly a coming out party for rookie Ray Lewis. Lewis had seven tackles, flew to the ball and intercepted a Billy Joe Hobert pass in the end zone in the open end of the stadium’s horseshoe that would have otherwise cost the Ravens their first franchise victory. The Ravens held on, to defeat the Raiders, 19-14.
There was only one problem asking Ray Lewis to come to The Barn the next night. I had never met him.
After being drafted by the Ravens more than four months earlier, a series of very dark stories began appearing about Lewis.