His best friend at Miami, a fellow linebacker named Marlin Barnes, had been brutally murdered just a few days before the draft. Lewis was shaken beyond belief. Literally. A Sports Illustrated story documented the grisly account of his dear friend and college roommate’s bludgeoning death over what must have been 12 pages in the magazine, including facts like Lewis’ propensity to still dial the pager of his friend waiting for a return call. Lewis was in disbelief.
I had spent plenty of time that July and August around the team and had forged some friendships with guys like Eric Zeier, Steve Everitt, Eric Turner, Rob Burnett, Michael Jackson and Ed Sutter, but Lewis was one dude I didn’t mess with. He was large and foreboding, constantly stern and quiet and seemed to always be wearing a T-shirt with his buddy Barnes pictured on the front. I thought he must’ve had at least a hundred of those shirts printed because he was never not wearing it. It contained a message about the importance of their friendship and served as a constant reminder of his life and death. I always thought twice before molesting Lewis – he was one disturbed, bad-assed dude from Miami, the most disturbed, bad-assed university of them all. For once in my career, I was officially intimidated by an athlete and proud of it.
But, considering the fact that he was the star of the game – and very obviously the best player on the field that day – I thought the chances of getting a rookie to come to do my show was better than asking Testaverde, who was the coldest of cold fish. I had spent plenty of time with Vinny and he was so shaken by his abominable time in Tampa that he would never come out and meet the fans. (Just for the record, Testaverde, along with Shannon Sharpe, remain the only Ravens starters who have never done my “Monday Night Live” radio show during the team’s first five years. In all, we’ve had 92 different players come out and meet the fans.)
So it was on to a pattern that would serve me well over the 101 “Monday Night Live” radio shows that would follow before the Lombardi Trophy came back to Baltimore – start at the top and go backward from there.
When I entered the decrepit locker room of Memorial Stadium, I was greeted at the door by kicker Matt Stover. It is here that I should tell you that I was wearing my complete Raven regalia as I entered the room full of players.
Having spent a decade covering sports as a true “journalist” at The Baltimore Sun and The News American, I decided that when the Ravens came to town I was going to put my testicles out on the line a little bit and act like a fan. I always thought being “in the media” was a bit of a joke. Nobody I’d ever seen in a press box looked like they’d ever bought a ticket or ever sat in a seat that didn’t include free hot dogs, Pepsi and press notes. How the hell could they tell the fans what was going on or relate to the fans when they’d never been one? Or maybe it had been so long that they had forgotten what it was like to cheer or wait in line to go to the bathroom or pay real money for a ticket.
I had tried it both ways and I decided if I was going to go down as being “unprofessional,” or snickered at by a bunch of media dorks,