“I’ve got two tickets to paradise!”
– Ed Reed (February 5, 2013)
NO ONE GOT A LOT of sleep on the evening of Sunday, February 3, 2013. The Baltimore Ravens brought the Lombardi Trophy back to the Hilton Riverside, rolled Mary J. Blige onto the stage and Ray Lewis taught her The Squirrel as Jay-Z and Beyonce photo bombed players’ pictures. Champagne flowed, laughter ensued, a championship was won.
It was that kind of night in New Orleans for anyone in purple.
Joe Flacco’s family threw a party on Bourbon Street for the Super Bowl XLVII MVP. Fans pouring into the French Quarter in a celebration of mass force. Back in Baltimore the city was in the streets, banging pots and pans, partying from Federal Hill to Fells Point.
Work was a rumor in the Charm City on Monday. It was an extended holiday. And everyone realized they were 24 hours away from a parade and a civic celebration unlike any in the history of Baltimore sports.
The team’s plan ride home was legendarily boisterous as everyone on the plane took turns taking pictures with the Lombardi Trophy and in the era of internet connectivity, most players had pictures on their Twitter within seconds so many Ravens fans felt like they were on the plane back to BWI.
As the Super Bowl MVP, Flacco had a different kind of day. He had an 8:30 a.m. press conference at the Convention Center along with John Harbaugh. While the team flew back to Baltimore, Flacco went on a private lear jet that whisked his family to Orlando, Florida where he did a one-hour parade stint at Disney World and then went back to the airport to fly to Newark, New Jersey where he took a helicopter into New York City to do The David Letterman Show at Times Square.
“Yeah, it sounds like jet setting but it was all over a lot quicker than you realize,” Flacco said. “I was back in Baltimore at my place before 10 o’clock the night before the parade. There was no way I was missing that.”
On the morning of Tuesday, February, 5, 2013, Baltimore was under siege and awash in purple.
In 2001 when the franchise celebrated Super Bowl XXXV, the parade left from the stadium parking lot and meandered eastbound on Pratt Street toward City Hall. This time around, the Ravens didn’t know what to expect but wanted to end the parade inside the stadium where the most people could have comfortable access to the speeches. Many in the organization were fearful that 70,000 stadium seats plus the long parade route might make the stadium look empty. After all, fans would have to choose. There was no way to be on the east side of the harbor and in the stadium. You had to pick one: parade route or stadium.
By 10 a.m. on Tuesday, it was clear the stadium wouldn’t be large enough to accommodate all of those who were trying to enter. By noon the stadium had been locked down and fans were scaling the walls trying to enter. It was surely the day you’ll be telling your kids and grandkids about if you witnessed it or participated in any of the sheer madness that encapsulated a complete traffic-jammed, people-jammed, energy-jammed, love-jammed scene in downtown Baltimore. It was the greatest day in Baltimore sports history for its sheer size and energy.
More than 250,000 people crammed the parade route and downtown area as the players were delayed because many couldn’t navigate the traffic to get to the stadium, where buses were staged to bring the players to City Hall to begin the parade.
The Lombardi Trophy arrived with the players and Anquan Boldin, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs stood on the veranda at City Hall and saluted the throng. “The city of Baltimore — I love you for ever and ever and ever and ever,” Lewis told crowd.
The parade featured a variety of Humvees, vehicles and even a few floats, which the 2001 events didn’t have. Reed took the Lombardi Trophy toward the barricades near Baltimore Street and the crowds eventually broke down the gates and followed Ray Lewis’ tank down Pratt Street in a scene that resembled a jog in Rocky.
It was the crowning moment as Ray Lewis entered the stadium holding the Lombardi Trophy and dancing his true “Last Dance” as as Super Bowl champion. Reed and Jacoby Jones joined Lewis in doing “The Squirrel.”
No one could write a script like this one in Baltimore.
John Harbaugh led the old high school cheer: “What’s our name? What’s our name? What’s our name?”
“Baltimore! There is nothing in the world, there is no place on this earth, that is better than Baltimore. This city, this city, we believed in each other from Day One, from 1996 to now,” Lewis told the fans. “We believed in each other, Baltimore. If I had to describe our team in one phrase or one paragraph, you all know what it is: ‘No weapon, no weapon, no weapon formed against us shall prosper.’”
Harbaugh, Flacco, Reed, Lewis and owner Steve Bisciotti, who all thanked the fans for their support.
“Baltimore, we did it,” Flacco said. “Super Bowl champs, baby! Hey, this is for you guys. Hey, we’ve been through a lot this year – a lot of highs, a couple lows. And you guys stood there through it all. Just like you always do. You’re a special group and we love you.”
And of course, it wouldn’t be a celebration without Reed taking the microphone to sing “Two Tickets To Paradise,” just like he’d been doing the last couple weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. He also led the crowd in a Seven Nation Army chant. “Hey, Baltimore, the best team, the best team in the world, is right here. Right here,” Reed said. “No better team right now. This year, nobody can beat these boys. Not us. Not in the world.”
“I don’t know how many more times we can do this, bringing championships home before Baltimore loses that chip on its shoulder,” Bisciotti said. “I hope it doesn’t ever happen.”
At 2:45 that afternoon, president Barack Obama called Ozzie Newsome to congratulate him. Newsome was a little worried about being back in the office in the time to take the call.
By 5 p.m. Newsome was watching film. At 6:30 p.m. he was back on a treadmill in Owings Mills next to Michael Oher. The Super Bowl was almost 48 hours old. It was time to get back