Last weekend the Baltimore Ravens lost a thriller in Minnesota when kicker Stephen Hauschka, the only Middlebury College soccer player in the NFL, missed a last-second 44 yard field goal. Hauschka had replaced the only kicker the Ravens had ever had, Matt Stover, who ironically was signed that same week by the Indianapolis Colts.
But Hauschka's miss and missing Stover reminded me that back in January, on Monday the 19th, it was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe. That the anniversary hadn't come a day earlier was probably a lucky break for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who the day before had defeated the Ravens, the only NFL team named after a Poe Poem, 23-14 to advance to the Super Bowl against another bird-mascotted club, the Arizona Cardinals.
But with the score 15-14 and the Ravens threatening a comeback, I kept looking at my watch and doing the five-hour math, to see if perhaps we were edging toward midnight, at which point some powerful Poe juju might kick in. Note that only in the NFL would the game played in the northeast in January start at 7:30pm, while the one played under cover in sunny Arizona started at noon.
Anyway, Troy Polamalu, who, had he lived 180 years earlier, could've probably found a part in a Poe story (if not a Melville South Seas novel) put an end to the Ravens' dreams. But all through the season, I had been commenting about how Baltimore, and their rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, reminded me of the 2000 Ravens, who won Super Bowl 35 in January 2001 over the New York (sic) Giants, using their 'Angie Harmon' strategy (strip Jason Sehorn naked with Brandon Stokeley's fly patterns).
That Ravens team, like this one, had qualified for the playoffs as a wild card, and had endured a streak of five games earlier in the season without scoring a touchdown on offense (they won two of the five).
The fifth game of the streak came against the Steelers that year, as Trent Dilfer took over from Tony Banks as the quarterback, but Pittsburgh managed a 9-6 win. I was scripting the highlights for our Monday Night show on Five, and watching Stover hit his second field goal, 'nevermore' sprang to mind, and I decided that instead of narrating the highlights I would adapt Poe's poem and make it fit whatever length the edit was in the ten minutes or so I had to write it.
Courtesy of a reprint which appears in the Facebook Mike Carlson Appreciation Society site, here's the script again, nine years after Iwrote it and read it live over the highlights, which I did get it to fit. Since we're only doing Sunday Night Football on Five this season, there are no Monday Night highlights, so poetry and song-writing has been transferred to my Friday Morning Tight End column at nfluk.com.
Pittsburgh 9 Baltimore 6
Once upon a midnight dreary
As I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious highlight from the day before.
As I nodded, nearly napping,
Suddenly there came a tapping.
Jamal Lewis gently rapping, rapping at the endzone door.
Just a field goal, I muttered.
Only that and nothing more.
Oh how vaguely I remember
It was way back in September
When the stadium scoreboard last put up six points in Baltimore.
And for weeks over and over,
Just the toe of Matthew Stover
Was the story of the offense that, it seemed, would never score.
Quoth the Ravens
So they called upon Trent Dilfer
But his throws were promptly pilfered
By a Pittsburgh Steeler defense, steel curtained as of yore.
And with Dilfer firing blanks
Just as bad as Tony Banks
They put six points on the scoreboard,
but the Steelers scored three more.
You may question. You may carp.
Get hot quotes from Shannon Sharpe.
But a touchdown’s worth of offense is no closer than before.
And if you wish to know the day
When you’ll hear on the P.A.
That magic incantation “Touchdown Baltimore!”Quoth the Ravens
NOTE: This is the 200th post at Irresistible Targets, thanks to everyone who's helped out, read, responded, followed, and fedback about the writing and the site itself..