Getting in the Ravens Spirit

by Jesse Fask

Does it matter what Jamal Lewis eats for breakfast? Sure! All signs and portents matter.
I knew it had started again when the guy working behind the counter at Lenny's Deli told me “Jamal was in here yesterday and he guaranteed victory.” I could feel the fever building in this Owings Mills delicatessen filled with fans in purple discussing the game.

“The Ravens are going to lose,” said the older guy with glasses eating hotcakes with butter and syrup.

“I wouldn't say that too loud,” answered the gnomish-looking gentleman reading the paper with a buddy at the next table.

“He's a Ravens fan,” interrupts the older guy’s wife. “He's just very negative.”

Behind me in line, a curly-haired middle-aged man asked the cook, “Jamal was in here yesterday? What did he order?”

“Two bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches and an order of hash browns,” he said.

“That's good that he's eating a lot for the game.” It excited me to see the area so excited about the Ravens again. I thought of the parade after the Super Bowl. The rush to Fells Point after each playoff win, and the town up to all hours of the night celebrating the Super Bowl victory. The guy in front of me in line to get into the bar after the Super Bowl victory dialing random 212 numbers at 1 AM and yelling, “Giants suck.” The Super Bowl party at my house was so full it felt like the house was shaking every time the Ravens scored.

I felt it again in Lenny's this Sunday morning. I met my mother and stepfather there and tried to explain to them the glory of one Ray Lewis, about how he was the most charismatic individual I'd ever seen. How he jumps around screaming and firing up his teammates and the crowd after every single tackle. About the speeches he makes to his teammates, about how if he ran for mayor I would vote for him, about how I bought a Sunpaper from the machine and the Sports page was missing. I continued to talk and my mother got up, went to the next table, borrowed the sports page from a woman looking at the classifieds, returned with the section, and I was still in the same run-on-sentence about Ray.

“You know Ray and Ed Reed get together and watch game films together every night,” I continued. “Ray's cook cooks for them.”

My stepfather continued with an anecdote about a guy he knows who gets so upset when the Ravens lose and that this guy was angry with himself that he got so angry about a game.

“Tell him not to worry,” I said. “Because they're not going to lose the rest of the year.”

“Go Ravens,” yelled a guy from behind the counter in all purple.

I left the restaurant, ready to suit up myself. My mom kissed me goodbye and was mentioning something about a Chanukah party at her house.

“Well,” I said. “If they lose, don't call me for like a week.”

I drove home and people started to arrive for the game. I began to tell people about Lenny's and how Jamal had guaranteed victory. I told my friend Carla and she asked something I had thought of earlier, “Do you think he goes there every Saturday? Do you wanna go there next Saturday? Are they home next Saturday? Well, next home game, let's go there.”

So it went—and the Ravens provided great entertainment. A 31-13 demolition of the formerly first-place Cincinnati Bengals. Jamal scored three touchdowns. Baltimore was now alone in first place.

“Do you feel it, Jesse?” Carla asked. “Do you feel like they are never going to lose again?”

I nodded. I did feel it. After people left, I watched all the highlight shows, got all the commentary, spent a satisfying Sunday on the couch. I couldn’t have been more excited. But if they lose, don’t call me for like a week.

When not being a sports fan, Jesse Fask is a social worker and therapist.

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This story was published on January 3, 2004.