Tuesday, 20 January 2009

QUOTH THE RAVENS 'NEVERMORE': The Legendary Five NFL Highlights Poem Revived For Poe's Bicentennial

Monday January 19th was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, which was probably a lucky break for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who on Sunday defeated the only football team named after a Poe Poem, the Baltimore Ravens, 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 the 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 local, while the one played under cover in Arizona started at noon.

Anyway, Troy Polamalu, who could've probably found a part in a Poe story (if not a Melville South Seas novel) had he lived 200 years ago, 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 Matt Stover (who's still kicking for them) 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. Happy birthday EAP, and it's a shame we couldn't do anything with the Ravens' Edgar Jones (he of the bogus roughing the kicker penalty) this year....

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

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