“Is it 20 years now?” Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens’ first-ever draft pick—that likeable, gentle giant and early face of the franchise—can’t believe the first great season in team history was that long ago. He’s sitting in front of a laptop computer set up for a live video call in his Las Vegas home, sporting a black T-shirt, beard, and a short afro (which he just brushed, he points out), and he leans back, sipping something from a red Solo cup. Seven of his former teammates—Jamal Lewis, Edwin Mulitalo, Jamie Sharper, Tony Siragusa, Duane Starks, Matt Stover, and Rod Woodson—as well their forever head coach, Brian Billick, appear on the screen with him, looking like a Ravens’ alumni version of Hollywood Squares.
They’re taking a trip down memory lane, watching and reminiscing about a game they were all a part of, and won, 34-7, over the New York Giants: Super Bowl XXXV. On this pandemic midsummer night, the NFL Network is showing an edited, two-hour replay of the game to help fill the channel’s void of new sports content, and the Ravens public relations department, in a treat for fans, decided to gather as many members of the Ravens year 2000 edition as they could for this watch party streamed on Facebook Live. Siragusa is in his New Jersey living room, trying to get a good internet connection and playfully grumbling about why “a billion-dollar organization” like the Ravens is using video conferencing software called MegaPhone instead of Zoom. Starks is in his home office in Miami, with sports memorabilia framing his shot. Stover, who mostly lives in Baltimore, appears in the den of his house in Montana, where he likes to fish in the summer.
“How about that?” Billick says teasingly in response to Ogden. “How old do you feel?” Speaking from his home-office in central Ohio, Billick, now 66, looks largely the same as we remember him, except his hair is thinner and he’s wearing a blue button-down shirt instead of a purple Ravens polo.
Ogden doesn’t respond at first, but he’s actually 46. And, like a lot of his former teammates who we once watched play football as young adults, he’s a father of teenagers now. One of them, Jayden, just got home from high school football practice and made a brief appearance on screen, dressed in a Bishop Gorman High T-shirt, before ducking out of the frame.
Lewis, the team’s rookie running back way back when, and one of the three famous Lewises on the 2000 team, jumps in the conversation from his place in Atlanta. “Forty years old,” he says, his voice trailing off. “I’m 40.”
“Forty? That’s young,” Billick says.
“Oh my goodness,” Ogden says, to no one in particular. Then he rubs his face in astonishment and flashes that trademark wide smile you may recognize from various local commercials over the years.
“OUR FANS KNEW ONE DARN THING: WE WEREN'T GOING TO GET BULLIED,” SAYS REX RYAN.
YES, IT MIGHT be difficult to believe, but it has now been two decades since January 28, 2001, the date the Ravens beat those Giants to claim the franchise’s first NFL championship in just its fifth season of existence. It was a few hours of football that left a meaningful legacy for so many reasons.
For the older generation, the Ravens’ convincing victory on a cool, clear night in Tampa marked a cathartic step away from the nightmare of the beloved Colts leaving town in 1984. Owner Bob Irsay took everything: the team’s colors, its players, its history, including a Lombardi Trophy. (For some, seeing that Colts logo in Indianapolis still stings.) Baltimore was without NFL football for more than a decade until eventual Ravens owner Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, despite the objections of other NFL owners who wanted to put a new team in a bigger market or one that didn’t take a slice of revenue from franchises in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. In an acknowledgment, perhaps, of the pain the Colts departure had inflicted on Baltimore, Modell left the Browns’ history behind in Cleveland. No one there seemed particularly grateful.
The irony that it was NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue—the man who, only a few years earlier, had told Baltimore city officials they should “build a museum” instead of a football stadium—who handed Modell the Ravens’ first Super Bowl trophy, “was not lost on anybody,” says Billick, who was standing on the field next to Modell as the trophy ceremony was broadcast to millions across the world.
The Ravens’ 2000 team is remembered for having one of the best defenses of all time, for its braggadocio while punishing opponents, and for the saga of Ray Lewis’ murder trial—and the media circus that went with it. Outsized personalities, like Lewis and the massive, 300-plus pound defensive tackle Siragusa, who famously flopped on Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon during the playoff run to the Super Bowl, helped birth the first season of the still-running HBO all-access reality series Hard Knocks the next year.
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