Ozzie and the Baltimore Ravens drafted Ray Lewis a few months after I turned six years old and just finishing up kindergarten. Of course, at that age I didn't understand what was going on during the games, but I knew to cheer for the team in purple. To be honest, at that age, I viewed purple as a girls color, and as we all know, girls have cooties. However, with my Baltimore roots going back many generations, I was destined to root for the newly formed Ravens.
My mother and father grew up a few miles from the old Memorial Stadium. Being avid Baltimore Colts fans, mentioning the Indianapolis Colts in my house while growing up was like a curse word.
On game-days, my family would gather in the living room to watch the Ravens play. My brother, sister, parents, grandparents, uncle, and my dog were all huddled around our 26' inch tube television.
I remember watching the first game of the season against the Oakland Raiders and Ray Lewis intercepted the ball and my father said "this kid is going to be special" and my uncle disagreeing with him at the time. The draft and the prospects weren't covered like they're now, so most people weren't able see the rookies play until their first NFL game.
From that point on, we would watch the Ravens in the same living room on the same TV for decades to come and one constant was watching Ray Lewis on the field. Every year players came and gone, but we knew Ray Lewis would be on the field.
Of course, in 2000 everybody knows about Ray Lewis's murder trial. People have strong opinions on both sides of the argument, which is understandable. My father believed Ray Lewis wasn't the one who actually committed the murder, but knew the ones involved. He also saw how Ray Lewis changed as a person and a man after that experience, and I honor my father for the fact he didn't start downing Ray as many in the media were doing.
The 2000-2001 season was simply a phenomenal roll-coaster. My father in fact, called Ray Lewis winning defensive player of the year before the season even started. We watched Ray Lewis closely that season, and you could tell he was playing with a chip on his shoulder. When Ray held up the Lombardi trophy, I believe it put a tear in some of my family members’ eyes.
As the years went on, my brother went off to college, my sister went out into the world to start her life, my uncle got married and moved away and my parents and myself moved out of state the year before I started high. Things never stay the same.
Although all of us were apart, we all still watched the Ravens on Sundays, and still that one constant was Ray Lewis. He still was that same fiery player with his crazy squirrel dance that my grandfather tried but failed miserably to do on many occasions.
I am now almost 23 years old and back in the Baltimore area. I still watch the Ravens every Sunday, however, many things have changed. Two members of our crew, my grandmother and my dog died a few years back. My uncle has moved away and I haven't spoken to him in years, and my brother now lives halfway across the country and married with a child. Although almost everything has changed over the years, that one constant in my life was watching Ray Lewis on Sundays, the same thing I've been doing since I was six years old. With Ray retiring and no longer suiting up in a Ravens uniform again, I can't help but feel that I'm losing that one constant from my childhood that still remand.