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Why I miss the Ravens' open training camp practices in Westminster

Nothing quite beat the sweltering summers in the hills of northern Maryland, in the long ago days of daily open training camp practices to the public.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

This morning I played a different kind of Maryland lottery. Not of the Powerball variety, but of the football sort. Today marked the beginning of the Ravens, now yearly, usage of a lottery system to determine which select few fans will be admitted into the Under Armour Performance Center in Owens Mills for this years training camp practices. I carefully selected how many adults and children I would need tickets for, should we be selected. I even entered twice with different emails.

¡Viva la revolución! The thrill of the game! I felt the former rush of the first real taste of football — training camp — melt away to form drop down tabs and prayers.

This has been the case for a few years now. But it did not used to be this way. In days past, a Ravens fan could, weary eyed and sweat drenched from humidity, scramble into a parking space on McDaniel College's campus in Westminster, Maryland to watch their favorite team practice.

This was a simpler time. A time where a 45 year old man could people's elbow a 12 year old for a shot at having Ed Reed scribble sharpie on his No. 18 Elvis Grbac jersey. A time where fans could ooh and ahh at tackling dummy drills and sideline antics alike. It is a time I miss very dearly.

In the years since the practices moved to the closed facility, the team has made efforts to rekindle that which was lost. The aforementioned lottery system offers a select number the opportunity to taste that rush once more. The open practices at M&T Bank Stadium and the Naval Academy are always fun.

Gerry Sandusky on the mic and t-shirt cannons in tow, the team does a quality job with filling the gap left after the move. This year, on Ju;y 28, the M&T practice will even culminate in "fireworks/lasers." Additionally, "official mascot Poe" will "Rise and Conquer." Is this a practice or V for Vendetta? Come watch Poe blow up Parliament! Will Skrillex be there? Is there a beat and when can we expect it to drop? Because some of us have kids and can't be out past 9.

No, the Ravens are undoubtedly putting in a solid amount of effort to create a fun and lasting memory of training camp. But from the moment I chose between "PSL Owner" and "Non-PSL Owner" on the lottery page, I couldn't help but feel nostalgia for the past. Rather than be sorted into a "Non-PSL" group, which I assume means my lotto ticket is immediately recycled into Steve Biscotti's toilet paper, I was free to roam the ground at McDaniel and get a view of my favorite players up close. The daily opportunity to do so was a true pleasure. Seeing the fans at the McDonalds down the road decked out in ravens gear, even down to those horrible purple camo pants, and knowing you were going to the same place, McFlurry in hand, was a real treat.

I accept the change to the more closed environment, but I miss the days of looking in the Sun paper with my Dad to see what times the practices were and if we could make one in the afternoon perhaps. Those days we didn't need a laser show to have a good time. Just the players and the fans.

In honor of these lost memories I offer this:

"Ode to Westminster: a Haiku"


It's hot as balls

when do 11-on-11's start?