Live from Iraq…it’s Brian Billick!

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I’ve known for a few weeks that Brian Billick would be taking off after Valentine’s Day for a USO tour of Iraq with national broadcaster Ron Barr and some old friends from the West Coast.

Last Monday, I received an email from one of my oldest friends, a guy named Dave Causey who I played Pop Warner football with in 1978 in Dundalk. Causey is my only “friend” in Iraq, serving our country, so I think about him a lot.

Causey dropped me an email telling me that Brian Billick showed up on his base last week, and that his troops were tickled to spend some quality time with the deposed head coach of the Ravens.

I told him to send along some pics and stories. This morning, I woke up in Indianapolis and I received this dispatch from one of his fellow soldiers:

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My name is Major Pat Young, and I am serving with a childhood friend of
yours–Dave Causey–here in Iraq. He told me that you were interested in our
interaction with Brian over here in Iraq, and he asked me to write you a
short note about my experience. Here goes….

When Ron Barr brought his show here, we knew that Brian was going to be
among the people coming with him. We found this out sometime in mid-January.
Brian had been let go by the Ravens at that point, so I wasn’t even sure if
he’d be coming. But to his credit, he did. It wasn’t until he probably got
here that he realized that we, a unit from Pikesville, were the ones running
this base. I didn’t know what his reaction to that would be, especially
because I am a huge, huge Ravens fan. The last thing I wanted to do was make
him feel uncomfortable. Coming this far from home, he’s uncomfortable

So when Dave told me that Brian was going to be doing the show last Monday
(18 Feb), I told him I definitely wanted to be there. My expectations were
to be sitting in the audience in studio, and to be entertained. That was it.
Well, I got there a little early, and was talking with Dave and Ed and a few
other guys. Dave asked me if I wanted to go on the air for an hour and I
said, “sure.” Brian, Spencer, and Randy came in, and I had forgotten how
tall Brain is–he’s huge. So as he was kind of mingling, a few guys began
talking football, Ed among them. Ed told him we’re from Baltimore, and that
kind of broke the ice. He talked about anything we wanted to talk about. Of
course, we didn’t ask him anything silly or put him on the spot; it would
have been rude. So Ed, me, and another soldier or two were chatting him up
and having a grand old time. I was able to share a few memories of the 2000
season with him—like how cold it was at the playoff game against the
Broncos; and how I had been in one of the humvees that drove the players in
the Super Bowl parade. He had some very fond memories of that experience.
One thing that I thought was really cool was his description of driving the
parade route that day, because it absolutely jived with how I remembered
it–coming out of the parking lot of the stadium….a few handfuls of people
on Howard Street as we headed north, then the turn onto Pratt Street, and
just seeing all the way down this canyon, this valley of asphalt with a wall
of people on both sides of the street. It was amazing… were there, so
you remember.

So we had him talking a bit, then he had to go on the air with Ron, Spencer,
and Randy. I don’t know if Dave told you, but no sooner had Ron gone on the
air after the beginning commercials than a sustained rocket barrage hit the
base. We were in a soundproofed trailer, and buddy, there were some pretty
loud “booms” going off outside. It was a mix of 122 millimeter and 240
millimeter rockets, about 18-20. Well, everyone at the broadcast table was
looking at us. I’m sitting next to Ed, and after the first boom Ed turns to
me and casually says, “controlled det.” We both chuckled. A controlled
detonation, or controlled det, is when they find explosives outside the base
and destroy them in place rather than try to move them. It goes “boom,”
shakes the ground, and you’re done. Well these booms kept coming. The
soldiers never flinched–we had nowhere to go, and really, going outside was
more dangerous that staying where we were–so we sat there. I think they
were looking at us for cues, and we gave none, so they kept on trucking. I
give them all credit–they could have dived under the table but Ron kept
going through.

So that stuff stops, and they have an hour of Ron talking to a few guests
who called in. Ed got to do his thing that hour. The next hour, I was up
with another Major from Harrisburg, PA. Brian was the one on with us. Ron
told us, “I’m just going to start it and let the three of you talk and see
how it goes.” So, he started off, and here we are on live radio. It was
amazing. Brian started off with a question from the other Major (a guy also
named Dave), then he came to me. I asked him about who were the ones he
coached on the Ravens who in his judgment would make good coaches. Again, I
was just amazed that here I was on live radio asking Brian questions! So he
dropped a few names, among them Trent Dilfer. My next question was to ask
who were the leaders on the team that would carry the water for him and
ensure that his intent was carried out. He said a few names, and the one I
remember was Shannon Sharpe. My last question to him was about the 2002
season, and I asked him how he took a team that had lost a lot of leaders,
and added a bunch of rookies, free agents, and non-drafted players and got
them to go 7-9, greatly exceeding expectations. And he answered. Again, it
was just so cool thinking that, hey–people are hearing this. So Ron, who
hadn’t asked anything at all, by this point he had taken off his headset,
got up, and sat down in the audience to watch. When it was time to go to
commercials, he came back up, kind of gave us compliments, and said the
usual “we’ll be right back” kind of stuff. When the commercial came on, he
said something like, “that was some great radio,” or something like that,
and everyone clapped for us. The time we spent on the air with Brian was
probably something like 10-15 minutes, max. At the end of the show, Ron told
us he wanted both me and the other Major to come back on Wednesday night,
which we did. That night I got to ask Jim Brown, Barry Zito, and David Stern
some questions.

After the show, all of them came over to our headquarters building for
autographs and photos and stuff. The picture I attached is the three
football guys and me in our commander’s office. It was just an awesome,
awesome time. I wasn’t star-struck or anything, it was just being able to
talk to people who were involved in some important events in my life is
pretty cool. My degree is in History, so speaking with people who’ve
accomplished things like that (winning a Super Bowl, playing in one, etc.)
is interesting for me.

So, I hope I didn’t bore you. For me, it was just an amazingly fun
experience. Ed and I always talk about sports when we do talk, and we always
talk about WNST. Please give a shout out to Bob for me–his show is the
best. If I were ever to be a radio show guy, I’d model my style on the way
Bob does his job. he’s got the facts, he knows how to ask a question that
gets more than a “yes-no” answer, and he’s down to earth.

So, Nestor, that’s my story of getting to interview Brian Billick in a war
zone. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I hope you find the
story entertaining.


MAJ Patrick A. Young
Supply and Services Officer, Directorate of Logistics
Task Force Raven

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