Friday, September 30, 2022

Purple Reign 1: Chapter 16 “Everyone Loves a Parade

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“Raining in Baltimore”

“If I would have known it was going to be this much fun, I’d have won the Super Bowl a long time ago.”

Starting right guard Mike Flynn, Jan. 30, 2001, from his military tank disguised as a float during the Ravens’ victory parade down Pratt Street

I hate parades.

I don’t watch them on television. I don’t attend them. I don’t even understand the point of them.

Prior to Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2001, I had been to one parade in my life, and I didn’t like it.

“A bunch of people riding on cars with toilet paper all over them and people taking weeks and thousands of dollars to decorate something that’s going to drive around the block twice and be forgotten,” I would always say. “What’s the point?”

So, when I awoke in my bed two days after the Super Bowl – after a week plus 24 hours of sheer madness in Florida – the last thing on my mind was the excitement of the victory parade for the Baltimore Ravens.

I had caught the early stages of a nasty cold in chilly Tampa and, looking out my window at 6:30 a.m., rain was dripping off my windowpane and the Weather Channel said it was 39 degrees.

If there was ever a day not to have a parade, this was it.

Maybe they’ll postpone the damned thing, have it when the weather is a little better, I thought.

Every news report in town that morning, including the one on my own radio station, confirmed my worst fears – the parade was happening, much like the championship itself, come rain or come shine.

I was headed to the Ravens’ meeting place – the players’ parking lot at PSI Net Stadium – more to find a few guests for my Super Bowl Championship edition of my live show at The Barn, then to see any dumb parade. In all of the frenzy and mayhem at the game in Tampa and the party afterward, I never got a guest lined up. I don’t think I even asked anyone to come.

I suppose the worst thing that could possibly happen in life is to have your parade rained on. I mean, for crissakes, it’s a cliché.

“Don’t rain on my parade!”

I guess the football gods, or the Cleveland powers that be, got even that day.

Because it didn’t rain on the Ravens’ victory parade, it poured on it!

I got there around 8:15, before most of the players.

One by one they started coming into the lot, bleary-eyed, completely exhausted and not much happier about the weather than anyone else.

Once I had lined up Edwin Mulitalo, Mike Flynn and Kyle Richardson for my radio show that night, I was all but ready to leave and go home to get some rest. I had a show to do at 2 p.m.

Just as I was leaving the lot, trying to beat the inevitable traffic, Brian Billick and his family pulled into the lot in his vehicle.

As he passed, he rolled down his window, stuck his head out and said, “You know what you being in this parking lot says to me,” Billick began. “It says to me that our security is for shit!”

He didn’t even crack a grin as his family howled with laughter as he drove past me to park his truck.

Even at 9 a.m. and completely sleep deprived, the man had a way with words.

Spencer Folau had asked me if I was riding in the parade. I said I wasn’t invited. He said I could ride with him.

About five minutes later, security discovered me, only to have Flynn and Folau shoo them away, saying I was with them.

I thought about riding in the parade, and that it might actually be fun – a once in a lifetime opportunity, I thought – but the pneumonia thing kept creeping into my mind. I wasn’t dressed warmly enough, although I did have a poncho.

There were a sea of green, military jeeps and hummers lining up in the parking lot of PSI Net Stadium, readying for the purple assault on downtown. The smell of gasoline burning was everywhere, almost nauseating in its thickness.

Finally, after much deliberation, I decided to go through with it and hopped on Folau’s jeep.

Flynn, on the jeep in front of Folau’s, wanted me to ride with him, so I could operate his video camera and get evidence of him riding in the parade.

Folau didn’t seem to mind, so I hopped vehicles.

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