Fear and Loathing: Nevermore

The Night The Lights Went Out In Baltimore … Artsama bin Modell Casts No Reflection … Brian Billichek: Media Darling, Classless Punk … Poe was a dope fiend

"REVENGE: Biting the dog because the dog bit you."
– Austin O'Malley

WADHAMS, Mich.  – I was helpless in the barber's chair. The music pulsating from the overhead speaker was beyond dreadful.

First, it was Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 "Harper Valley P.T.A." I chuckled that some wag of a disc jockey dug that piece of musical tripe out of a radio station closet.

The seamless segue was to Paul Revere and the Raiders' horrid "Cherokee Nation."

Again, another chuckle, with a guffaw and chortle in the mix, too. What bad radio.

As the barber chopped away, I imagined to myself that only Vickie Lawrence's appalling "The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia" would complete the hat-trick of musical dreadfulness.

"Cherokee Nation" faded into "…That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia … That's the night that they hung an innocent man … Well, don't trust your soul to no backwoods Southern lawyer … 'cause the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands."

I though I was going to fall out of the chair.

The station never gave its call letters. It may have been broadcasting somewhere from Michigan's mostly rural Thumb or from across the stunning blue water of the St. Clair River, which gives the state an aquatic border with Ontario. Neither place is known for it eloquent taste in music.

The trip to the barber shop comes to mind because it was the last time I had a good laugh, at least since Sept. 11.

Until Sunday.

The sight of a desperately confused Elvis Grbac wildly jabbering to the sideline to an equally bamboozled Brian Billick was just too much. Their humiliation was far more pleasurable than any musical relic.

The Baltimore Ravens came to Cleveland Browns Stadium with their usual swagger and bluster, like a ballsy criminal returning the scene of a crime still unsolved by police. Criminals like that are stupid, and eventually get caught.

The Boys From Baltimore finally got caught. One could almost hear Herr Billick's ego deflate as the clock bled away precious seconds and the roar from the bleachers grew.

The dangerous crooks and degenerate thugs that pass as the Ravens' defense stormed into Cleveland like crazed boars in a blood lust. They wanted revenge for the humiliation laid on them at Green Bay, where Brett Favre exposed Baltimore as a sham and disgrace to a city that once did have a franchise worthy of respect. The obese and vulgar Tony Siragusa, the equally corpulent Sam Adams and occasional murder suspect Ray Lewis were expected to rampage into the Browns' backfield all afternoon, delivering consternation, destruction and sorrow on every snap.

Justice, however, has an almost eerily poetic way of manifesting itself at just the right moment. Sunday was one of those moments. A victory over Baltimore any sooner would have been tainted by the other grotesque Browns performances played out next to Lake Erie for 32 games.

No, Sunday was the perfect day to exorcise old ghosts. A victory at this stage sheds a brighter national spotlight on the Browns, a team on the rise as the Ravens slide inexorably towards the gutter. Baltimore's fall from grace will get uglier, and there will be joy throughout the land. Their owner is a vile, lying beast and his coach is a self-absorbed hustler and cheap pimp.

The Ravens themselves, it seems, are cut from the same classy cloth.

Baltimore's defense – which had built itself into almost mythical status thanks in no small part to Billick and brainless television dupes – gave up 24 points to a suspect offense, then blamed it all on the officials. By 4 p.m., the Ravens' humiliation was complete and the dunce broadcasters were falling all over themselves in dismay. The Ravens, however, dismissed the entire afternoon as 60-minutes of cheating by the Browns, which is amusing coming from a team that stole its logo and got caught. That's not to mention, of course, spiriting away an entire franchise because of inept bookkeeping that made Russia look economically sound.

So, the legend of the invincible Baltimore defense was put to rest Sunday. It was an unrelenting Browns defense that crippled the Ravens' quarterback. It was Cleveland registering seven sacks and a trio of turnovers. It was Cleveland rushing the pocket like it was the Bastille.

The last time Cleveland beat Baltimore, it was a 41-23 rout at home on Nov. 27, 1983 – and the team was still the Colts. When the Colts were in Baltimore, the Browns were 10-3 lifetime against them in NFL regular season games. They're 16-3 if you toss in the All-America Football Conference years, though that number drops to 17-7 if you factor in the Browns' 1-4 mark against the current pro football franchise illegally entrenched in Baltimore.

But now is not the time to crunch numbers. There is rejoicing and glory on the North Coast, and we shall regale ourselves with heroic tales of sweeping victories and turning back the unwashed band of Huns, Visigoths and Vandals that swept in from the East.

The fearsome Purple and Black Horde is no more.

Perhaps the only thing that could have made Sunday sweeter was if Cleveland's former majority owner was in town. He wasn't. Instead, the wizened old man continues to fritter away his few remaining days on this Earth among his store-bought friends in some richly festooned Baltimore bunker, too fearful of justice to come back to Cleveland. Modell can hide from the Dawg Pound, but when the Grim Reaper comes calling, he'll be wearing orange and waiving a bone.

That day will come. In the meantime, there is much immediate justice to savor.

It's no coincidence that Baltimore's pro football team is named after a flesh-eating winged rodent from a morbid gothic story by the city's most famous drug addict and alcoholic, the manic-depressive Poe.

Kinda fitting, ain't it?

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