Skybox Owner . . .For A Night

Two weeks ago I was invited to Ravens Stadium to have an up-close and personal evening with David Modell, Ozzie Newsome and Brian Billick. My friend and co-worker Bryan and I received a telephone call from a salesman who's company owns a suite at the stadium. All suite owners were invited to this little shindig and when the salesman asked if we wanted to go in his place, we immediately accepted.

I left work, ran home and got dressed up like I was going to a wedding. I even shaved again. I knew I would be rubbing elbows with people who had a few bucks. I wanted to at least look like I had a few myself.

The whole purpose of this invitation was two-fold. Basically explain to the people who pay for the most expensive seats in the house, what in the hell Billick and Ozzie were doing with the team. It was also to convince the suite owners to keep forking it over (and love it).

The event was held on the Mercantile Club Level at the stadium. This is the same area the live taping of Report From the Ravenszone takes place. Bryan and I took the elevator up to the Mercantile Level, got our name tags and walked into the room. The big band sounds of Frank Sinatra filled the air. In fact every song was Frank Sinatra. This wasn't going to be a KISS type of crowd.

Tables and chairs were set up in front of the huge bar. There were tables on the sides crammed with food. Exotic cheeses, crackers, fruit, meatballs, buffalo wings and other things I couldn't identify.

There were waitresses carrying trays with more food that I couldn't identify. One girl was carrying lamb croissants and other meat concoctions. I stuck with the cheese, crackers and pineapple.

The whole time we're eating, Billick, Ozzie, and David Modell are working the patrons like three politicians at a fund raiser. Bryan got to chat with Ozzie for a few minutes until he moved onto another group.

In the corner on a maple stand sat the Lombardi Trophy, all by its lonesome shining down upon, and and drawing us to it. We were able to pick it up, hold it, and turn it upside down with no supervision. Luckily Bryan brought his camera and I was able to get a picture of just me holding it.

Modell called the meeting to order. There were just under a hundred people in the room. White wooden folding chairs were set up like the TV show facing a stage. David Modell got up and said a few words of encouragement for the upcoming season and also introduced Ravens minority owner Steven Bisciotti who was also in attendance.

Ozzie Newsome presented the draft perspective to the crowd. He said that if the draft were being held on that day, the Ravens would be ready to pick. In what direction the Ravens wanted to go he didn't know or he wouldn't say. Ozzie also spoke of the problems associated with negotiating with an agent. Sometimes they will steer clear of a player if they know they will have difficulty with a certain agent.

After Ozzie it was time for Brian Billick to say a few words. And everyone knows Billick doesn't just say a few words. He had the crowd, as he always does, in the palm of his hand. He is such a well spoken and convincing speaker, that he could probably talk the Pope into robbing a bank at gunpoint.

Brian Billick isn't going to lay down just because his team currently has only a handful of players. He stays positive and is just arrogant enough to believe that the Ravens are going to be good this year.

He let us know that there is a plan in place, as always with Billick management. He and Ozzie knew at the end of the 2000 regular season that they would have salary cap problems this year. Billick, all of sudden after the Pittsburgh game didn't run down the hall to Ozzie's office and scream, "Holy crap, we've got cap problems." He knew then it would be an issue.

Given the current state of the NFL, any mediocre team can make a run at the Super Bowl in a few short years. Billick claims that the Ravens will seriously make another go at a title within three years, with a core of young players including Ray Lewis, Chris McAlister, Jamal Lewis, Jonathon Ogden, Edwin Muliatalo, Todd Heap, Peter Boulware, and Travis Taylor, who will all be 30 or younger.

Billick is also confident with his quarterback-by-default in Chris Redman. Redman has all the tools you need in a starting QB. He's a coaches son, who at the dinner table talked football all the time.

Coach Billick recently purchased a boat. He analogized about boating and running a football team. You have to know your place (where you want to go). You need to know your vessel (your players and what they can and cannot do). You also need to know your surroundings (what is the current condition of the league and your division.) Let's all hope this year doesn't remind us of The Perfect Storm.

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