As you might expect, Ryan travels to a lot of games. When I asked him to pick a favourite I thought I knew which one he would go for – the guy has been to a Super Bowl, after all! But I was surprised…
What is a road trip like for you? What’s different about watching a game as a professional, compared with watching as a fan?
Road trips are extremely luxurious. I travel with the team, which means I fly with them, ride the buses with them and stay at the same hotel. I drive to a special runway at BWI airport, park in a lot less than 100 yards away and walk on the runway and up onto the plane. Besides security (no line!) we don’t have any of the headaches usually associated with flying because the team charters a flight.
Before we get on the plane, we can take a packed lunch – a ham or turkey sandwich. I usually don’t grab that because there’s better to come.
(I have to admit that at about this point I was expecting Ryan to say: “Just kidding! The trips are actually pretty ordinary”. It turns out he’s not kidding.)
When I get on, I generally get a cheese and fruit plate. Then a hot meal is served on the plane. Doesn’t matter how short the flight is, you can always eat. Dessert and other snacks are also offered.
The hotels are always in great locations and beautiful. We ride on buses and receive police escorts (no traffic!) wherever we go. I usually get to the game about two hours before kickoff. That gives me enough time to get settled and write about who is inactive before warm-ups begin.
It’s very different watching as a professional than a fan. I split up the travel with Garrett Downing, so I experience both. As a fan, I am sitting on my couch in sweatpants and an old T-shirt. As a professional, I am sitting in the press box in a suit and tie, just a couple seats away from Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta. We are not allowed to cheer, but I sometimes do some fist bumps quietly to myself or under the desk if the Ravens are doing well.Embed from Getty Images
Set the scene for the game you have in mind. What was the build-up like? What was the mood from the team and fans on the day? What kind of day was it?
The game I have in mind is the 2012 divisional playoffs in Denver. The build-up was unique. Nobody thought the Ravens could win that game. Peyton Manning and the Broncos had blown the Ravens out, in Baltimore, just a few weeks earlier. However, temperatures were freezing – it’s the coldest game I’ve ever attended – and I felt like that would throw off Manning.
Strangely, the team seemed pretty confident. I still remember Orioles outfielder Adam Jones being on the sideline totally freezing his butt off high-fiving players as they ran out. I remember not packing a warm enough jacket and cutting my pre-game video segment short because of it.
What is Mile High Stadium like and how does it compare to M&T Bank Stadium?
Mile High is a cool stadium. It’s huge and they’re pretty rabid fans there. You can tell a lot of great football has been played in that stadium. But M&T Bank Stadium is more intimate and cool, especially for the media. Our press box has the best location in the NFL – at the 50-yard line and low. Most stadiums stick reporters way up high in a corner.
Why did you pick this game? What was the experience like for you?
It was a wild game with some big Ravens plays early on, which only served to let the team know they could hang with Denver. Torrey Smith had a fantastic game with two touchdowns and we all know about the Mile High Miracle. I still remember my boss, who was sitting next to me, jumping out of her chair when that happened and pacing back and forth in the press box saying, “Did that just happen!? Did that just happen!?”
What was it like in the stadium when Jacoby made that catch?
When Jacoby made that catch, there was a sudden gasp and then silence. All you could hear were the faint yells of the players and the Ravens sideline cheering, as well as from the smattering of Ravens fans in the stands.
It was wild. I must have written and deleted my game recap three times. That was also a special post-game locker room environment. Everybody in the entire organization was hugging. You knew then that this was a team of destiny and we would beat the Patriots the next week in the AFC championship.
I always tell people that I enjoyed this game more than Super Bowl XLVII. It was such a thrilling win and a back-and-forth game, whereas the Super Bowl was just more nerve-wracking and painful down the stretch, watching the 49ers storm back and Ravens hang on. That game felt like more of a huge relief to win. The Denver game was a thrilling victory.
Top photo: Keith Allison