What Could Go Right? - the Baltimore Ravens - an NFL introductionOct 14, 2021
We were rolling into Baltimore, headed to our hotel. We’d woken up at 5am and traveled all day. It was almost 8pm now. Traffic got bad two blocks from the hotel as we drove past a stadium. “Hey Siri, is there a baseball game going in Baltimore?”
“Nope. There is not a baseball game in Baltimore.”
“Hey Siri, what’s happening at M&T Bank Stadium tonight?”
“The Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens kick off at 8:15pm.”
Huh. I’ve never been to an NFL football game, but I always thought it would be fun.
“Hey, Emily, wanna see if we can catch part of the game?” I asked, kind of like a kid asks his friend, “Wanna ride our bikes down this crazy steep hill?”
We still had to park our rental car, check-in, see the room where we would speak the next day, meet the meeting organizers, eat dinner and review our presentation. If all went well, we’d get a few hours of sleep before we woke up at 6am to get ready. An NFL game didn’t seem to be in the cards.
We took care of everything we needed to get done and, back in our hotel room, I turned on the TV to watch the game. The Colts were up 22 to 3. I could see empty seats in the stadium which was two blocks away.
“What if we go catch the second half and review our presentation when we get back?” I asked Emily.
Emily could tell I was excited. “Let’s do it,” she said.
We changed clothes and walked out of the hotel toward the stadium. I figured we could buy tickets somewhere, but I saw lots of people wearing purple jerseys leaving the stadium.
“Excuse me,” I asked a couple in their thirties, “We’re going to try and catch the second half of the game. Are you guys leaving?”
“Yeah,” the guy said.
“Any chance we could use your tickets?”
The woman explained they were digital tickets, already scanned, and couldn’t be scanned again.
“No, worries. Thanks for the heads up,” I said, and we kept walking toward the stadium.
“Actually,” the lady started to say, and we turned back around. “Our friends gave us four tickets and we only used two. Maybe we could transfer the other two to you.”
“That would be amazing,” I said.
“I’m not sure if they’ll work, but you can try. I don’t think they have any of our personal information on them.”
She tapped on her phone and asked for my email. I tapped on my phone, logged into a Ticketmaster account I must have created 20 years ago, and the tickets popped up. Wow.
“Thanks so much. You guys are awesome,” we said as we waved goodbye to our new friends in purple jerseys. We were in Section 152, row 6. Section 152 was a big number. We weren’t too worried about being in the nosebleed seats. We just wanted to be ‘in the room’ and enjoy the atmosphere.
We got to the gate and tried our luck with the tickets. They scanned us through and Emily and I were inside. Fun!
The energy inside the stadium was electric. 71,000 seats hold a lot of people.
I followed a sign toward Section 152. We walked up a gradually sloping ramp and entered the stadium. After double checking the signs and looking at the row numbers on the seats, I realized we were in row 6, as in six rows from the field, directly behind the Colts team bench, right on the 25-yard line. What?
We couldn’t believe it.
What could go right? We certainly hadn’t imagined this.
Emily and I settled into our seats, and I began refreshing Emily’s football knowledge-base: first downs, extra points, how penalties work, number of time outs, etc.
We cheered whenever either team made a good play. Even though Emily and I both grew up near D.C., we didn’t feel any particular affinity to the home team. A spirited smiley fan next to us was cheering for the Colts.
“You have to pick a team to cheer for,” he said. “It makes it more fun.”
“We’re just happy to be here,” Emily explained. “You’re definitely going to enjoy this more than us.” We were all having fun. The announcer, the jumbotrons, the chanting and cheering, the smell of fries and hot dogs, it was all just fun.
I decided to cheer for the Ravens. Emily decided half-heartedly to cheer for the Colts.
The Ravens scored. It was now 22 to 10.
I won’t even try to break this game down. It was a wild ride [here's the ESPN recap].
Our local loyalties kicked in and both Emily and I began rooting for the Ravens in earnest.
They started to come from behind. There was a missed extra point, a blocked punt, an incredible defensive stop. With 30 seconds left on the clock, the game was tied 25 to 25. If the Colts scored a field goal, they’d win. From the 28-yard line, the Colts kicker sent the ball flying toward to uprights, and missed. The Ravens fans lost their minds. This could happen. They could actually win.
The game went into overtime.
The Ravens won the coin toss. They got the ball and went to work. Five minutes later they scored a touchdown and the place exploded. They’d scored 28 points in the second half to come from behind and win the game.
What could go right? Two lovely people could generously share their amazing seats with us for free and we could have a blast watching a nail biter of a game at our first NFL event.
Back at the hotel, Emily and I practiced our presentation. The main question we ask when we teach and work with groups is “What could go right?” We explore it in depth as best we can in 75 minutes. It’s always energizing to see people come alive when they sincerely start to answer that question for themselves. It was good to be reminded myself.
Emily and I went on one of our first dates to the Baltimore aquarium. We stood next to this same submarine twenty-eight years ago and took a picture. I'll try to find it : )
Family first doesn't mean Mom + Dad last.
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