By Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun
3:33 PM EST, February 10, 2013
Prior to The Game on Sunday, Anthony Mitchell made a bold forecast on Facebook. The former Raven posted photos of both his 2000 jersey and his Super Bowl ring with this decree: Time to get another one.
The Ravens obliged.
Why did Mitchell share his entry?
"Once a Raven, always a Raven," said Mitchell, 38, a former defensive back. "Play for that team and you always have a special bond with Baltimore."
Ever since the Super Bowl, folks who know Kim Herring have sidled up, pumped his hand and offered their congratulations.
"At first, I was confused," said Herring, 37, a starting safety on the Ravens' 2000 Super Bowl team. "I wondered, are we having another child or something? But people here (in Orlando) were just happy for me, as if I had played in Sunday's game."
The impact of the Ravens' triumph has crossed state lines and touched players and coaches who, for more than 50 years, helped shape the city's football lore.
"I was sort of hoping they'd win," said Don Shula, 83, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Colts to the 1968 NFL championship and a seat in Super Bowl III. "It's great for the fans in Baltimore, those hard-working, blue-collar people who can now walk around proudly and throw out their chests and be ready to challenge anybody."
Oldtimers reveled in the outcome. Raymond Berry, the Colts' Hall of Fame receiver, called it "one of the best Super Bowl performances ever" and praised Coach John Harbaugh for guiding the Ravens through a rocky season.
"For a team to slump with three straight losses and come back strong is a huge mark of its leadership and character," said Berry, 79, who coached the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1985. "Being a coach's son, I can see the tremendous backlog of experiences that (Harbaugh) has absorbed from his dad — and the ability to stay the course, amid setbacks, is part of that."
For Jim O'Brien, the growth of quarterback Joe Flacco proved the difference.
"It seemed like he got smarter as the season went on, and stopped making dumb mistakes," said O'Brien, 66, who kicked the winning field goal in the Colts' 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. "Flacco became quite the student of the game, through the playoffs."
"It was a pretty darn good game, for a Super Bowl," said Gino Marchetti, 88, the Hall of Fame defensive end who took the Colts to NFL titles in 1958 and 1959. "Flacco was pretty calm for a guy playing in his first championship game. Godalmighty, he put that ball right where it had to be. And the guy (Jacoby Jones) who scored on that (108-yard) kickoff return? It looked like the 49ers players were getting out of his way, he was running so fast."
The 200,000 fans who gathered to welcome the Ravens home on Tuesday reminded Marchetti of the crowd that greeted the Colts at Friendship (now BWI) Airport on their return from winning the 1958 world championship in New York. A mob of 30,000 – more boisterous than this week's Ravens' crowd — stormed the team's buses and threatened to crush the roofs.
Marchetti understands their jubilation, then as now.
"Baltimore fans live and die with their teams and, when they finally get over that hump, it's the greatest feeling in the world," he said.
That the Ravens clambered back after blowing a Super Bowl bid last year makes it sweeter, said Bob Vogel, an All-Pro tackle on the Colts' 1970 title team.
"The world is full of people who spend their lives dealing with regrets from opportunities not seized," said Vogel, 71, who'd played on the 1968 club that was upset by the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. "It's a very empty feeling to realize something is in your hands, and not consummate it.
"When I think of how, more than 40 years ago, we blew a golden opportunity and then got a chance to do it again ... well, that's a great blessing to me, as I'm sure it is to the Ravens. Those guys poured themselves out on the field, emotionally, physically and spiritually."
It all boils down to coaching, said Raul Allegre, the former Colts' kicker who has two championship rings of his own and who broadcast the Super Bowl for ESPN's Hispanic viewers.
"I remember in December, when the Ravens got beat soundly by Denver, 34-17 in a game that wasn't even that close. It was pretty ugly," the 53-year-old Allegre said. "Harbaugh held a press conference and said, 'We've got all of our goals in front of us.'
"I thought, this guy is really reaching. His team is injured and playing horribly and falling apart. Well, adversity can either divide or unite you, and the Ravens rallied. Obviously, the players believed their coach and reflected his personality."
Something else struck Allegre, while reporting from New Orleans.
"The stadium seemed to be two-thirds Ravens fans. And they weren't corporate types, but real people," he said.
"I think Baltimore fans are past the Colts leaving town in 1984, and have truly embraced the Ravens as their team. I think they've moved on."
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun