Over the weekend, Baltimore football fans were able to rejoice, mourn, savor, and celebrate two of its own: Jonathan Ogden and Art Donovan.
Watching Jonathan Ogden being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was pretty cool. The first ever Raven drafted becoming the first ever Raven inducted into the Hall of Fame brings even more legitimacy to the Baltimore Ravens franchise. Winning two Super Bowls is awesome, don’t get me wrong. However, in my eyes, Ogden’s induction officially severs the Cleveland Brown-Baltimore Raven connection, more so than the Super Bowl wins. Our own Raven history has grown richer. Ogden nailed his speech, talking about how he and the fans of Baltimore, a new generation of fans like myself, grew together.
I still remember taking a Saturday spring drive in 1996, listening to the NFL Draft on the radio hoping and praying the Ravens would take the talented running back from Nebraska, Lawrence Phillips. Again, Ogden nailed his speech with the line, “I've often thought about the day in 1996 when you drafted me instead of Lawrence Phillips. I think that worked out well for everyone.” Indeed.
The juxtaposition of Saturday’s Hall of Fame highlight with Sunday night’s news of Art Donovan passing away was striking. Donovan, a beacon for, and of, Baltimore will be missed. Donovan, the first ever Baltimore Colt enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The symmetry of Ogden's and Donovan's Hall of Fame careers is compelling. The first Baltimore Colt inducted into the Hall of Fame intersects with the first Baltimore Raven inducted into the Hall of Fame. Both were hard-nosed, play-in-the-trenches, punch-you-in-the mouth kind of players. Ogden may have played with a touch more polish, but no matter. These two were both cut from the same cloth.
I am too young to know him from his playing days, but Donovan’s loyalty, toughness, and adoration from older generations are what I know about him. My grandfather (an interesting card in his own right) talked glowingly of Donovan and his career that included five Pro Bowl selections as a defensive tackle.
My generation knew Donovan more from Tom Davis’ show, and from his numerous David Letterman appearances. But what always struck me was how Baltimore Donovan was. Had I not known he was from New York, I would have assumed he grew up in Highlandtown just as my other grandfather had. Donovan oozed Baltimore- gritty, honest, raw, and no hint of pretentiousness.
I posted on social media Saturday night how this past year has been fun to be a Ravens’ fan- exciting season, Ray’s retirement, the playoff run, a Super Bowl win, and Ogden’s Hall of Fame induction.
News of Donovan’s death changed my mood. However, after reading more about his life, I have come to appreciate the richness of the man’s life and view this as an opportunity to continue to celebrate the greatness of being a Baltimore sports fan.
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An avid sports fan, and a passionate Ravens fan. However, I don't always wear the purple-shaded glasses.