The Ravens don’t deserve to be called the Ravens. Change the name.
But let me give you the back story first.
I remember growing up in a suburb outside of Milwaukee with curfews and sirens going off as the city frequently faced riots and violence. When the siren blew, everyone had to run back home and the television announcers would say: “It’s 11 p.m. Do you know where your children are?”
One evening I was playing hide tag outside when I heard the siren. I ran home and my parents told me a presidential candidate had been shot. Bobby Kennedy was dead.
Our safety net was our suburban home – far enough from the city – but the neighborhood feared the violence was slowly moving toward the suburbs. We had a rancher with a huge willow tree in the backyard and a 1960s basement with panel walls, a full bar and a utility workshop where we kept power tools. The concrete walls were painted blue but scarred often from the rain water that frequently flooded the basement during heavy storms or when the snow melted.
At times the water appeared to be nearly two feet deep. The sump pump couldn’t work fast enough. To install another one or to do major structure work to the house was not in the budget. We were a middle-class family living one step beyond our means.
We had one black and white television set that got two channels – three if you balanced the nail just right on the channel knob and placed some tin foil on the rabbit ears. We got books from libraries not from bookstores and Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet yet so downloading didn’t exist. I was not a good reader and nearly flunked second grade because I was the slowest reader in the class. Edgar Allan Poe helped me learn to read and maybe passing second grade. I read Poe’s short stories and watched Vincent Price star in movies adapted from Poe’s books perhaps because in school we listened to records of Price reading poems like The Raven.
But our basement was the getaway for and my two brothers and me and most of the neighborhood kids. It made us seem wealthy. We had two cool items in the basement – a ping pong table made by my late grandfather where we used to hide under during tornado watches; and a pool table that became a major attraction in the neighborhood. These toys kept us off the streets. My mother liked it so much that she would often say she never had to worry about where her kids were, because they were home in the basement.
That is until the frequent floods drove us to the streets.
My father worked long hours during the weekdays in a variety of jobs during those basement-flooding years. Jobs that took him from selling advertisements for an up-and-coming radio station to pest control, and later raising money for nonprofits. When the weekends came, he was quite tired. The last thing he wanted was to deal with a wet basement. But there he was – mopping and cleaning up the basement on Saturday and Sunday.
My brothers and I were quite young and helped out only if asked. That’s what kids do. Kids don’t normally volunteer for work – especially on a Saturday. Most of the time, my dad cleaned up the basement while my brothers and I conveniently slipped out of the house to play football.
Finally my dad had enough. He decided to fix the basement problem once and for all. The backyard had a downward slope where the water would run downhill and seep through the concrete walls in the basement. By building a trench in the backyard at the lowest point of the slope, my father figured the water could be channeled away from the house. He dug the 3-foot trench in the backyard that extended all the way to the front yard ditch. His plan was to stick a long tube that extended all the way to the ditch and then bury the tube with white stones and dirt and seed the area so grass would grow.
The trench took several weeks to complete. When he started doing it, I recall watching him through the kitchen window, when my mother said to me, “You should be helping your father. He’s going to have a heart attack.”
My dad rarely asks for help. It’s not in his DNA. Maybe it started when WWII broke out. He didn’t wait to get drafted. He volunteered to fight at age 17. He became a United States Marine and was stationed in China where he handled Morse Code.
As my mother started to scold me, something seemed to click that would stay with me for the rest of my life. You shouldn’t have to be asked to help someone. You should do it because you want to do it. So my brothers and I helped my dad build that trench, Dad was thrilled that his sons were helping him without someone telling them to do it. He never knew about my mom’s heart-attack talk. When we finished, I asked my dad, “Will it work? Will our house still be standing?”
“We will have to wait for the first storm,” he said.
And when that storm came and the water was channeled to the ditch and not the basement, we couldn’t be happier.
And that brings me to the Baltimore Ravens and the Edgar Allan Poe stories we published on this site. The storm has come and the house is no more. To recap, in case you missed it, the historic Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum is nevermore. The city couldn’t afford to keep it running. They cut the annual $85,000 that kept the doors open last year. And no one stepped up to the plate to save this treasure so it closed its doors Friday for good. All that’s left is to say goodbye on its Facebook pages.
It’s October and Poe’s birthday around the corner and the city can’t afford to reopen this historic treasure to celebrate the poet’s life. It’s not the first time Baltimore politicians turned their back on a historic museum. Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson – the mother of the civil rights movement – once had a museum that housed a picture of this famous trailblazer with Rosa Parks among other historical significant items.
Jackson was instrumental in getting Baltimore to become the first Southern city to integrate its schools after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and a key player getting Baltimore’s Fair Employment Practices law passed in 1958. She died in 1975 but asked in her will that her home at 1320 Eutaw Place in Baltimore be turned into a museum.
It opened in 1976 and became the only Maryland museum named after a woman and the only civil rights museum in the state. The museum closed in the 1990s after the city could not afford the uptake. Her belongings are in storage under the care of Morgan State University. That’s akin to saying let’s close down the Martin Luther King Jr.s’ museum in Atlanta.
So where do the Ravens fit in? Baltimore Post-Examiner writer Anthony C. Hayes put it this way in his story: “Arguably, no one has made more money from Poe’s caustic bird than the Baltimore Ravens. And unlike the Baltimore oriole or the Maryland terrapin, ravens are not indigenous to the area. The sole connection to Charm City and its new football team is Edgar Allan Poe.”
So when Hayes inquired to why they haven’t done anything to save the museum, they replied basically – No one asked.
To be precise Chad Steele, director of media relations for the Baltimore Ravens told the Baltimore Post-Examiner, “We are not aware of anyone approaching (the team) on this. This is an important project, but we can’t do them all. We’re very involved in a number of other important community projects right now.”
To be fair, the Ravens players, the organization give so many millions to charities, and organizations that if we wrote a story every day on what they give back to the community, we still couldn’t cover it all.
But this one cause is different. Save the Poe House.
In 1996, Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns football team to Baltimore. The team was named the “Baltimore Ravens” after a fan contest of 33,288 votes. Let’s put it bluntly as Wikipeida states: The name is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe‘s poem The Raven. Poe lived in Baltimore, and died and was buried here in 1849. Initially the team even named its three original mascots Edgar, Allan, and Poe. In 2008 Edgar and Allan retired and have been replaced by Rise and Conquer.
Should those running the museum really have to ask? Is the organization not in tune to what is going on just a few blocks from the stadium? Do they really have to ask to help? Are they that kid watching their father digging a trench to save a house. Can’t Momma Raven step in and say: Do something.
Maybe the Ravens simply were not aware of the dire straits of the museum. The players call Baltimore home for just a short period and when the season ends most are gone. It’s not like the Baltimore Colts where the players were engrained in the community because they held jobs in the city and lived here during the offseason. Do you really believe that Johnny U. and the Colts would not have let this happen under their watch?
The Ravens could have easily raised the money. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco could have put a football, a jersey up on Ebay, or they could have held an event outside the museum where donations could have been accepted in exchange for autographs, posters, footballs and other Ravens’ gear. In a few hours, enough money could have been raised to save the museum. They could have sacrificed one of those big meals when a player takes the entire team out and donate that contribution to the museum.
Little Baltimore city kids are doing more than these players have done to save the museum. Their Pennies for Poe are a small gesture of kids emptying their piggy banks to save a museum. The next time Ray Lewis and company spend a day in the public schools –reading to the kids, I hope a child asks him why he didn’t care to save the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum. Especially when that child says, he gave all his pennies he saved up from his chores to help, and wants to know what Mr. Lewis gave.
What will you tell them, Mr. Lewis. Will you say, “No one asked you.” These are kids who worship you and the Ravens. We should worship the kids for what they tried to do.
The Ravens didn’t worship Poe enough to save his house. They didn’t even try. And if they don’t care, (and this hurts me to say because I’ve lived here for more than two decades and adopted the Ravens as my team, but here it goes) – let’s change the name. Change the Ravens name to another charity group that they do care about. They got plenty to choose from and I’m sure anyone of them would be honored. But Edgar Allan Poe deserves someone who actually cares about him. Not someone using his work and name to enrich themselves.
Already, one reader responded to Hayes’ article, saying he’s interested in moving the Poe House to North Carolina where that state would welcome a national treasure.
Get the Mayflower trucks ready. I’ll volunteer to drive the truck.
Hey, if the Colts can ride off to Indianapolis maybe the Poe House can fly off to Carolina. It’s too bad Carolina football team is entrenched with its Panther’s name because the Carolina Ravens sounds pretty good right now.