March 29, 1996|By Michael Dresser

RAVENS IS a cool name for a football team. It'll be an even cooler logo. But before you go casting a vote for the black bird in The Sun's telephone poll, you should be aware of the plumed peril.

It's going to bring out the literary worst in sportswriters.

They'll try to control themselves, but the lure of the poetic allusion will be too strong. Phrases from ''The Raven'' will beckon like Sirens, and no amount of editorial admonition can protect Baltimore sports fans from an almost constant stream of snippets from Poe's classic verse.

Let the Raven defenders go two games without allowing a touchdown, and who can doubt that some writer will dub them ''The Nevermore Defense?'' An effective secondary will inevitably become the Purple Curtain.

Should the Ravens get off to a bad start next fall, which scribe will be the first to proclaim them a pallid bust? (Or, if attendance lags, the ''pallid bust of Parris.'')

Some year, inevitably, the Ravens' title hopes will be dashed in the last game of the regular season. For years thereafter, columnists yet unhired will be quoting Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December.

Those who know the poem well are aware of its powerful language of loss. So you should be forewarned that the injury of defeat will be compounded by the insult of premeditated Poe-mongering.

''The Ravens played the Cowboys to a draw until midway in the third quarter, when Testaverde's errant pass opened wide the door.''

''After the botched punt, unmerciful disaster followed fast and followed faster.''

''But after two straight years of seeing their team eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Ravens fans' hopes have flown before.''

Stately and saintly

This isn't something writers will do and get out of their system after a season or two. Twenty years from now, you might be seeing a retired Baltimore player of grave and stern decorum being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Is anyone willing to bet me that some sportswriter won't call him ''a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore?''

Coaches won't close the locker room; they'll shut the chamber door. The owner won't be depressed by a loss; he'll be a soul with sorrow laden. Defenses won't be tired; they'll be weak and weary. How much of this perversity can you take before you're begging for respite and nepenthe?

Is it too late to suggest the Baltimore Bells?

Michael Dresser, who covers telecommunications and wine for The Sun, knows he couldn't resist if he covered sports.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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