'Give me an R. . .' It's Ravens, hon!: New bird in our flock bridges Baltimore's past and future.

March 30, 1996

IN THE mid-19th century, when Baltimore pols made an art form of corruption, street drunks and other easy marks were rounded up on Election Day and marched from precinct to precinct to vote as ordered. The practice was known as "cooping." A drunken Edgar Allan Poe was among those "cooped," shortly before his death in 1849.

Were he alive today, Poe would no doubt have been impressed by the elaborate culling of public opinion to arrive at a name for the new National Football League team in town. And arrive it has: It's Ravens, hon.

Many Marylanders voiced other preferences. Clearly, the sentimental choice was "Colts," but not if it meant paying tens of millions in tribute to the hated Irsays of Indianapolis. Ultimately, Ravens soared highest in a Sundial poll, scientific surveys of public opinion and numerous focus groups. It now joins the baseball Orioles in this town of birds. In a nation where two dozen species of egg-laying, feathered vertebrates represent professional and college teams, we can't lay claim to being the sports town with the most birds (Atlanta has Hawks and Falcons), or the most comical one (Anaheim has a Mighty Duck) or even the one with which you are least likely to want to share a room (South Carolina's Fighting Gamecock). With the debate behind us over a mascot, not to mention a new football stadium, we can begin rallying around Baltimore's new team.

The name harkens to a time, not long ago, when Poe's haunting gravesite at Westminster Cemetery helped comprise what little of a visitor industry Baltimore possessed. The Poe connection was a rare source of civic pride back when Charm City pined for some national respect. That's history.

Baltimore is now known to the outside world for its downtown renaissance, its world-class harbor attractions and museums, the "old-yet-new" baseball yard that will draw sold-out crowds starting Monday to watch those other hometown birds. The overdue return of NFL football to Baltimore after a decade will build on that rebirth. The name is "Ravens," but there is a bit of phoenix in the bloodlines, too.

Pub Date: 3/30/96

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