Poe's caught in time warp with football

June 04, 1996|By MICHAEL OLESKER

The ghost of Edgar Allan Poe emerges from his grave looking a little jauntier than expected for a guy who's been dead 147 years. Not to worry, he's been back twice before, he says: once for the invention of electricity, and once for the Ali-Frazier fight in '75.

What could bring him back for one more surrealistic touch? Only a football team identified with a Poe poem, plus an early shot at tickets on the 50-yard line. Is Poe a little out of time here? Yeah, and that's the point in the new Baltimore Ravens TV commercials, in which the great poet and all-time Depressed Guy raven-ously gobbles a hot dog, dons raven wings, barbecues at a pregame tailgate party, contorts his body like some pigskin Wild Bill Hagy ("R-A-V-E-N-S") and yells, "Get Crazy Get Crazy" to pump up the volume for Baltimore's newest sports venture.

Poe's not the only one stepping into a time warp. It's been a dozen years since the Colts left, and a lot of the old faithful have mixed emotions. Yes, we want football, but where did Johnny U and Lenny go? Yes, we understand ticket prices are higher. But, whoever heard of these personal seat licenses?

"What we wanted to do in these commercials," says Allan Charles, who directed them for his TBC Advertising and Public Relations firm, "is make people remember the excitement about the world's largest outdoor insane asylum. Face it, there's been negative talk about Baltimore football for over a decade now. Even before they left, there was the Irsay experience.

"We wanted to say the world's changed, you gotta end all this conversation about the Colts. We thought Poe was a great transition. And yet, him yelling, 'Get crazy' recalls the times we had at Memorial Stadium."

Charles' brother is Stan the Fan Charles, the radio sports talk host. One night a caller lamented, "I'm 48 years old. I've lost my peak fan years."

"We all know what he was talking about," Allan Charles says. "My brother told him, 'It's like being a prisoner of war; you gotta get over it.' Look, I had some of the greatest days of my life at Colts games. We're not gonna have that again, but we can have a '90s-style great time with the Ravens."

A local actor, David Keltz, plays Poe in the TV commercials. Two TBC copy writers, Jeff Alphin and Jane King, wrote the spots. They were looking for something a little off-the-wall. The ads were taken to David Modell, the Ravens executive, whose dad, Art Modell, owns the team. David Modell gave the go-ahead, including thumbs-up for a radio spot that includes this line grunted by a guy who sounds like a surly linebacker:

"Remember how much you hated the Green Bay Packers? Well, you still do. 'Cause football's back. I'm not talking City vs. Poly, I'm talking NFL football. You know, with men pounding it out with real blood. Football where the team trainer has to be certified in CPR. And don't forget the Colts are the enemy now."

In maybe 10 seconds, he's pushed three important emotional buttons: bringing back memories of one of the great Baltimore NFL rivalries, with Vince Lombardi's Packers; giving a nod to the oldest high school rivalry, City-Poly, thus paying (slightly comic) tribute to a treasured Baltimore institution and implying shared municipal values; and, with the Colts, giving the green light to that most delicious of emotions, hatred, thus validating the modern psychological approach to the Indianapolis team.

But will that overcome the thought of personal seat licenses, that modern contrivance forcing fans to pay for the mere ITAL right ITAL to buy season tickets? This is a town whose oldest fans, who still revere Dec. 28, 1958, as a holy day, can still remember the uproar when individual tickets were increased from $6 to $7 a game.

OK, it was long ago. But, to those who lost their "peak fan years," it's still stunning news to think of buying the ITAL right ITAL to season tickets -- and those newspaper ads showing Baltimore's PSLs cost far less than St. Louis or Charlotte's are only slightly mollifying.

"The public's only heard the negative spin on PSLs," says Allan Charles. "Everybody's comparing it to the old days, and the old days aren't the old days anymore. Compare car prices. There's a decade gap on how things are being done since the Colts left."

The PSL spin: It's an investment. If you tire of football, move out of town, decide you need the money back, you can sell your PSL. If you die, you can leave it in your will.

Come to think of it, that's what people used to do with their Colts season tickets: Leave them in their wills. But that was long ago, so long ago that even that jaunty ghost of Edgar Allan Poe wishes we wouldn't think about it.

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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