Ravens hope new fight song has staying power

Lyrics changed, but tune of Colts fight song remain intact

August 25, 2010|Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Fight songs for teams in the NFL are often like players: Some, like Hall of Famers, become synonymous with the team itself while others, like long-shot free agents, fail to catch on and are quickly forgotten.

The Ravens are hoping that their new fight song, unveiled Wednesday night at M&T Bank Stadium after a charity fundraising event for the organization's All Community Team Foundation, has star quality and staying power.

It will certainly have something else: an obvious link to Baltimore's football past.

Written by longtime Colts and Baltimore's Marching Ravens band president John Ziemann and current musical director Todd Clontz, the fight song will have a familiar tune -- it's the same as the Colts' fight song, which was about the only thing Robert Irsay forgot to take with him in the team's middle-of-the-night move to Indianapolis in 1984.

Ravens team president Dick Cass said the new song would debut Saturday when the Ravens play the New York Giants at M&T Bank Stadium in their third preseason game; the lyrics will be printed in programs and displayed on the big screen in the stadium so fans can sing along.

"We're trying to start a tradition," Cass said. "We have a Ravens fight song, but I don't think it ever really caught on with the fans. We want to try this new song and see how it goes. We'll try it for a year and we're hopeful that the fans will pick it up and enjoy it."

"I think it's great; there's a lot of tradition with the old song and the team that we can now convert and apply to a new tradition," said longtime season-ticket holder Mark Wagus, 47, of Ellicott City.

According to Ziemann, he and Clontz wrote the song during a three-hour telephone conversation. After getting approval from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, Cass and other team executives, fans were able to vote on the team website for either the Raven-ized lyrics set to the old Colts tune or for the most recent fight song. With nearly 10,000 votes in, the Raven-ized lyrics were leading, with nearly 7,900 votes.

The roots of this semi-revival came last October, when the Ravens invited some of their season-ticket holders to a private screening of "The Band That Wouldn't Die," the ESPN documentary by Baltimore-born director Barry Levinson about the Colts marching band.

When the lights came back on, the Marching Ravens played the old fight song. Most stood and started singing their hearts out.

"The fans went nuts," said Ziemann, a part of the band for 48 years.

That was a far different reaction than to the team's original fight song, written for the third season in Baltimore by John Modell, whose father, Art, owned the team at the time. The son made a passing reference to Edgar Allan Poe with the words "To our foes, we say 'Nevermore.'"

Unfortunately, the fans had a similar feeling about the fight song.

Many fans, including Wagus, didn't even know it existed. Neither did wide receiver Mark Clayton or third-year head coach John Harbaugh.

"I knew we had a band," Clayton said as he took photographs with fans Wednesday night.

The Ravens tried other songs for the fans to sing, playing former Baltimore rocker Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and that old Chicago Stadium staple, "Wooly Bully," but they departed like the team's succession of mediocre quarterbacks. Not that Baltimore's lack of a popular fight song was unique.

With the exception of Washington's "Hail to the Redskins," which dates to 1938, most NFL fight songs become quickly outdated. A few -- including a New York Jets fight song written by Lou Holtz and handed to the players after a 1976 preseason game -- remained unsung.

"When Joe Namath worked for NBC, I asked him what was the strangest thing that ever happened in his career?" said Kevin Byrne, the team's vice president for communications. "He said it was the fight song."

The Ravens are hoping that this new tune catches on, even with those who've tried to bury all the ghosts associated with Irsay's move out of town.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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