Knowing Poe: The Literature, Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe... In Baltimore and Beyond

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The Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens read "The Raven"
When the Baltimore Ravens took on their name, they inherited a huge literary tradition along with it. And now it's payback time. Hear how the players, coaches, and cheerleaders of this Super Bowl-winning NFL team interpret some of "The Raven"'s familiar lines.
The Baltimore Ravens

How in the world did a professional football team come to be named after a 19th-century poem? After all, football teams are chock-full of beefy athletes ready to trample anyone holding the old pigskin. Nineteenth-century poetry is laced with dainty rhyme schemes and thoughts of lost loves. Not quite an obvious match.

Yet, somehow it makes sense that the National Football League 2000 Super Bowl champions are named the Baltimore Ravens, after Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem "The Raven." After all, the poem is about the torment and anguish of fierce longing, something Baltimore football fans know all too well.

Here's the story behind the name. Once upon a time, in the 1950s and 1960s, to be exact, Baltimore was home to a legendary professional football team, the Colts. Led by quarterback Johnny Unitas and other Hall of Fame players, the team won three NFL championships. But in late 1970s and early 1980s, the team tanked. In 1984, the team owner relocated the Colts in Indianapolis. That was the end of pro football in Baltimore.

Or so it seemed.

In 1995, the Cleveland Browns announced that they were moving their franchise to Baltimore. Baltimore had a new pro football team. Now all it needed was a new pro football name. But what? Long ago, fans had named the Colts after the horse racing industry in the Baltimore area. What Baltimore person, place, or thing would best represent this new Baltimore team?

The Baltimore Ravens Mascots
Edgar, Allan and Poe: the Baltimore Ravens Mascots
Edgar, Allan and Poe

That question was put to the fans. Baltimore had boats, Baltimore had hard-working, patriotic citizens, Baltimore had…Edgar Allan Poe and his famous poem, "The Raven." In early 1996, the Baltimore Sun newspaper conducted a telephone poll. They asked people to cast their vote for the team name. Over 33,000 people voted. About 5,500 people chose the Marauders. A similar number (5,597) picked the Americans. And 21,108 selected the winner: the Baltimore Ravens.

Now Baltimore fans join the three Raven mascots — Edgar, Allan, and Poe — in cheering their players to victory. The dark days of being a teamless town, an NFL nobody, are behind them, they hope, forever more.

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