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Baltimore Tap, Tap, Taps Literary Reference for Team Name

March 30, 1996

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Quoth the Raven, Baltimore.

Taking their cue from Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore football fans overwhelmingly voted in a phone-in poll to rename the Cleveland Browns the Baltimore Ravens.

The team colors and logo have not yet been selected. As for mascots, team owner Art Modell’s wife _ perhaps alluding to Cerberus, the three-headed canine that guards the gates of underworld _ says she wants three dogs named Edgar, Allan and Poe.

The name, chosen over the Americans and the Marauders in a newspaper phone-in poll, was inspired, of course, by the famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The 19th-century master of the macabre, who lived on and off in Baltimore, is buried here.

Whether or not dark-cloaked Raven maniacs will break into poetry at the team’s games this fall remains to be seen.

``They’ll wear a lot of black,″ said Jeff DeLuca, 33, of Lutherville. ``Baltimore’s always doing weird things. The dark side of the raven image will help bring out the weird side.″

The Ravens are the 15th NFL team named after an animal and the fifth named after a bird, but the first to be christened with a literary allusion.

``We feel the NFL fans are educated and will pick up the connection to Poe and the poem,″ NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Maybe not.

``Where does that name come from? Ravens,″ said Dwayne Miles, 35, after Modell announced the decision on a noontime dreary to fans huddled under umbrellas. ``I like it. It’s something different, and odd.″

The Colts brought to mind images of power, speed and grace before owner Bob Irsay slipped out of town under cover of darkness and moved the team to Indianapolis in 1984.

Ravens are respected by Indians as wise and resourceful, and Norse legend says a pair of the crow-like birds flew to the ends of the Earth each day and returned to tell Odin _ chief deity and god of the dead _ what they had learned.

Ravens are found mostly in the West and Canada, although a few venture along the Appalachian Trail, which crosses western Maryland.

``They are very intelligent animals,″ said Steven Sarro, curator of birds at the Baltimore Zoo. ``Each is an individual.″

The nastier habits of the raven were not lost on Cleveland Browns fans, who are eating crow after Modell, wooed by promises of a brand-new $200 million stadium and other rich incentives, moved the team to Baltimore.

``The nickname is totally appropriate because if you look in the dictionary, raven is also a verb which means to devour greedily. That fits what Modell has done to Cleveland,″ said Tony Grossi, a sportswriter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. ``You don’t associate a raven with a fighter or anything. It’s more like a junk bird that devours a carcass.″

Naming the National Football League team after ``The Raven,″ Poe’s poem about the torment of love lost, is the highest compliment that could be given the writer, said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House & Museum in Baltimore.

The poem contains the line ``Quoth the Raven, `Nevermore.‴ It opens:

``Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore _

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.″

Poe died in Baltimore in 1849 after being found in a tavern in a delirium. He is buried in a churchyard, where every year a mysterious stranger leaves cognac and roses on the anniversary of his birth.

``I’m sure he is in his grave right now giving a thumbs-up,″ Jerome said.

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