After watching the AFC Championship football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers last night, I suddenly remembered that many years ago I had written a wine column, the frame of which concerned the Ravens, which had just become a new franchise. While many NFL teams have mascots that resonate historically and culturally with their home cities -especially, perhaps, the Packers, Patriots, and Cowboys – none of them has the sort of literary association that exists between Baltimore and the Ravens, though the New Orleans “Saints” does come close. What follows is my wine column re-worked and edited for the occasion, and I offer it as a tribute to the Baltimore Ravens and their fans.
While I rarely wrote about sports in my wine column, and just as infrequently quoted poetry in it, I could not resist doing so when I first learned that the team formerly known as the Cleveland Browns had become the Baltimore Ravens. What a “quaint and curious” choice for a team mascot! Surely, I thought, not that “Ghastly, grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore.” It is impossible for me not to associate this “ominous bird of yore” with the great poem bearing its name, which is exactly what the Baltimore management, in an act of uncommonly creative imagination, doubtless intended, and so I have decided to employ “The Raven” to help with my wine evaluations.
If, like me, you sometimes find yourself trying to borrow from your books “surcease of sorrow,” maybe a better strategy would be to put down your “volume of forgotten lore” and take up a glass of sprightly Sauvignon Blanc. After sipping this tart, palate-cleansing wine, you might even hear the footfalls of seraphim tinkling on your “tufted floor,” though it might only be the sound of the bell on your cat’s collar.
I don’t know whether or not there is hope of “balm in Gilead,” but I do know that a few sips of good Pinot Noir always serve to restore my spirits. With its silky texture and generous fruit flavors, this wine will certainly provide “respite and nepenthe” from bad memories of all sorts.
If some visitors should suddenly “come tapping” on your chamber door, I suggest serving them a glass of Chardonnay. In fact, two glasses of this eminently friendly white wine might just give you “dreams that no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
Should you find yourself faced with a “midnight dreary,” a late-night glass of Merlot will almost certainly improve your mood. In fact, a well-made Merlot is all but guaranteed to deliver you from all unhappy mental states – even those best described as “unmerciful Disaster.”
If after pondering some of life’s darker mysteries – the existence of crab grass, for example, or the unnecessary abundance of left-handed people in the world – you should find yourself “weak and weary,” you will find your strength replenished by quaffing a glass of Zinfandel, surely the best and noblest of red wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon can be impressively rich and complex, and if you take the time to savor such a wine, it is likely that when you subsequently find yourself in the company of friends you will say, “Ah, distinctly I remember . . .”
I think that the owners of the Baltimore Ravens should take two measures that would deflect at least some of the bad luck usually associated with the dire bird that is their namesake. First, the Ravens have a cheerleading squad, and I suggest that these “rare and radiant maidens” should be called “The Lenores,” though, alas, after last night’s contest each of them would temporarily be a “lost Lenore.” Second, the team would be wise to place a “pallid bust of Pallas” just above the locker room door, but they should beware of allowing any “ebony bird” to perch upon it.
I know that many readers will find it strange for me to mix sports, wine, and POEtry in this way, but I recommend that they consider the wine references as suggestions for upcoming Super Bowl parties. At any rate, I hope that I have not imPOEsed too much on anyone’s good nature, and I assure everyone that this will be my last such POEsting, for I promise to do so – Nevermore!