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By: Tony Lombardi
Joining Ravens Rap
Back in 2005 I received an email from someone who was both complimentary and critical of the then current iteration of Ravens24x7.com. He liked the content but was unimpressed with the way in which it was presented. The level of detail in his email led me to believe that he was coming from a position of knowledge. My instincts were correct.
John Gehrig was the president of D3 Corp, a marketing organization and web developer based in Ocean City, Maryland. John had some great ideas. He’s a passionate fan who’s well-spoken and played collegiate ball as a tight end at Lehigh University. Coincidentally, he played against my partner Bill Pisano who was a linebacker at Bucknell University.
Eventually, like Bill, John became a partner. He’s an ideas guy and those ideas coupled with D3’s core competencies as a web developer made the arrangement a worthy endeavor.
John was and still is well-connected in OCMD, with his hands dipped in many projects tied to the seaside town. One such project back in 2005 was a Ravens-centric talk show called Ravens Rap which aired live from The Original Greene Turtle in Ocean City. John asked if I wanted to join in on occasion. I accepted the invite.
The show aired on an AM station in OCMD and was hosted by Gehrig. His co-host was former All Pro Baltimore Colts safety and kick returner, Bruce Laird. My participation in the show ranged from call-ins, to live appearances once per month to being a co-host every show. Eventually the show made its way to FM then to FM and Delmarva TV. Towards the end of the Ravens Rap run, the show added live web streaming to the mix, all made possible by The Original Greene Turtle’s owner, Steve Pappas.
“Pappo” is a former lacrosse player from Salisbury University. He’s a big boisterous fella with a booming voice, large personality and an even bigger heart. Ravens Roost 44 called “The Turtle” home and members of the group attended the show regularly. I don’t believe the show was ever a money-winner for Pappo, quite the contrary. And no one has ever shared this with me but I always viewed Pappo’s willingness to fund the show as a way of giving back – another way of demonstrating his commitment to his community and of course Ravens fans. That’s the kind of heart he has.
Two years after I joined the program, Mike Popovec assumed hosting responsibilities and it took the Ravens Rap to a new level. Mike offers core competencies of a broadcasting professionalism that none of us possessed. His preparation was outstanding as was his delivery. To this day he remains a friend and we still do a Ravens recap on Monday mornings as he hosts the morning drive on WGMD.
During the Ravens Rap run, which I believe ran close to 20 years, Pappo called on an old friend, another Salisbury alum who went on to have considerable success in the executive search business. His name, Stephen J. Bisciotti.
If memory serves me correctly, Steve joined us on Ravens Rap 6 or 7 times. During each visit, he was gracious with his time, totally transparent and more than willing to meet and greet the jam-packed crowds that his presence inspired.
My first impression of Steve was that given his impressive financial status and his position in the pecking order of decision-making within the Ravens organization, he seemed surprisingly down-to-earth. And after getting to know him a bit on a personal level as a result of his multiple appearances on Ravens Rap and the dinners that followed the show at Fausto’s, he struck me as a very unique thinker.
(Side bar: When we arrived at Fausto’s each time, the place was reserved for just those of us who arrived with Steve. It really was like a scene straight out of The Sopranos.)
Bisciotti listens, processes and then he responds. His words, his answers to questions paint a picture, and just as in most paintings, you aren’t quite sure what it’s going to look like until it’s nearly finished. It’s as if his responses take you on a journey. You enjoy the ride while he brings you full circle and not until the journey is complete does the answer fully resonate. But when it does, the clarity is obvious, the ride enjoyable, and his point of view emphatically convincing.
I thought about this recently when I learned that Steve was involved in the discussions to bring Odell Beckham, Jr. to Baltimore – how OBJ was not completely sold on being a Raven until Bisciotti got involved. I can only imagine what that conversation was like and I’m not surprised that after it happened, OBJ put ink to paper to become a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
During those visits with Steve we’ve discussed a ton and he’s answered many questions along the way. And as I sit here and reflect, I thought to give you the first 3 questions that pop into my head, that Steve answered:
Would you ever consider buying the Orioles?
I wouldn’t consider buying an MLB team unless there was a firm salary cap.
Why did you buy the Ravens?
Because the University of Maryland’s basketball team was not for sale.
Do you think Ray Lewis should become a coach for the Ravens?
It has been quite some time since Steve joined us on the Ravens Rap. I believe the last time was in 2017. Here’s a clip from that visit at The Original Greene Turtle.
(Note: At the 16:05 mark of the video about, Steve Bisciotti provides an interesting answer to injuries that plague the NFL. In the 6 years since this video, not much has changed.)
The tentacles of Ravens24x7.com have reached into places I never expected when I first came up with the idea on that napkin at The Dough Roller on 3rd Street and the Boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. Perhaps in the future, our reach will be even broader and we’ll uncover new ideas, new ways to enjoy the Ravens and the NFL. Time will tell…
But I know the reach we enjoy today and that from the past, has been made possible not because of anything special that I’ve done. It’s more about those I chose to work with – people who have not only brought excellence to our publication, but have also offered their friendship. If I’m willing to accept credit for anything over the past 20 years, it’s firmly entrenched in my ability to surround myself with people who are not only talented, they are good people to their core.
I remember when John Harbaugh first arrived on the scene and during his introductory press conference to officially announce him as the team’s new head coach, he stressed the importance of “the team”. At RSR, share John’s commitment to THE TEAM. That will never change.
The way our team has been cobbled together didn’t really follow any procedural guidelines. It was more about a shared passion for the Ravens. The rest just entailed following my gut and placing the talents of my team in positions to succeed. It’s a dynamic situation that we’re always trying to refine.
So about our team…
At first, I thought I’d tell their stories for them. What brought us together through my eyes. But you’ve already seen RSR through my eyes enough, right? Of greater interest to me and probably you as well, is what brought them to RSR from their perspectives. So in upcoming chapters, I’ll introduce my teammates, one by one in no particular order, with their stories, through their eyes.
(In Chapter 10, I’ll share a few content ideas that flopped. Plus, I’ll share the backstory on why we stopped hosting our own radio program.)
[Click HERE for Chapters 1 thru 8 of The History of RSR]
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Originally posted on Russell Street Report