Thursday, January 15, 2009

The story behind the "What's Our Name?" slogan

A must-read story in the Baltimore paper this morning about the origin of the Ravens' "What's Our Name?" slogan.

Before the season-opener, BAL coach John Harbaugh had his father, Jack, who earned ACA National Coach of the Year honors in 2002 after guiding WKU to the NCAA I-AA title, to address the Ravens.

Growing up, the Harbaugh boys would often hear their Dad tell "the story of Muhammad Ali as a teaching tool. He would tell his sons how Ali never quit against Joe Frazier, how he outsmarted George Foreman. And of course, how he repeatedly asked a heavyweight fighter named Ernie Terrell, "What's my name?'"

As he stood before the Ravens team, one that wasn't highly regarded going into the season, "Jack Harbaugh told them how Cassius Clay had changed his name in 1964 after converting to Islam. And how nearly three years later, Terrell still refused to call him Muhammad Ali. He told them how the two squared off in the ring and that their fight wasn't about money or some championship."

Jack Harbaugh told them how Ali kept punishing Terrell but wouldn't put him down for good. At 69, Harbaugh is still light enough on his feet, and he started shadowboxing in the locker room, calling out Ali's words.

"What's my name?"

Pop! Harbaugh threw a jab.

"What's my name?"

Boom! A hook.

"What's my name?"

Bam! An uppercut.

According to the article, "he concluded by telling the players that they had to earn their name and start demanding respect. And for the past 4 1/2 months, that's exactly what they've done."

John Harbaugh repeated it in his locker room speeches and in the season finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "What's our name?" appeared in big, glowing letters on the scoreboard. Before long, the phrase was stripped across the front of shirts, hung, tagged and priced for sale at the team store.

Says one Ravens player:

"We wanted to make everyone understand that we are the Baltimore Ravens and each and every time you play us you're going to realize that. You're going to know who's coming to town or you're going to know whose town you're coming into - and that's the Baltimore Ravens. And we preach that every time we step out of that locker room: What's our name? We make sure everybody understands and realizes that this team you're about to fight, you might not want a piece of 'em."