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Captain Silver

Farewell: The Strongest Person and Biggest Raven Fan - Noah Watkins.

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This is a story about two friends and the Baltimore Ravens.

I count many of you my good friends, even if we only communicate digitally. But I would like to share a story with you.

10 years ago, I started work at a small coal consulting firm. There I met Noah, he worked part time doing data entry. Noah fought muscular dystrophy and succumbed to it this week at the age of 31.

Throughout the years he and I were the only two Ravens fans in the building. For reasons unknown, his brother and father were Jets fans. No one is perfect right? The rest of the office was peppered with Redskins fans, an Eagle fan, a Dolphin fan, a Bucs fan, and an Indy fan (he really had issues).

That being said, Noah and I would talk for hours about the Ravens. He had knowledge about the team like Stephen Hawking knows physics. Most people did not know how much he knew, I did. People knock football for a lot of things, but sometimes it is a binding force, a source of joy, even when your team loses and there is little to be happy about in life, there is always next week, next year. Hope springs eternal in the NFL.

Few years back, I used to be a blogger here. Noah loved my crazy takes, and in time I would discover there was some medical reason for the crazy in me. As time wore on, our company was sold into another company, Noah eventually retired, and we saw each other less and less. This is not uncommon for co-workers, but our bond was the Ravens. We were Ravens brothers together.

To my regret, I missed going to games with him, or even making it to his house to watch a game when I had the opportunity. It weighs heavy on me today and will for a while.

I became busy with life as many of you know that included major surgery, divorce, and three concussions inside of 45 days. It was a miracle I made it through and in my darkest hour I thought of how tough my friend Noah was. Battling muscular dystrophy like it was a mosquito and he was a mountain. Just knowing him made me never give up.

As I reinvented my life, I slowly disconnected from a lot of social media, blogging, and became a bit of a hermit. I kept up less with Noah, but he would read my posts here and sometimes when we had the chance we would chat online. I do not believe he had an account here at RSR (Ravens24x7), he was more of a lurker. Which is fine as there are plenty of them.

When I heard the news he was gone, a shadow passed over my heart. All of you reading this know how hard it is to find knowledgable fans. Even our own fanbase is peppered with morons, but the bulk of people reading this are some of the smartest NFL fans in the world. We know as much about other teams as we do the Ravens, we do not have tunnel vision. Neither did Noah, he was on top of the NFL. I wished he would have posted here so you could have known what I did. A diehard fan with knowledge is a rare thing we all agree on. Even when we disagree!

So Saturday there was a memorial gathering for Noah at the Annapolis Maritime Museum (the Peoples Republic of Eastport). I am not one for ceremony, it does something to me, so I showed up after that part. I am sure it was touching, but I have been in the company of death so much as a child I prefer to wait for the celebrating of life.

When I walked in his brother Woody was in foyer, greeting late arrivers like myself, and saying goodbye to those who couldn't stay for the party. I wore my original old school Ray Lewis Jersey, the first I ever bought and the one I wore to every game. Woody and I embraced and he told me I was the best dressed for Noah and he was somewhere smiling.

Eventually I found Jeff, his father deeper in the crowd and he asked if I had gone over to see Noah's wheelchair. There, with his Oriole gear was his Suggs Jersey proudly displayed. I really didn't give it much thought how it was going to effect me. Seeing all these people, nice day dresses, casual for friends, a few ties or jackets, and me in my Ray Lewis Jersey looking at my friends empty wheelchair with his Suggs Jersey. Noah and I were separated, but being the only two Ravens fans representing, we were more together than anyone else at that memorial. I had to walk out on a pier away from everyone to cry, like I said, I am no longer good at this.

Later on Jeff invited me back to his house for an after party. I met a few of Noah's friends and relatives, but honestly I only knew Woody, Jeff, and a few coworkers who showed up. Noah was well loved without a doubt and I never had cause to believe my presence in his life would make that big a difference. Truth was, he made a bigger difference in mine and he never knew it.

Regrettably I felt compelled not to attend the final ceremony, I felt his closest family and friends needed to be together, my bit was done, it is my way. So I asked Woody before I left the party could he place something with Noah for me. Woody's reply: "Of course, what is it?" I took my Ray Lewis Jersey off and gave it to him, we embraced one last time and I had to leave, fighting my tears like I know I shouldn't, but it is a bad habit. I made my way out.

Today, I received a text from Woody: "This will be with him forever."

I guess no matter where you are, you cannot outrun your own tears. They found me despite not being there and they found me again at this writing.

So all my Russell Street Report friends, I say goodbye to my friend, Noah Watkins he was a Ravens Nation Brother like no other. He may have been the quietest voice at our stadium, but his heart, courage, and love of our team was second to none.

Jeff, Woody, and myself are planning to attend a Ravens game and we will be thinking of Noah and cheering the team on in his place. Sometimes football is what binds us.

Peace and love to you my friends and let someone know you care about them, you may never have another chance.

- Oliver Kruszka (former RSR blogger)

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