Unlike seasoned musicians, NFL players don't have much experiencing working a stage — they tend to get a standing ovation just for walking into a room (or a stadium).
So the Tuesday night Gridiron Singoff at Rams Head Live, featuring several Baltimore Ravens, was less of a polished musical revue than simply a chance for fans to be in the same building as a few home-team players in the middle of a very exciting season.
Running back Ray Rice was the host of the event, which was originally scheduled for Dec. 16th. Before he hit the stage, the local cover band Collect All 5 warmed up the crowd with a few songs from their repertoire of classic rock standards and contemporary pop hits.
Whenever the audience seemed to be getting impatient for the athletes they came to see, the band would win them over by working the word "Ravens" into the lyrics of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," or having girls dressed in referee outfits and booty shorts dance to Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls."
Finally, local sports radio hosts Jeremy Conn, Rob Long and Mark Zinno of 105.7 The Fan introduced the guests of honor. Ray Rice arrived onstage flanked by several other Ravens players, including fullback Vonta Leach and practice squad players Damien Berry and Bryan Hall. The most famous Raven of all, linebacker Ray Lewis, even put in a brief appearance, although he never removed his hat and coat, and didn't seem to stick around for long.
Although he's been one of the stars of the team this season, and clearly relished the chance to have face-to-face contact with fans on Tuesday, Rice wasn't one to hog the spotlight. In fact, it was often Berry that seemed more comfortable in front of a microphone, helping MC throughout the night. Still, fans appreciated the opportunity.
"Ray Rice is a really nice guy," said Eric Hester, 21. "We had a lot of fun tonight hanging out with him."
When the karaoke portion of the night finally kicked off, the players gamely tried to lead the assembled crowd through a few singalongs, including a haphazard rendition of "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas. The early highlights of the evening included Vonta Leach launching into a comical performance of Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy Breaky Heart," and Ray Lewis suddenly grabbing the microphone from Bryan Hall to enthusiastically rap a few bars of Nelly's "Hot In Herre" before disappearing again.
As host, Ray Rice kept the energy high by constantly involving the audience, inviting people up onstage for various dancing and singing competitions. At one point, four young children were welcomed onstage, and spent much of the evening dancing and interacting with the Ravens players.
"It was weird," said Ashley Smith, 11, later in the evening, still clearly thrilled and a little shellshocked by the experience. Rice declined to perform the song request Smith whispered in his ear onstage, which she later revealed was "Sexy And I Know It" by LMFAO.
After less than two hours, Rice and the other Ravens wound down their show around 10 p.m. before ceding the stage back to Collect All 5. (In the Ravens' defense, they did, after all, have practice in the morning).
The Ravens concluded their singalong with "Lean On Me" by Bill Withers, as well as the chant to the tune of "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes — a rallying cry for Ravens fans in recent months.
As anyone who's heard "The Super Bowl Shuffle" can attest, there is probably not any link between musical talent and the ability to play football at a professional level.
But Rice and his teammates were good sports about the event, which ultimately amounted to nothing more than a glorified pep rally. Rice also took the time to present a hefty check to event sponsors The Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
After all, that there's nothing wrong with having a good time for a good cause.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times