U.S. District Court Senior Judge Marvin J. Garbis gave no indication whether he would allow Ravens’ “Flying B” logo designer Frederick E. Bouchat to add the makers of the Madden NFL 11 video game to his copyright infringement suit against the team and the NFL in a hearing Tuesday.
But Garbis, a lifelong Baltimorean and football fan, did display solid knowledge of Ravens’ history, except for one minor slip-up.
The hearing also focused on the use of Bouchat’s logo in Ravens’ highlights films from 1996-1998 and whether the NFL can continue to sell the films without compensating Bouchat.
Garbis, born in Baltimore in 1936 and a graduate of Johns Hopkins according to his bio, pointed out that the focus of the films “is not to show the logo. It’s to show Ray Lewis.”
Touchdown for Garbis on that one. Lewis was one of the original Ravens after the team took him and Jonathan Ogden in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft (pretty savvy selecting by the front office). Lewis led the team in tackles as a rookie in 1996 and made the Pro Bowl in 1997 and 1998, so he certainly would have been a focus of the highlight films in question.
The NFL’s attorneys argued that the market for the films at this point is minimal and Garbis seemed to agree, saying they’d only appeal to people who “wanted to relive the good old days. Which for us were actually the bad old days.”
Garbis hit pay dirt again with that one. The Ravens went 16-31-1 in their first three seasons, leading to the ouster of coach Ted Marchibroda. The next year they welcomed in Brian Billick, who turned the franchise around and coached the team to its first Super Bowl win in 2000.
The Ravens have only had three losing seasons in the 12 years since the ignominious Marchibroda Era immortalized in those 1996-98 highlight films.
Garbis was on a Ravens roll. But he slipped up just a bit when he broadened his focus to the possibility of barring the NFL from selling any highlight films of other teams that also happened to include Bouchat’s logo.
“If it was a Steelers’ highlight, for instance, it might include footage of Jerome Bettis running all over us,” he said. “Or Franco Harris, or whoever was with them at the time.”
Oops, he should have stopped with Bettis. “The Bus” was with the Steelers from 1996-2006, so any Pittsburgh highlight reels from his first few years could indeed include him plowing through crowds of Ravens wearing Bouchat’s “Flying B” logo.
But Franco Harris… well, by the time the Ravens came into existence, Harris was 45 and had been out of the NFL for more than a decade. So there’s no chance he and the Ravens are in any highlight videos together.
But as mental mistakes go, that’s as minor as a false start penalty during an 80-yard touchdown drive.