I have no idea what Baltimore is like.
I have never been to the 'Charm City' in my entire life. I have no idea what to expect if I were to visit there, other than knowing the greatest team in the world called the city their home. My perception of Baltimore ranges from its rather brutal portrayal on HBO's 'The Wire', to the beautiful shots of Inner Harbor, Federal Hill, Fort McHenry, and M&T Bank Stadium that are often broadcast during home games.
As much as I would love to visit Baltimore, or 'football Mecca', I haven't. I know the city is known for delicious crabs, Old Bay seasoning, and Natty Boh. I hope to enjoy all of these things one day, the Natty Boh, of course, will have to wait a few years.
However, my situation is far from unique. Many Ravens fans are from all over, I've interacted with fans before all the way from Brazil, and Europe. While Baltimore doesn't have the largest media market (it's one of the smallest in the NFL), the team has still found a way to draw fans from all over, including some of the Beatdown's very own writing staff.
You see, none of us live in Baltimore. Yet we are still fans. Our love for the Ravens crosses state lines, and challenges the local status quo. I rarely see a Ravens fan here in Florida, yet I still rep the Purple & Black proudly, and without shame.
Many of us are like this, living away from our 'football home'. While this sounds undesirable, it's a necessary choice for many. So without further adieu, I'll let the guys explain why they root for the Ravens.
A little bit of context on why I hate the Patriots more than the Steelers, and how I became a fan.
You see, this was my first full season as a true Ravens fan. While I was raised in a Buffalo Bills household, I still didn't fall to my father's ruse of trying to make me become a Bills fan, my thought process was that the Bills 'sucked', and I'd never root for them. However, I still loved the game of football, and it was time for me to pick a team. For some reason, and to this day I don't remember why, I picked the Ravens. I have absolutely no ties to Baltimore or Maryland either. (Air Force Brat here) But it stuck, and here I am today, a die-hard Ravens fan.
I had spent that 2010 offseason researching the Ravens, and learning all about their history and players. By the time the regular season rolled around, I was excited. I was able to witness on TV the absolute thrashing of the Steelers in our 2011 opener as my first Ravens game, it couldn't have been any better. From there, I was able to watch a stellar season unfold before my eyes, as the Ravens went 12-4 and clinched a first-round BYE. Now imagine my excitement when I found out the Ravens would face the Patriots on my birthday for the right to go to the Super Bowl. I hated the Patriots, to be honest it was probably my Dad's hatred of them that sparked it in me. But I really hated the Patriots, not because of their coach, or quarterback, but because of their fans. You see, at our local sports establishment where we would go to watch games, there was this 'posse', if you will, of Patriots fans, who were all old retirees. Their standard cheer was 'Go Brady!', I swear, even if Brady threw a dump-off pass for a couple yards you could still hear "Go Brady!" all throughout the place. I liked to call them the "Go Brady Bunch", and they were the most annoying people in the world to me, so you could see why I wanted their team to lose.
Growing up in Los Angeles, football was not a very exciting sport. The NBA was glamorous and shiny, so that was what I naturally gravitated toward. As the years went on and I grew up, the NBA veered toward the equivalent of flag-football. The officiating was too important and the star treatment nauseating. So when I went away to school in Baltimore in 9th grade, all of a sudden football became an option. A hard hitting, intensely physical reality. I was hooked. In 1998 I started off as a more casual fan, but by 1999, I was all in. The Ravens may have finished 8-8, but they were on the upswing, with a hard hitting defense and the electricity of Priest Holmes in the run game and Jermaine Lewis in the return game. I didn't watch many games, but I listened every week on the radio and watched when I could.
Ironically, I returned to LA for the rest of high school in September 2000. Little did I do what I was going to miss that year. I still was an intensely passionate Ravens fan, and I was able to watch more football games back home, albeit not so many Ravens games. The few Ravens games I got to watch, in the pre-streaming days, were like crack cocaine for me. I was addicted. Football became my passion, and while there have been ups and downs as I went to college, studied abroad, got married, and had children, the one constant for me has been my Ravens. 2012 was the an intense high. And I am still as addicted as the first time I felt that high.
To this day, the only NFL game I have been to was a sad affair between the early 90's Rams and Bears. I have been trying to get to a game, and hope to maybe make the Dolphins-Ravens game in Miami this year.
Jealousy, the entire reason I started watching Raven football- Nay, watching football as a whole. Sitting in my college freshman dorm with my few friends I just met we all played PS3 on my television. Somebody just bought the latest edition of Madden and we were going to battle it out for best on the floor. I had never played before in my life. I sat and watched these intricate plays and schemes, listened to smack-talk, and statistics. Even with my few years playing school football I couldn’t understand everything going on. I confessed to my friends I never played the game, or even know half the teams. The only football games that helped me learn the sport was NFL 94’ on the Sega Genesis, and NFL Street on PS2. They taught me the basics, and I became enveloped in the sport. They told me I should pick a team to love. My entire family being Green Bay fans I almost chose the easy way out, and while I remember cheering alongside my dad for Brett Favre I wasn’t going with them. I thought if I couldn’t find another team I’ll come back to the cheese. But I loved defense. I became enamored with the idea of another team shutting out other squads. My roommates named off some teams and I started to hit YouTube. Instantly videos popped up and I watched as Ray Lewis lowered the boom on opposing teams. The interceptions, the blitz, the coverage, I watched this powerhouse man yelling at his own team as he convinced them this is a battle for their own lives. But it wasn’t the clinching moment. It was watching a defensive back intercept a pass and haul it 108 yards the other way. I had played DB in my football years and dreamed of this playmaking ability. Then the bone crushing hits, and the tactical baiting of QB’s into throws. I found my team, and I found my player. Ed. Reed. And at that moment a kid from Wyoming selected the Baltimore Ravens.
People who know me think I'm a diehard Eagles fan. Although they are partially right, I root for all the teams in the NFL. The reason why I cherish the Ravens is because of their style of play. Besides maybe the Steelers and the modern day Seahawks, I can't think of another squad exhibiting such tenacity and dominance defensively. Not always perfect, or pretty, but the Ravens' smash-mouth, mannerless demeanor on the field is no number any stat-keeper can ever record. Their team chemistry is worth watching every week.
Now that we've told our stories, tell us, how did you become a Ravens fan?