Tuesday’s Super Bowl victory parade will go down as one of the most unforgettable events in Baltimore's sports history.
For the hundreds upon thousands of Baltimore Ravens fans that poured into the Charm City to welcome Ray Lewis and Co. home, this parade reaffirmed how tight-knit this city is with the Ravens football team.
While most press coverage has been on Ravens’ players waving to rowdy fans from the perch of camo Humvees and desert colored transport vehicles, the scene inside M&T Bank Stadium might be best described as a surreal dream.
This is a dream that must be captured for Ravens fans that were unable to attend.
Neither gloomy skies nor blustery weather could tear happiness from the faces of more than 90,000 Ravens fans inside M&T.
With news and police choppers flying high above the stadium, and a monster screen televising the Ravens’ players slow approach from Baltimore’s streets, Ravens fans of all ages, cultures and creeds could not help but gaze about, soaking up every great moment.
Note the term “all ages.” Many working adults called in sick to be part of this historic event. Many parents let their kids take a day from school as well. If you were one of these parents, my hat goes off to you. This is because you realize how huge an impact events like this can have on a young person’s life.
Marching on, while most fans crammed into purple seats in one of three towering decks, nearly 20,000 people took the rare opportunity to walk onto the playing field.
As one of these fans, this was one of the coolest experiences I could have. Stepping onto the field and looking out at the fans gave me a glimpse of just how truly blessed professional athletes are.
An intriguing sight on the field was the many fans jammed by the grand stage where Ravens players were to speak. Yet near the opposing end of this sign-toting fun, parents leisurely pushed infants in strollers across white hash marks. And youth ran around, some playing football in the end zone amid the chaos.
It was like someone planted a city park in the midst of a rock concert.
Back to the third deck of the stadium, the scene was equally amazing. Soul-soothing smells drifted from concessions below deck, as Ravens fans sent chills down spines to the tune of “Seven Nation Army.”
In the meantime, lines of vehicles stretched as far as eyes could see outside this brick and mortar behemoth.
Many fans in these vehicles would be turned away this day. This became official just before the arrival of Ravens players. The public address announcer broke news to Ravens fans that M&T Stadium had been officially filled to capacity.
Still, this did not stop some Ravens fans from trying to scale the outside walls of M&T to witness history.
Nor did it stop “Seven Nation Army,” from rising again throughout the stadium.
Yet this tune soon fell victim to the outbreak of rowdy applause. This was the byproduct of live parade route footage of hoards of excited fans following Ray Lewis in his rolling humvee.
Life grew more intense a few minutes later, as the first of the Ravens began to arrive outside the stadium. The first to appear on the jumbotron was Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. Following suit was head coach John Harbaugh.
Fans went crazy when they saw Ravens running back Ray Rice halt before M&T to give a quick interview.
Excitement was building. Ravens fans watched as Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco arrived, followed closely by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Behind these three NFL elites, remaining Ravens players arrived in team buses and transport vehicles.
Finally, the time for Ravens Nation to express their appreciation to the players had come. The time had also come for Ravens players to express their mutual affection for the fans.
Like a first place marathoner taking his final paces, Baltimore coaches and players emerged from a dark tunnel and into the stadium—rockets red glare and fans going haywire.
The roar of the crowd was near deafening at times. Unknowing visitors outside the stadium may have thought an actual game was going on inside.
You can see a very cool video of the festivities here.
But this was just fans going crazy hearing Coach Harbaugh and Joe Flacco rile up the home crowd.
Fans also enjoyed hearing Ed Reed sing “Two Tickets to Paradise.”
But most importantly, fans took a moment to absorb the great sight of Ray Lewis doing one last dance before fire and smoke.
All this was sandwiched by Lewis taking the opportunity to reinforce Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
To Ravens fans in a historic city that rarely gets the positive publicity it deserves, Isaiah is a psalm that resonates deeply.
And fans showed it with huge applause.
But Ravens’ fans showed something else on this highly-emotional day. As the stage cleared and fans filed from the stadium; back to the rigors of life, this proud fan base exemplified the meaning of dignity and class.
This was a terrific day for fans and this franchise. Both have much to be proud of.
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