The Ravens arrived in Baltimore about a year after I graduated high school, and to be honest, I wasn’t a very big fan of sports at the time. However, with college and meeting new friends who also happened to be sports fanatics, I quickly became fond of the hometown teams in Maryland. The Orioles were still good (I can remember a game with Mike Mussina where he set a record for strikeouts in the playoffs while protecting a small lead only to lose it in the 9th inning when the reliever came in to spell him).
Around that same period in time, my dad was able to finagle a few tickets to a Ravens home game, so we went to check out our new team. Vinny Testaverde was the quarterback and Ray Lewis was just out of college. We even had a wide receiver by the name of Michael Jackson, though his moves were based more on pure speed than the Moonwalk. At the time, the Ravens largely felt like a team without a true identity. They didn’t have a great defense. They had a middling offense with Testeverde doing his best Brett Favre-gunslinging impersonation with games where he racked up the yards through the air, and games where his interception count could only be described as embarrassing. But by and large, they felt like sloppy seconds – a Frankenstein patchwork of players that most other teams didn’t want. The Ravens didn’t have a soul. They eventually went on to win the game that my father and I were at to very little fanfare. We quietly exited the stadium and went about our lives and I really didn’t consider the football that was played on that day to be very compelling.
A few years passed, and Ozzie Newsome started piecing together a team of defensive superstars. It was 1999 and the Ravens needed to the final game of the season to make the playoffs, but it wasn’t to be as the New England Patriots defeated them 20-3. However, with the 8-8 season of 1999 behind them, the Ravens seemed supercharged for their 2000 run. This is when they eventually won the Super Bowl, carried by their record breaking defense (with the fewest points allowed in a 16 game season). The buzz came early, and carried throughout the season in the town of Baltimore. Even in the five-game stretch were the Ravens couldn’t score a touchdown (and accumulated the majority of their losses for the season), they still showed a fierce and dangerous defense. Many of my old college drinking buddies and coworkers who were not fans of the Ravens became fans in this season. The bandwagon was rolling and accepting anyone who wanted to climb aboard. While I hate to admit it, I was one of the first to jump aboard.
I am one of the few fortunate fans who can say they have been with their franchise since its inception. Since their successful run at the Lombardi Trophy, I have watched nearly every game and utilized almost every resource I have to get more information about the team, players, and coaches. I have broken off engagements so I could catch a Ravens game and thrown playoff parties. Even after the Ravens fell off the NFL’s radar as one of the better teams, I stuck with them, watching Elvis Grbac and Kyle Boller do equally as terrible. I was witness to a stout defense that was being wasted while a clumsy and predictable offense struggled to keep the team competitive. In that sense, I’ve remained a fan of the team even past their Super Bowl run. I guess you could call me a bandwagon fan who never fell off.