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Ravens fans ready for first home playoff game in five years

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Lynn Moran frantically clicked the refresh button on her browser Jan. 3, hoping the TicketMaster web page would load and provide her with the opportunity to buy a ticket to the Baltimore Ravens playoff game on Jan. 15.

Moran, like thousands of fans in the area, has Ravens Fever as the team prepares for its first home playoff game in five years.

The browser never did load for her last week and the small number of tickets available in the 71,008-seat stadium sold out in less than 15 minutes.

The Arbutus resident has missed only two home games since the 2000 Super Bowl season when she began a 10-year tenure playing bass trombone for the Baltimore Marching Ravens.

Though she left the band two years ago, she didn't want the third game she's missed to be the playoffs.

Undeterred, Moran found and bought a ticket on StubHub.

"I just bought a single one. I'll make friends around me," Moran said confidently.

Her boyfriend, Brent Jackson, and his brother, Chris, will sit next to each other as they watch the game.

Brent and Chris had a much less stressful experience getting their tickets. As season ticket holders since 2006, they had the opportunity to buy their playoff tickets in the middle of December.

Chris is president of Ravens Roost 88, a nonprofit organization of Ravens fans who perform community service, and estimated that a quarter of the Paradises roost's 45 members will attend the game.

"Everyone's buzzing. Everyone's excited," said Chris, a Catonsville resident. "There's nothing like a playoff atmosphere. Opening Day is pretty intense, but the playoffs are different."

Chris, 35, recalled the last playoff game the Ravens hosted in 2007 and the terrible feeling he had after the 15-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

This season, though, has generated an optimism that he won't have that same sick-to-his-stomach feeling again.

"The 8-0 record really speaks for itself. We really just dominated at home," Chris said, referring to the team's perfection in M&T Bank Stadium this season. "It's been a great year to be a fan."

Sitting next to him for each of those wins at home has been his younger brother, Brent, a member of Roost 88, as is Moran.

Brent, 29, said he and his brother chat occasionally throughout the game but expects less conversation during Sunday's long-anticipated contest.

"It felt like there was a lot more on the line for a game like that," Brent recalled of the last home playoff game. "And for a fan that's sort of more palpable for you."

Asked his preference of a tight game or a blowout, Brent said he had two wishes.

"Any time you have something that you haven't had in a half decade, you don't want it to be a let down," the Arbutus resident said. "As long as they stay injury free and can advance to the next round, I'll be happy."

Even though the Ravens have made the playoffs in five of the last six seasons, Bill West relishes this year's home game.

"This one is more exciting because you get to use your tickets," said West, president of Ravens Roost 15 in Arbutus, on the being at the stadium instead of watching the action on television..

West understands that advancing to the Super Bowl by winning the next two games is the goal, but exacting some revenge along the way would make getting there even sweeter.

West hopes the Ravens get to play, and beat, their long-time nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on the road to Indianapolis.

"We want Pittsburgh," West said defiantly. "I just think it would put closure to it."

Like the Jackson brothers, West is a season ticket holder and was able to secure his playoff tickets a month ago.

West estimated that half the 122 members in his roost would attend the game.

"What they're feeling is that they hope they get both (home) games," West said of his club members' hoping for a return trip to M&T Stadium the following week for the conference championship game.

While many would consider West, Moran and the Jackson brothers lucky to have tickets to the game, there are a fortunate few who get even closer to the field.

Tim Adams, 49, and his son, Max, 16, for example, share a field perspective with the players and coaches.

The two have played the mellophone, the marching band equivalent to the French horn, in Baltimore's Marching Ravens for two years.

The pair practices with the marching band, which has nearly 350 volunteer members, almost every Wednesday throughout the year and has attended each home game over the past two seasons.

"It's a lot fun because you're on the sidelines," said Max, a sophomore at Catonsville High School. "You look at the field and you're like, 'The game's right there.' "

For the big game, Tim said the band has prepared a couple of special performances to celebrate the playoff game.

Despite the gravity of the game and performing in front of more than 70,000 fans, Tim and Max both said they don't expect to be any more nervous than any other Ravens fan.

Tim and Max moved to Catonsville 12 years ago from Virginia, the year the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

Max grew up a Ravens fan while the Ravens grew on his father, especially when the pair started on the marching band.

"I was a Ravens fan before, but this kind of upped the ante," Tim said 10 days before the big game. "To know that in two weeks we get to go out, march and represent the team one more time is a big bonus."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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