Though most of the shopping on Saturday, Jan. 7 was, lamentably, not being done for a Ravens football party, local Giant stores were still in full football mode.
The playoff-bound Ravens had set up mailboxes in Baltimore-area Giant supermarkets, in which fans could drop off letters of support to the home team in advance of the team's Divisional Round playoff game next Sunday afternoon against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium.
At the Giant on York Road in Cockeysville/Hunt Valley, young fans were busy Saturday writing notes of encouragement to their gridiron heroes.
Patrick Genco, 6, of Sparks, addressed his letter to the team's quarterback, Joe Flacco, and wrote a note that said "Go Ravens, Go! Win, win win!"
Fittingly enough, he ended the letter with an homage to Flacco's most famous feature: "Nice mustache."
Patrick was actually disappointed the team earned a bye, but planned to watch football with his family over the weekend anyway. Unprompted, he began reciting the team's best-laid scenarios for a trip to Indianapolis.
His friends have told him the Ravens should hope for a date with the top-seeded New England Patriots "so we can knock them out," Patrick said, and he's been told Baltimore should be most concerned with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.
His mother, Renee Genco, said she was surprised to see the mailbox at the store, but was glad her son had the opportunity to send a note to his sports idols.
"It's great," she said. "He loves the Ravens. I think it's really sweet that the Ravens get the letters and display them."
Patrick, too, was excited by the idea of Flacco seeing his letter. The letters being collected at Giant will be transported to the team's Owings Mills training facility on Thursday, and displayed before the home playoff game.
The store's manager, Ken Darling, said the Cockeysville location has been in Ravens mode since an early-season visit from the team's marching band and cheerleaders.
On Saturday, a Ravens tent arched over the purple mailbox, with a football-field carpet leading up to the mailbox.
Beside the table and mailbox, a rack displayed a football-shaped coffee mug, a Ravens grill cover, even purple and black condiment dispensers — anything a fan could need for a tailgate outside M&T Bank Stadium in January.
After he had dropped his letter into the purple mailbox, Patrick saw classmate Josh Bilello and encouraged him to do the same.
Josh, a 6-year-old from Monkton, had walked into the supermarket wearing a Ravens sweat shirt, accompanied by his father, Andy.
His letter to the Ravens wished the team a Happy new year and good luck in the playoffs. Like his classmate, Josh's favorite player is Joe Flacco.
"He's young enough that he's still learning what sports are," his father said.
Andy Bilello, who organizes the annual Faceoff Classic lacrosse tournament at M&T Bank Stadium and works with the team in that capacity, called the Ravens a "classy organization" that is successful in involving the community with activities such as the mailboxes at Giant.
South on York Road at the Giant store in Timonium, near the fairgrounds, fans and employees were getting into the act on Saturday as well, dropping notes into that store's mailbox.
Susan Weiner, 58, of Pikesville, wrote a note proclaiming the team as being "#1 in our hearts" and wished them all the best on their playoff run.
And though her 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter didn't make the Saturday afternoon shopping trip with their mom, Claire Gonder, of Timonium, filled out a letter telling the team that the whole Gonder family appreciates everything the Ravens have accomplished so far.
She ended the letter with a sentiment that many Ravens fan hope becomes a reality in a few weeks time:
"See you at the Super Bowl!"
Fans are invited write or design letters to the Ravens wishing them luck in the postseason. Fans may drop off their letters at participating Giant food stores listed below. During the duration of the playoffs, mail will be picked up at these "Baltimore Ravens Postal Service" mailboxes every Wednesday evening and displayed for all players and staff to see on Thursday.
Mail will be collected every week. Fans can create their own letter from scratch or download a template at
Giant is also offering prizes each week the Ravens play, including a "fan experience" or school visits in the coming year. Mailboxes are available at the following Baltimore area stores.
• 4622 Wilkins Avenue, Arbutus, MD 21229, 410-242-4669.
• 5150 Sinclair Lane, Baltimore, MD 21206, 410-483-6674.
• 711 West 40th Street, Baltimore, MD 21211, 410-467-0417.
• 6223-25 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, MD 21228, 410-788-8023.
• 6340-50 York Road, Cedarcroft, MD 21212, 301-377-2673.
• 11399 York Road, Cockeysville, MD 21030, 410-785-1062.
• 1400 Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, MD 21222, 410-631-1250.
• 4624 Edmondson Avenue, Edmondson Village, MD 21229, 410-362-1371.
• 6620 Reisterstown Road, Fallstaff, MD 21215, 410-649-8180.
• 3602 Milford Mill Road, Milford Mill, MD 21224, 410-655-1384.
• 9730 Groffs Mill Drive, Owings Mills, MD 21117, 410-654-1156.
• 9934 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, MD 21117, 410-356-6280.
• 3757 Old Court Road, Pikesville, MD 21208, 410-602-7660.
• 11604 Reisterstown Road, Reisterstown, MD 21136, 410-526-1660.
• 8665 Philadelphia Road, Rosedale, MD 21237, 410-687-1007.
• 2145 York Road, Timonium, MD 21093, 410-308-3868.
• 8100 Loch Raven Blvd, Towson, MD 21286, 410-828-0006.
• 601 East 33rd Street, Waverly Crossroads, MD 21218, 410-649-4180.
• 7944 Honeygo Boulevard, White Marsh, MD 21236, 410-931-6818.
• 2145 York Road, Timonium, MD 21093Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun