It's Steelers Week in Ravens Land and Bel Air has another hall of famer, one who was fired up long before he was inducted.
Chip Riley, aka "FIRED-UP," a Harford County resident and Super Fan of the Baltimore Ravens, was recently inducted into the Professional Football Ultimate Fan Association (PFUFA) in Canton, Ohio. Canton is the home of the National Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the PFUFA during a breakfast ceremony Aug. 7 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Banquet Hall, accompanied by family and friends. Fired-Up and Super Fans from many of the National Football League teams made the trip for the PFUFA induction and Hall of Fame Weekend of activities. The PFUFA Organization is recognized as the highest level for a football fan and boasts a mission that promotes the fellowship of all fans, encourages good sportsmanship and promotes charitable activities.
The weekend was a major highlight in the part of his life's journey associated with pro football in Baltimore. It started in 1965 when Chip went to his first pro football game with his father, Charlie Riley, and the love affair with football really kicked-in. He became a season ticket holder in 1970 and was a loyal fan of the Colts until their unfortunate departure in 1984. His desire for pro football to return to Baltimore continued, as he held season tickets for both the Baltimore Stars and Stallions. When the Ravens came to town in 1996, it was a no-brainer, Chip and his father quickly bought Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) and season tickets to cheer on the new franchise – the Baltimore Ravens.
During the summer leading to the 2006 season, Chip and a close friend and fellow PFUPA member "Poetic Justice," aka Rick Bowlus, of Havre de Grace, discussed taking Chip's fan spirit to a new level…that of super fan. With Chip being a retired Baltimore County Fireman, it only seemed fitting that his super fan character revolve around his career field and life passion. Poetic Justice suggested some face paint schemes and ultimately painted Chip's face with flames and some purple highlights. Chip's super fan name almost came too easily…super fan character "Fired-Up" – a Ravens firefighter was born. His Ravens gear includes a customized painted fireman's helmet, purple and black camouflaged fire pants, a Ravens jersey adorned with the number 19 (in memory of his father and Johnny Unitas). Like most super fans, Chip has his own personalized football cards to hand out to his fan base and the cards are a favorite with children who seek autographs.
Chip lives in Bel Air with his wife, Sherry, and is one of the founding members of the Charlie Riley Community Service Scholarship Foundation. One of the foundation's biggest yearly fundraising events is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 25, at the Level firehouse. Fired-Up and the other members of the "Posse" are also involved with Special Olympics of Maryland, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, March of Dimes, Soldier's Angels and other charities around the state.
Chip was invited to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio last August to see his friend Poetic Justice inducted into The PFUFA Class of 2010. During the weekend festivities, Chip received a PFUFA Draft Card from an Indianapolis Colts super fan and PFUFA member, Doug Dillman, (aka White Cloud). This gesture of faith and camaraderie started the yearlong application process to be a member of this select group and meet certain requirements to be considered worthy for PFUFA membership.
To be considered for membership in this organization, an individual not only needs to be an ambassador for all fans at the games, but also needs to give back to the community, which Fired-Up and his FANatical friends do throughout the year.
"Birdman" (aka Greg Hudnet from Baltimore County), a retired fireman was also inducted into PFUFA Class of 2011. This marks the first time that two Baltimore Ravens super fans were inducted in the same year. To date, there are 11 Ravens super fans who have been inducted since 1999 with six of them living in Harford County.
There's a busy schedule for a PFUFA draftee leading to the official acceptance and the induction ceremony. Travel day to Canton was Wednesday and many of the NFL team's super fans were already there eager to greet Chip at the headquarters hotel for the PFUFA reunion.
Thursday is known as the Pro Football Hall of Fame's "FIRST PLAY." This is an organized "first play" of the NFL season. PFUFA members and draftees participate as thousands of kids line up through Canton and pass/hand a football through the city and parks and ends at the Hall of Fame. This is followed by a trip to the Akron Children's Hospital, where super fans hand out beads, blankets, gifts and their personalized football cards.
Friday started at the crack of dawn, as many of the super fans participated in the first PFUFA Golf Tournament. Chip and three super fan friends secured a third place finish and some bragging rights. The annual business meeting takes up Friday afternoon with anticipation of the Friday night tailgate party. All the super fans from the NFL set up their own areas with their regional specialty tailgate foods and the smorgasbord of tasting begins at 7 p.m. Chip and fellow Ravens super fans went all out to impress the contingent, as their menu featured steamed crabs, crab cakes, Old Bay seasoned scallops, corn on the cob, family recipe bean soup and Ravens wine. Two large tailgate tents, a Ravens bar, and a Ravens grill made the backdrop for one of the best tailgate spreads. Carolina is known for its pit meats and sauces, while Philly certainly has to show off its cheese steak and toppings; whereas Green Bay specializes in its brats and cheeses, and gumbo is on the menu at the New Orleans tents. But that is only part of it as each represented team group wants to impress with its delicious treats.
Early Saturday morning found the super fans carpooling to downtown Canton for the Grand Hall of Fame Parade. PFUFA had its 12th Man float decked out and a legion of super fans in their team gear and colors greeting the massive crowd. After the parade, the PFUFA Super Fans greeted the public for an autograph session and charity event in a tent alongside the Hall of Fame.
Saturday afternoon got the 2011 PFUFA draftees attention, as the selection committee met and voted on the members to be inducted in the Class of 2011. Twenty-three draftees originally were potential inductees and of these only 18 could make the trip to Canton. Of the 18 who attended, 17 would receive notice they had been selected for induction. Fired-Up would be a part of the newest class. Saturday night saw super fans either participating in the NFL Hall of Fame ceremonies or continuing their tailgate activities at the reunion headquarters hotel grounds.
Sunday is the culmination of the weekend activities and is highlighted by the official breakfast induction ceremony at the NFL Hall of Fame Banquet Room where Chip "Fired-Up" Riley along with Greg "Birdman" Hudnet became the newest Ravens Super Fans to be honored with membership into PFUFA.
Chip said he looks forward to going back next year for the reunion, especially because while he's in Canton in 2012 another Harford County resident "Dee-ciple," aka Brian Donley from Abingdon, was drafted as a potential member of PFUFA's Class of 2012. Donley is the owner and the driver of the 21040 Team Ravens Fan Bus and a member of "The Ravens Posse," fans who attend all home games, travel to many of the away games, are well-known for their tailgate food and hospitality and have a passion for charity work that parallels their passion for football.
So if all goes well in 2012, Harford County will have seven super fans in the elite fan association.