By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun
7:38 PM EST, January 15, 2013
The man appears in a No. 5 Joe Flacco jersey weeping, leaping, pounding his fists on the floor, flinging himself on a couch, grabbing the TV screen with both hands, looking for all the world as if he's about to explode. He's screaming at the top of his lungs, at a pitch that would surely shatter glass if sustained, lamenting that he can't take it anymore, that the play he just saw is unbelievable, that he'll surely die if this continues. And, now, he's Internet-famous.
The series of videos capturing Keith Letourneau's reaction during the Ravens' 38-35 overtime playoff win in Denver have been viewed, collectively, more than 200,000 times since they were posted Sunday on YouTube. They've made the rounds of social media and sites like Buzzfeed. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith even sent a link to his 169,000 Twitter followers.
Letourneau and his wife, Rachel, who filmed the clips, swear that, really, he's kind of like this all the time: intense, loyal, dedicated, bleeding purple and black. But this being the playoffs, he might be ratcheting things up just a bit.
"Something happens when he gets to the playoffs," Rachel Letourneau says. For years, she says, she's threatened to tape her husband during one of his impromptu celebratory tirades, just to let him see how crazed he appears. The day of reckoning came Saturday in their Bel Air home. Keith Letourneau lost absolutely all sense of control as the Ravens — staring down the end of a playoff run — snatched victory from the much-favored Denver Broncos.
Yeah, the reaction is a bit over the top, confesses Letourneau, 39. But that's him.
"I'm very passionate when I watch a game," he says, aware that he's woefully understating the case. "It doesn't matter if I'm home or at a bar with friends or even at the stadium. I'm just one of those fans who screams and yells and just wants to have a good time."
Agrees long-time friend Rick Pencek, who missed last weekend but has witnessed Letourneau's strident passion on many occasions: "It is not a show. That's the full-bore Keith you're seeing."
There are doubters. Commenters on the Internet. People who question Letourneau's sanity. WNST radio's Nestor Aparicio suspects he may be playing to the camera.
Yet Aparicio, an impassioned-fan-turned-radio-personality explains in an email to The Baltimore Sun that he understands those emotions.
"I kinda had the same reaction when I saw [the field goal] the first time," Aparicio says. "I didn't cry, but I did well up."
Truth be told, says sports psychologist Joel Fish, Letourneau's unbridled enthusiasm isn't all that unusual. Maybe he achieves a higher decibel level than most, Fish says, but when it comes to rabid football fans, he's got plenty of company.
"Part of being a fan is getting excited, rooting for your team, getting swept up in the moment," says Fish, director of Philadelphia's Center for Sport Psychology. "Absolutely it's a healthy thing."
Other examples of extreme fandom exist in the world: tattoos, names of first-born children, even team coffins. But emotion to this foot-stomping, banshee-wailing degree? Why not? Fish asks.
"I'm not hearing any red flags here that say, 'Oh boy, this is problematic,'" Fish says after hearing a description of the video, which he has yet to watch. "Baltimore fans are lucky to have that opportunity. We in Philadelphia would love to be having this discussion you're having."
Rachel Letourneau laughs at Keith's Internet notoriety. She hadn't planned to post the videos at first, she says, only to send them to some select friends. She didn't even have a YouTube page, but figured it would be faster to start one, post the videos, then send all her friends the link.
"He's really just a boisterous personality to begin with," says Rachel, a Towson-based attorney specializing in family law. "I just thought it would be fun to send it to about a dozen friends and family members, people who had attended games with him before, so they could see it for the classic Keith that it is."
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the videos, however, is the lack of any real reaction from the Letourneaus' three children, 9-year-old Trevor and twin daughters Avery and Audrey, 7. Only the family's Labradoodle, Neville, seems alarmed — and his reaction is restricted to mainly nervous pacing.
"The girls were initially upset with every outburst," Rachel Letourneau says. "But then I said to them, 'You know what? I don't think there's any stopping this train today. Daddy's really, really, really excited. We just have to let it go for today.' And they did."
Keith Letourneau, who sells building materials when he's not working himself into a lather over the Ravens, insists he's nothing special — or even all that unusual. "Some of the guys I work with, they said they were going just as nuts," he says. "It's just that nobody was videotaping them."
So, what did Keith think when he finally saw himself on video? "I'm like, 'Man, did I really act like that?'" he says.
Rachel Letourneau just laughs. She and Keith have been married 11 years — they got engaged the same year the Ravens won their first Super Bowl — and she knows the truth of what her camera caught.
She also knows this wasn't the first time, and suspects it won't be the last. She recalls the Ravens' memorable loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship.
"Last year, when [kicker Billy] Cundiff missed the field goal, he did a little bit of ranting and raving, then he pretty much fell face-down on the floor and didn't move for an hour," she says. "We thought he was in a coma."
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