Steve LaPlanche — "Sports Steve" to his friends — says he hasn't missed a professional football game played in Baltimore since 1956. His streak, he says proudly, is 358 games and counting.
"I started going when I was 3, and I haven't missed a Baltimore home game since then," said LaPlanche, 59. "Ever since I was born, sports was like a magnet to me. I've lived and slept sports."
But LaPlanche, whose loyalty has lasted through Baltimore's NFL Colts, USFL Stars and CFL Stallions before settling on the Ravens, isn't simply a dedicated fan. He also makes a proud spectacle of himself at every home game with an intricate homemade getup. He spends each game posing for pictures and exhorting his fellow fans in section 138 to get crazy.
When he's not at M&T Bank Stadium, LaPlanche is a captain in the Anne Arundel County sheriff's office. He's been married since 1976 — wife Lisa is a Ravens fan, he said, "but nothing like me" — and has three kids. His youngest, daughter Krystle, is getting married this month, in a ceremony that will be awash in purple. Proud dad will be wearing Ravens cuff links with his tux.
We caught up with the Iron Fan less than 24 hours after he had watched his beloved Ravens eke out a one-touchdown win over the Cleveland Browns. His streak lives on.
How did you get started as a fan?
My dad was an original Baltimore Colts season-ticket holder, and that went back to the All-American Football Conference, back in the 1940s. When they came into the NFL (in 1953), he was still a season-ticket holder. By the time I was 3, I was telling my dad the stats on the team, the names of players. So he started taking me with him.
Do you have a favorite football memory?
Johnny Unitas will always be my favorite player. Him and my dad arranged, back in 1959 — when he was leaving the field and he had his cape on, as he got closer to the dugout where he went into the locker room, he took his cape off, came over to me and put it on my back. I still have that cape.
Was it tough to transfer your allegiance to the Ravens?
There was always a hurt there. But it wasn't really hard, because you always root for your home teams.
So you're a Ravens die-hard now?
Oh, yeah. I'm a big-time Ravens fan. I've got two tattoos on my biceps. On my right biceps, I have Johnny Unitas, which everybody totally loves. On the left side, I've got the Ravens shield.
You say you never drink at games?
I drink nothing but water, or maybe a Sprite. ... Once you do something wrong, you can't take it back. I'm not officially representing the Ravens, but I am, kinda, and it would reflect badly on them if I acted like an idiot. I like to enjoy a brewski like everybody else.
Talk about your outfit.
I've got a wool cape that I have over $1,000 invested in, with all the work done to it. If you look at my face [in makeup], I use my nose as the head of the raven, I have wings going up — I try to make it look like a raven is flying toward you. ...
All the game-day beads, I make personally. … I wear camo pants. I wear clown socks, purple socks with white polka dots. I have white and purple tennis shoes. I also have purple wrist bands I wear.
My beads weigh 51.2 pounds. That's just the beads, not the wool cape, which comes all the way down, almost to my ankles. Last night, it weighed a lot more, because I got soaking wet. Believe me, it was a long walk back to the van.
Are there more beads in your future?
I'm still adding beads. I think I'm going to stop at 52 [pounds], in honor of Ray Lewis.
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