Whitney Collins' head hung low Sunday as he walked down South Charles Street in Federal Hill in his purple Ed Reed jersey. He had abandoned his pricey seat at M&T Bank Stadium more than 10 minutes before the Ravens game had ended to numb the pain of a lopsided loss in a nearby vodka bar.
"I said, 'Forget this,'" he said. "I'm going to watch it at the Stalking Horse so I can drink more."
Monday, he said, loomed like a thorn patch, taking an already bruised ego after Baltimore's 34-17 drubbing from the Denver Broncos, and rubbing it raw with taunts he expects in his U.S. Navy office in Washington.
Despite their defeat, the Ravens managed to clinch a playoff berth Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers lost later in the day. It was needed silver lining to what has been an otherwise dismal several weeks for hometown fans.
What's now a Ravens three-game losing streak started Dec. 2 with a heartbreaker against hated division rival Pittsburgh and continued the following week with an overtime defeat at the hands of regional rival Washington — both close losses that fans said stung worse than Sunday's setback.
Last week, the Ravens fired their offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, an unusual move to make in-season, causing more anxiety among the fan base. Several starting defensive players, including star linebacker Ray Lewis and most of the team's top tacklers, were also hurt and on the sideline.
Last week's weather had been gray and the national news grim. This town needed a win, and fans were cautiously optimistic before kickoff Sunday.
A man in a Ravens jacket and hat pedaled down Lancaster Street with his dog, Kodi, running behind him in a Ravens collar. Fans in Ray Rice and Haloti Ngata jerseys shook hands and shared their hopes for a high-scoring affair.
"When the Ravens are good, the city is so much better and happier," said Drew White, 21, a Belmont University student home from Nashville, Tenn., for Christmas. He had settled in to watch the game at the Greene Turtle pub in Fells Point.
"Hopefully, we'll win today," said Nancy Taylor, 29, as she scanned a menu at nearby Max's Taphouse. "We will win today."
Fans were perched high on stools with anticipation, staring at big-screen TVs as the game began.
Then Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco fumbled the ball. The Broncos scored. Flacco threw an interception that was returned for another Denver touchdown.
A smattering of claps for the occasional good Ravens play soon turned into widespread and recurring boos.
"I'm in a very bad mood," Taylor said.
As the team's fortunes slid, some fans found ways to still make a day of it. Sarah Clark, 31, wore a Rice jersey while Christmas shopping around Fells Point. She peeked into bars to check the score when she could, while carrying a bag full of CDs, mittens, children's place mats and shot glasses.
"When the team's not good, it kind of affects the mood of everyone," she said on the sidewalk before she trudged off to do more shopping and less watching.
Angela Lauta, who runs Bobabooi's fan stand on the corner of Cross and Charles streets, said she could feel the collective sighs being let out. Well before the final gun had sounded, the Ravens' fourth-quarter rally proving to be too little and too late, hundreds of purple-clad people began spilling out of the stadium and onto the Federal Hill streets.
"What I've heard from people passing by is that Flacco needs to be fired," said Lauta, whose tent sells everything from purple Ravens socks to bright purple boas. "I think they're frustrated, disappointed, sad and angry, and I think it takes a little life out of the city. The key word is frustration. Flacco-stration."
Inside Mother's Federal Hill Grille, fans seemed so uninterested in the game, or in football in general, that Mary Beth Keelan was surprised to see no one challenging her for being the only person wearing a Steelers jersey and stocking hat in the sports bar.
"It's amazing," she noted. "I'm in Ravens central, and no one's heckling me."
Outside, fans aimlessly stood around a courtyard painted like a football field while the team's offense sputtered on the flat-screen televisions inside.
"The whole thing was disappointing," said Devin Murphy, 30, who left the stadium early with his two friends.
"I thought we had a chance," added Paul Taylor, 41. "We're going to sneak in the playoffs with a whimper."
"I've never left a game before it was over," added his wife, Katie Taylor, 30. "You pay a lot. It's a big day out. ... At least Christmas is around the corner."
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