By Susan Reimer, The Baltimore
7:15 PM EST, January 1, 2013
Eric Evers, a member of the Baltimore Ravens grounds crew, calls it "the dance of the paint guns," and after five playoff appearances in a row, they've got the steps down pat.
The crew, headed by Don Follett, spray-painted the team's helmet logo on the grounds of the War Memorial in front of City Hall Tuesday morning — then did it again on the steep and windy side of Federal Hill overlooking the Inner Harbor — to celebrate the team's home playoff game next weekend against the Indianapolis Colts.
"It is a good thing for the city," said Follett, who also freshens the logo at the center of the field at M&T Bank Stadium before every home game. "It is just paint by numbers."
More like connect the dots. Follett's team spreads a huge, paint-stained tarp on the ground, fastens it in place with large spikes and then sprays white, black and purple paint through the stencil-like holes in the canvas.
The men then take up the tarp and use the dots to guide them as they use 10 to 12 gallons of environmentally friendly paint to spray the "bird head," as they call it, on the grass. They use paint guns connected to compressors by hoses and paint cans that sit in the back of what looks like a golf cart.
Will Ranney, Sean Kauffman, Evers, Follett, Bryan Filkins and P.J. Petel tip-toe around each other and the painted areas to fill in the brilliant colors of the logo. It all takes less than an hour, and it should last until the grass grows out in the spring.
"I've painted by hand using just a picture," said Follett, the senior member of the team. "But this makes it so much easier. And it helps us maintain the accuracy. After all, it is the company's logo."
While the men worked in front of City Hall, Poe, the Ravens' mascot, chirped stage directions and four of the team's cheerleaders posed for pictures. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was scheduled to attend, didn't make it, so a couple of young fans wearing Ray Rice jerseys had the honor of daubing red paint on the fierce bird's eye.
But Petel's son Peyton, age 8, and Filkins' son Brevin, age 6, used a paint brush instead of a loaded paint gun.
Then the crew moved on to Federal Hill, where the weather cooperated this year. Instead of howling winds that make positioning the tarp under the cannon a giant wrestling match, the breeze was light and the work went smoothly despite the steepness of the hill, and with the encouraging shouts of drivers passing by below on Key Highway.
Joe Mummert, dressed all in Ravens gear, was there to witness both paint jobs, just as he has been in previous playoff seasons.
Every NFL town has its traditions, the 23-year-old Hampden resident said, but Baltimore's is best. "No other team would paint the entire town purple."
Perhaps not the entire town, but close.
In addition to the two giant bird heads at City Hall and on Federal Hill, the team was scheduled to render the Raven's head in sidewalk chalk in 300 locations in the city and Baltimore County Tuesday night. Two of those smaller bird heads will be done in gold glitter. Fans who find them, and email a picture to the team, are eligible for a drawing for two tickets to Sunday's game.
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