Fans travel to see Ravens' 'improbable journey' to win Super Bowl

On Thursday afternoon, Towson Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Hafford scoffed at the idea of going to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.

On Friday morning at 5 a.m., she was piling into a car headed to New Orleans for the game.

"I just decided at the last minute, five of us went all together," Hafford said on Monday, Feb. 4 from a highway in Tennessee. "Three of them got into the game, two didn't but we had an absolute blast."

Hafford was one of many fans from Baltimore County who enjoyed the game from the Big Easy. Hafford, who watched the game at the Ritz Carlton hotel in New Orleans, said the city was overrun with Ravens fans.

"When we got there, it had to be 15-to-1 Ravens fans" on the street, Hafford said, a ratio she guessed was much less inside the Superdome for the game.

But seeing all the purple on the streets of New Orleans was a clear sign, Hafford suggested, of how many Ravens fans traveled south simply to be a part of the weekend, even without tickets to the game.

"That town is off the hook as it is, so when you get all these Ravens fans and put them in the mix … everybody was like family," she said. "If you had a Ravens shirt on, everybody was talking to you."

For Rick Bielski, a Hunt Valley resident and an owner of Charles Village Pub in Towson and Ocean Pride in Timonium, the trip to New Orleans is one he makes several times a year.

"But it was just a different type of experience with the Ravens being here," Bielski said Monday when reached by cellphone while he was riding on a rickshaw on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. "It was like a sea of purple in the whole city. Everyone had their purple jerseys on on Bourbon Street and in the French Quarter."

Bielski, along with his girlfriend Karen Mysel, his brother, Randy Bielski, and his brother's girlfriend, Joelle Skorczewski, flew into Biloxi, Miss., on Friday morning along with about 60 other people from Baltimore. Rick Bielski said the trip was certainly worth it.

"It's always a special event down here, but when you win, it makes it that much more exciting," he said. "The game was 28-6 … and we were sitting back. But they got us scared at the end. They really put on a good show down in New Orleans."

The Super Bowl victory was particularly special for Matthew Jeffers, a 21-year-old Towson University senior who became part of the Super Bowl story when several media outlets, including the Towson Times and ESPN, told the story of his inspirational letter to the team in December.

"We went down Friday, and I was shocked at how many people recognized me," Jeffers, a Pikesville native, said Monday from his Towson apartment. He and his father, Michael, celebrated through the night before their 7:55 a.m. flight earlier that day.

"There were people on the street, in the stadium, in the airport, in the hotel lobby asking if they could take a picture with me, saying how much they loved the story," Jeffers said. "It was insane."

Even a day later, Jeffers said he was getting choked up recalling "that moment when I'm sitting there with my dad and the confetti falls and I realized, 'The Ravens completed their journey, an improbable journey to win the Super Bowl.' "

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