The sea of purple jerseys that have slowly been taking over Bel Air the past three weeks turned into a bona fide tidal wave on Sunday, as the Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots, 28-13, to win the AFC Championship and move on to the Super Bowl.
Bars around town were packed to the brim as the Ravens prepared to take on the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
Fans of the football team in Harford, old and new, filled up local pubs well in advance of the official kickoff time at 6:30 p.m. A free parking space was almost impossible to find anywhere near Looney's Pub about an hour before the game.
Inside, the bar crowd was several rows deep, with nearly every inch of space packed with purple clad fans.
Brandon Pence, a Joppatowne resident, said all the seating was taken when he showed up at Looney's at 2:30 p.m. and the pub was asking those wanting an actual table for a minimum charge of $50. Three hours later, the price was up to $75.
Like most fans who had been following the Baltimore team all season, Pence had high hopes for the Patriots game.
He predicted "the Ravens are going to take it...hopefully we take [Patriots quarterback Tom] Brady out of the game."
What would he do if the Ravens won?
"I would go nuts, scream, holler, everything," he said.
The excitement was especially palpable this time because of Ray Lewis' farewell.
"It's more of an emotional play and more of a hard-hitting game," Pence said.
He knew a lot of people who had not been Ravens fans in the past but turned into ones as this season went on.
Pence, who has had season tickets, was also enjoying the build-up of excitement around Bel Air and all over Harford County.
"Out in public, everyone's wearing purple," he said. "It's just, like, a good old vibe around the town of Baltimore."
Heather Baker, of Bel Air, said one of her friends had driven to Massachusetts for the game.
She was at Looney's with a friend, although she claimed to not know too much about football.
"My boyfriend always says, 'You don't know what you're talking about,'" Baker said, but she was still eager to see the game.
"I think it's going to be close, but I think we can do it," she said of the Ravens' chances. "I am so excited. I hope they win."
With Ray Lewis leading the way, she said, Ravens pride has reached a peak.
"I think Baltimore as a whole, we are all excited," Baker said. "Baltimore always has a lot of pride for the Ravens."
With win against the Patriots, "I feel it will be even crazier," she added.
Horse statue, stuffed bird
Two blocks down Main street at The Dark Horse Saloon, tables and bar stools were also lined with purple.
Mike Talley, of Forest Hill, was wearing a black, stuffed raven on top of his baseball hat, as well as Ravens stickers on his face and purple camouflage pants.
He said he mostly watches football games at home but not this time.
"This game here, you've got to come out and watch this game," Talley said.
He predicted the Ravens would win "by 10," noting that it is meaningful that brothers John and Jim Harbaugh, of the Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, could be playing each other in the Super Bowl. (The 49ers did beat the Falcons earlier in the day to set up the brother versus brother coaching battle in the New Orleans Superdome on Feb. 3.)
"It's destiny; both the brothers may be playing against each other," Talley said. "I am extremely excited."
"Just the electricity around downtown is just insane," Talley said about the fandom in the area, especially in Baltimore, of course. "Everybody downtown is so excited."
Talley was one of several people watching the game in Bel Air who mentioned the financial boost from all the excitement.
"Just the economic impact of this game is crazy," Talley said.
Karen and Scott Guckert, of Jarrettsville, who were at MaGerk's to watch the game, also said the Ravens support was important for the area.
"It's awesome. It's great for the economy, brings a lot of money to the local vendors," Scott Guckert said. "It's a win-win. I think Baltimore needs this."
They looked very pleased to be in a booth at the very back of MaGerk's – the last available table when they arrived at 4:30 p.m.
"It's been pretty exciting to watch," Karen Guckert said about the build-up to the game, noting everyone was even more psyched up after the 49ers had just beaten the Falcons to advance to the Super Bowl.
"Everyone's kind of cheering the 'Harbaugh Bowl,'" she said. "You feel like it's meant to happen because of Ray Lewis [leaving]. You just feel like it's been close so many times, you just feel like this is the time."
Scott Guckert chimed in: "The stars are aligned."
They both said all the buzz around town has been exciting and a break from the norm.
"All week long, it's just been purple and everyone's talking about it," Karen Guckert said of the game.
Scott Guckert pointed out: "It's like everyone is distracted from their real jobs."