They always watch the game at the same house, often in the same seat. They always watch the game upstairs. They always watch it downstairs.
They watch the game wearing the same cap, the same socks, the same sweatshirts (sometimes unwashed). They watch it with the same people. They watch it while eating the same food, drinking the same drinks.
They're Baltimore Ravens fans, and this Sunday, their tics, traditions, rituals and superstitions will be on full display all across Howard County.
The Ravens are headed to their first Super Bowl since the 2000 season, led by a rejuvenated defense, a retiring future Hall of Fame linebacker and a quarterback with a fast-growing reputation. But the Ravens also will have the support of a legion of fans convinced that their behavior before and during the game will help — or hurt — their team.
"It's sports-wide — sports fan-wide," said Rick Hubata, owner of the Dugout Zone, an Ellicott City sports memorabilia store, of fan superstitions. "You see it all the time."
Hubata cited the current Bud Light commercial, showing sports fans exhibiting their rituals to the tune of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," and finishing with the tagline: "It's only weird if it doesn't work."
"That's it exactly," he said. "It's only crazy if it doesn't work.
"Do people really believe it?" he added. "When all is said and done, probably not. But it's another piece of camaraderie between the fans and their team."
Hubata himself watches Ravens games with a group of friends that engages in one of the more creative local rituals. Before every game, home and away, these fans tailgate around an open grill. And after the food is cooked, one of them, Mike Neapolitan, pulls out a handful of cards depicting players on the opposing team.
"I shout out the player's name, rip the card in half, set it in the coals," said Neapolitan, who started the tradition a half-dozen years ago. "People get really excited."
Earlier this season, Neapolitan, 58, forgot the cards. The result: The Ravens lost the game.
"I said, 'I'll never do that again,' " Neapolitan said. "I credit the ritual with our lengthy home win streak."
He concedes that the card-burning might not be the only secret to the Ravens' success Sunday, but he and his friends have a few others.
"We'll return to the exact same place where we've watched the last three games (a friend's townhouse in Columbia)," he explained. "We'll sit in the exact same places, and wear the same outfits — unlaundered in my case.
"My friend's son and his friends will be there, but they have to sit downstairs, and they're not allowed to come upstairs during the game. If they come up at halftime for something to eat, say, and they start to play again, we'll send them back downstairs. Otherwise they'll jinx it.
Of course they do. Ravens fans everywhere would understand.
Cristy Slaughter has been a Ravens fan since the team arrived in Maryland in 1996. On Sunday, she will join her friend Janice Twardowicz and a few others at Twardowicz' Columbia home.
During the game, Slaughter, 46, will wear the same Ravens socks that she's worn throughout the Ravens' playoff run, even though they belong to her daughter. ("She'll get them back after the Super Bowl").
Also, she might ban her other daughter, who's watched the Ravens march to the Super Bowl while working at the Green Turtle but has off Sunday, from watching it with her family at Twardowicz' house. ("I'm afraid to let her watch it with us; maybe she should go to the Green Turtle.")