Renee Bear did not wear her Todd Heap jersey at the Ravens' preseason home opener against the Minnesota Vikings last night, and she did not catch any grief for that decision.
That's because Bear, a 37-year-old Severna Park resident, was wearing a "Phelps Phan" T-shirt in support of Rodgers Forge swimmer Michael Phelps' bid to eclipse Mark Spitz's Olympic record of seven gold medals.
Bear and her husband Russell made up a party of more than 10,000 who remained at M&T Bank Stadium after last night's football game to catch Phelps and the American team win the 400 medley relay on the giant video screens behind both end zones.
"We normally don't go to preseason games," said Renee Bear, who said she and her husband are personal seat license owners. "But this [getting a chance to watch Phelps] made us want to come even more."
Excitement for Phelps had built steadily throughout the evening.
Midway through the first quarter, the video screens replayed highlights of Phelps' earlier wins. When the words "Let's go, Phelps!" appeared on-screen, the crowd began chanting "Let's go, Phelps!".
Fans were directed to section 140 where they congregated while hoisting "Ravens for Phelps" signs.
One man held up a purple jersey with the No. 8 and the name Phelps stitched on the back. Another unfurled an American flag.
Every time Phelps appeared on-screen, the onlookers erupted into cheers and began to chant "USA, USA" as the race started.
Skip Lee, a 44-year-old Pasadena resident, said he wasn't terribly worried when Phelps was trailing during his butterfly leg of the relay before regaining the lead by the time Jason Lezak dove into the water for the final 100 meters of freestyle.
"Your heart sinks a little bit, but having Phelps on the blocks makes all the difference in the world," Lee said. "I'm so happy for him, but I'm even happier for our country and this entire experience."