When Eastern Shore native Peter Michaels Allen moved to San Francisco two years ago, he made sure he had a way to make money and a place to sleep before getting to the really important stuff — finding a place to watch his Ravens.
Though they're nearly 2,500 miles from home, Allen and several dozen Ravens diehards are doing their best to color 49ers country purple. They call themselves Ravens in the Fog, and with imported Berger cookies, drinks laced with Old Bay and war-painted faces, come Sunday they'll be waving the Baltimore flag — hard — in enemy territory.
"Our aim is to make it feel like home," says Tom Gierke, a 31-year-old from Towson who works for Google and helped found the club. "We go all out to show our pride."
These Ravens in the Fog have spent most of the season at a Mission District haunt called Thieves Tavern, a dark dive bar that reminds Allen faintly of Baltimore's corner bars. They started the season somewhere else, but the Ravens faithful left en masse when the manager refused to switch the television from the 49ers game — which Gierke says about three people were watching — to the Ravens game that at least 30 people wanted to see.
It's not easy being purple in San Francisco. But club members, whose logo depicts a Raven bursting through the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, are more than managing.
They sweet-talked bartenders into mixing them Baltimore-inspired drinks. There's one with a shot of Jameson and a Miller High Life — they call that "The McNulty," after the famously drunken character on "The Wire." Another combines the aperitif Fernet and an Anchor Steam. That's "The Rise and Conquer."
Natty Boh, Gierke says with a note of sadness, isn't distributed there.
They want the taste of their hometown, too. Because their home bar doesn't serve food, folks bring things in, potluck-style. They've made crab cakes and had Utz crab chips shipped from Maryland, along with boxes of Berger cookies. Someone always orders wings from a shop called Wing Wings that's owned by a Baltimore native who rubs them with Old Bay.
A West Coast twist is that most games kick off at 10 a.m. So they've learned to set their alarm clocks and get to the bar with time to set up and, ideally, time to eat a little something before the drinking begins.
"Even that early, we tend to get riled up pretty good," says Allen, 28, a freelance interactive designer.
Everyone is decked out in purple, of course, as is the bar. Club members twirled purple streamers along the beams and hung Maryland flags and Ravens banners. They outfitted the jukebox with all of the songs that regularly play at M&T Bank Stadium, including "In the Air Tonight" and "Hot in Herre."
And they aren't afraid to chant. Allen, with Ray Lewis-style war paint on his cheeks, likes to hop atop the bar and lead the room in a spirited round of "Move Those Chains."
They'd been rallying a few dozen people on game days until playoffs hit, when crowds suddenly started to multiply. Gierke figures at least 125 showed up for the game against the New England Patriots. On Super Bowl Sunday, they expect well over 200 — with people coming from as far away as Sacramento.
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To accommodate everyone, they have moved the festivities to a bigger venue and taken other precautions, as well.
When the Giants won the World Series last October, San Francisco's celebration erupted into sprees of violence and vandalism — one melee involved setting a city bus on fire. To be on the safe side, Ravens in the Fog has arranged for security guards to stand by, and they've made sure the city Police Department is aware of their party.
Though Gierke, Allen and the others planned to wear Ravens colors with pride all week — and especially on Purple Friday — they're reminding folks that after the big game, no matter what the outcome, it might be smart to change into something else.
They've already been getting some good-natured heckling, horn beeps and catcalls.
"It boggles their mind," says Gierke, "that there would be a fan of the Ravens living all the way over here."