For nine years, Bobby Nyk didn't miss a single Ravens game, home or away. That home streak is impressive enough, but it was all those away games that earned him the nickname "The Ravens Road Warrior."
It's a moniker worn proudly by the 62-year-old Baltimore native, who spent most of those nine years working for the team as a DJ outside the stadium on game days.
"I don't think anyone's been to more away games than me, except for maybe Nestor Aparicio," the retired Howard County teacher says, referring to the Baltimore radio sports personality and rabid Ravens fan. "Him, and of course the players."
Nyk ended his streak a couple of years ago, when foot surgery had him in the hospital while the Ravens were being beaten by the Steelers in the playoffs. Though he doesn't get to all the away games any longer, he has a permanent hold on his seat in section 513 of M&T; Bank Stadium. There's no missing him: He's the guy wearing the Ravens helmet that doesn't have a face mask and sporting a chain of giant beads around his neck.
How did you become a fan?
When I was a little boy, I used to go to all the Baltimore Colt games with my parents. In fact, my parents went to the 1958 championship game, on a bus with George's 4100 Club down in Brooklyn.
Of course, we were all sorry to see the Colts leave, and it took a long time to get over it. But football is just an important part of my life, because I played high school and college football and also coached it when I was a teacher.
Then, when the Ravens came to town, I wasn't crazy about the way we got them, but thankful we did.
What's your experience like on game day?
I sit right between the goal posts, in the third row of the upper deck. Every time there's an extra point or a field goal on the east side of the stadium, I'm catching it. If the other side's kicking, I'm blowing as hard as I can to see if I can get the wind current going the wrong way.
Our crowds are amazing. There is no stadium — not even Seattle, which is notorious for being loud — that is louder than M&T.; And our fans are knowledgeable enough to know to cheer at the right times. I've gone to Kansas City this year, and I've gone to Pittsburgh, and I'll tell you, it was embarrassing — people booing when their quarterback gets hurt. It's brutal.
Why no face mask on your Ravens helmet?
For dual purposes. First of all, for consumption purposes. And second of all, for being able to make sure that I have unimpeded access to kisses after we score. [He's single, folks.] It's also a tribute to "Loudy" Loudenslager, who was part of the Baltimore Colt experience, the guy that used to run around the stadium backward, with the Colts sign.
Your worst experience on the road? I was in Cleveland, and there's never ever a good day in Cleveland if you're a Ravens fan and dressed like one. … I was tackled from behind and broke some ribs, by some real coward that screamed, "Fumble," and tackled me. It was so heinous that even the people who witnessed it and were die-hard Browns fans were saying, "That was really cheap. Sorry about that."
Best Ravens memory? I was a disc jockey down in Tampa, at a place called Whiskey Joe's, for the Super Bowl in 2001. That was the best day of my life. There's no question about it.
What's your take on the 2012 season so far? Karma is on our side, I think. Having (Steelers quarterback Ben) Roethlisberger get hurt — they're not the same team. Would we like to beat them at full strength? Sure. But they're not. And they won't be next time we play them, either. And Willis McGahee has gone down for the Denver Broncos, which has hurt them considerably. All these little things are helping to get us to that goal at the end of the season.
Look at how lucky we are in Baltimore. We've lived to see the greatest linebacker of all time, and the greatest quarterback of all time, play in the same city. We have been blessed to have players like Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas, that we get to watch week in and week out.