A few days before any Ravens home game, John Middlebrook texts his buddy to brainstorm their tailgating menu.
“It’s a ritual,” said Middlebrook, a season ticket holder who leaves his home near Ocean City with his wife as early as 6 a.m. to make it to the M&T Bank Stadium parking lot. “I’ve brought an entire side of beef and cut steaks made to order,” he said. “Korean ribs, sirloin steaks, you name it.” After everyone has eaten, Middlebrook brings out a DJ setup powered by a generator, and the dancing begins.
“Sometimes it’s more fun than the game. This year the games have been more fun than the tailgate.”
With Ravens mania in full swing and the team headed for their first playoff game against the Tennessee Titans this Saturday, The Sun asked readers to share their favorite tailgating stories.
John Haag of Abingdon and his friends spent years preparing “enemy food” for parking lot feasts, such as cheese steaks before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles and tuna steaks prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins. An elaborate Thanksgiving feast preceded a Detroit Lions game — and impressed fans from the opposing team. “We made friends with the opposing fans most games sharing our fare,” he wrote. This weekend they’ll feature a Southern themed spread with barbecue chicken, potato salad and baked beans.
Encounters with the enemy have worked out well for Joe Fabiszak of Ocean City, who wrote The Sun about meeting fans before a matchup against the New Orleans Saints. “When WHO DAT NATION stormed into Baltimore that day, they were giving out FREE jambalaya and shots,” Fabiszak said in an e-mail. “And their hospitality was incredible. I had a Ravens jersey on and they still gave me free jambalaya! I could barely walk to my seats before the game and I don’t remember getting home. I just remember waking up with broken eyeglasses and blood on me and trying to reconstruct what happened. There’s so much more to this story, but I have check on the [statute] of limitations.”
Game day means Reuben sandwiches for Jake Jacobson of Baltimore. The corned beef is prepared by his wife, Debbie. “For EVERY game, she makes a 6-7 pound corned beef and I take it to tailgating and along with my addition of Jewish Rye bread, cole [slaw], Russian dressing & Swiss cheese (all top shelf ingredients), I create Reuben Sandwiches on the grill!” he wrote. Regular tailgaters at Lot H “anxiously await what has become a most popular sandwich.” Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern tried it last year, pronouncing it one of “the finest Reubens in America," Jacobson said.
Beers at tailgates have even led to policy changes. Sen. Bobby Zirkin told The Sun he first began lobbying Gov. Larry Hogan to ban fracking at a Baltimore Ravens football game. “I was working him over a Bud Light,” Zirkin said, according to The Sun archives. “And I’ve been working him ever since.” The ban passed in 2017.
Ravens fans may die, but their legacy lives on. Bruce Stover of Bel Air recalled how after the sudden death of his friend, a longtime Ravens fan and avid tailgater named Kenny Riefner, “His best friends continued to buy his portion of their Season Tickets, and we’d tape a picture of Kenny to his seat so he could continue to watch the game with his buddies. Some of his ashes were spread in Lot H as well.”
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