Baltimore City

'Today Show' comes to Inner Harbor for Ravens rally

Victoria Hopkins-Rheubottom — sporting a purple wig and team gear from head to toe — played the part of unofficial Ravens cheerleader Friday at the Inner Harbor for a visit from the "Today Show," part of the countdown to Super Bowl Sunday.

The Southwest Baltimore woman, a retired federal government worker, said she's proud of the team and excited for Baltimore's turn in the national spotlight. The waterfront rally, the second this week, brought hundreds together.


"When you're a Ravens fan, it doesn't matter — you're a Ravens fan," Hopkins-Rheubottom said. "Isn't that right, Baltimore!"

Natalie Morales joined Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake here while Al Roker joined San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee on the West Coast for an on-air wager. The mayor of the losing city will travel to the winning city to complete a service project with AmeriCorps members.


"We wanted to do something different, something that had a wider impact on the community," Rawlings-Blake said. "We do a lot of work with AmeriCorps. They're very helpful to me in my efforts to grow Baltimore by 10,000 families. People want to feel engaged in the community and this gives people a great way to do it — and it will give Mayor Lee a great way to experience Baltimore."

The losing mayor will also visit a local market and, wearing the winning team's jersey, sample the region's crab — the Dungeness crab in San Francisco and the blue crab in Baltimore.

Wendy Spencer, who runs the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, Corporation for National and Community Service, said the nature of the service project will be up to the mayor of the winning city.

"They really believe a real good wager and spirit is to showcase service and volunteer work," Spencer said. "They're going to be serving with AmeriCorps members. Here in Baltimore, there are 2,300 AmeriCorps and Senior Corp members, serving each day in several hundred programs.

"This is really about citizenship and showing great leadership."

The two cities have similar volunteer profiles: Baltimore has 1,498 AmeriCorps members to San Francisco's 1,492, while Senior Corps volunteers total 722 in Baltimore and 747 in San Francisco.

AmeriCorps is sponsoring the trips; no city money will be used for travel or accommodations.

Services projects are also under way in Louisiana, including the revitalization of five New Orleans playgrounds. Both Rawlings-Blake and Lee are expected to join more than 100 city leaders for the Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service on April 9.


The Ravens will face the San Francisco 49ers at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII.

"I think we'll have the game locked up by the third quarter," Rawlings-Blake said after her "Today Show" appearance. "We're blowing San Francisco out of the water. They might as well not even show up."

The trash talk didn't stop there.

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"The Niners don't always go to the Super Bowl, but when they do, they win," Lee said in a statement.

Janet Crouch of Columbia brought her two children, Elise, 13, and Ryan, 8, to the harbor to join the festivities. Crouch, 46, a human resources manager, said the Super Bowl has given Baltimore great exposure.

"I think this exemplifies the best of Baltimore," Crouch said.


The Crouches, who arrived about 6 a.m., were headed for indoor heating and school by about 8 a.m., while another family, the Jasinskis, stayed to relish the experience.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Katie Jasinski of Parkville said. "I want to enjoy every second of the celebration."