When Dale Davis calls himself the Raven Maniac, be assured of his honesty. He's not just nutty, barmy, bonkers or daffy about the Baltimore Ravens. No, from the toes of his custom-made shoes, which bear the football team's raven-head logo, to the tips of his purple-feathered wings, Dale Davis is, as he tells the world, maniacal about his team.
And someone else agrees: Davis, who is a dispatcher for the Harford County Highways Bureau, is the Hall of Fans inductee for the Baltimore Ravens. The honor will take the Abingdon resident to Canton, Ohio, this week to see the plaque in the Football Hall of Fame that bears his name.
Visa sponsored a nationwide search seeking the ultimate fan from each of the 31 National Football League teams. Diehard fans were asked to submit essays and pictures of them showing team spirit.
A panel of NFL, Hall of Fame and Visa representatives then selected the most loyal, energetic winners.
William Valentine of Visa said the honored fans are chosen based on dedication, knowledge and creativity. He added that the NFL ultimate fans had taught him something important, too: "Maybe I'm not that big a fan," he said, laughing.
Thursday morning, Davis and his best friend and fan mentor Matt Andrews (a k a Fan Man, who was the 2000 Hall of Fans representative for the Ravens), will load their Fan Bus - a purple bus slathered with Ravens memorabilia - onto a flatbed truck and will travel to Ohio to attend the Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Painting on his white-and-purple makeup scheme has Davis up at 4 a.m. and working until 6 a.m. on game days. His purple camouflage shorts - worn in any type of weather- match the interior of the Fan Bus.
On his arms - like an Edgar Allan Poe hallucination - are a giant pair of purple wings. About 75 multi-colored strings of beads, including, several that light up, hang around his neck.
"Before the year's over, I'll wear 100 to a game," Davis said.
The outfit is replete with custom touches: the purple camouflage bandannas tied to the tops of his purple-and-white striped clown socks, the wrist bands that cover his forearms, the inscribed brown belt- which all bear the word "Maniac." He wears custom T-shirts with pictures of himself in full regalia, has a hand towel tucked into his belt that reads "Raven Maniac" and the two stuffed purple simians hanging around his neck, his rally monkeys, wear white shirts bearing the legend "Maniac."
His $400 shoes are specially made in West Virginia. Each says "Raven Maniac" on the side, one bearing "Raven" in mirror image.
"He is one who, among all those [fans], stands out," said Kevin Byrne, the team's vice president for public relations. "He's made a niche for himself, so to speak."
For Davis, who became a fan at a Ravens Super Bowl Pep Rally in Bel Air in 2000 (the year the Ravens pummeled the New York Giants, 34-7), the Canton trip will be one of many Ravens-related journeys this year. He and Andrews have planned to attend two away games and are considering others, including one that both are anticipating ravenously.
"I sense a feeling of the Super Bowl coming on," Davis said. "This year, Houston, we're going."