Friend, foe

The Baltimore Sun

Cincinnati -- Not even a heated division rivalry could deter Jerry Marcus Jr. from a good tailgate in Cincinnati.

Marcus and five other Ravens fans traveled from Baltimore to catch the Ravens season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals last night at Paul Brown Stadium.

They ate a "Who Dey?" meatball, drank a few beverages and traded lighthearted barbs with members of the Roach 2 crew, a group of Bengals fans in Lot E on Mehring Way.

"I feel as comfortable here as I would at home," said Marcus, who made the trip with friends Todd Degreenia, Sean Francis, Sam Guarenia, Al Huber and Ron Stevers.

The tradition began in 2001 when Marcus and his father, Jerry Sr., searching for inexpensive tickets in an AFC North city, settled on Cincinnati. During their first trip to the city, they walked through a parking lot filled with Bengals fans.

Parched from the walk, the younger Marcus asked Larry Boberschmidt if he could purchase a beer. Boberschmidt, the "tailgate president" of Roach 2, invited the father and son to tailgate with them, and a friendship was born.

"As much as we're fans, I like to set the city as an example of friendship," Boberschmidt said of his invitation. "Football is a means for us to get together and have a good time."

Since then, Marcus has called Boberschmidt whenever his group is in town, and the unlikeliest of friends dine in Cincinnati's trendiest places and enjoy each other's company before heading to the game the next day.

Although the sight of Ravens and Bengals fans mingling together in a Cincinnati parking lot has drawn more than its fair share of quizzical glances, members of the Roach 2 crew have maintained that their Baltimore friends are always welcome.

"That doesn't mean that there's no smack going around," said Brian Meyer, who runs the crew's Web site ( and alternates with Jason and Tony Boberschmidt in driving their tailgating vehicle, a refurbished van. "But they're good guys. We respect the opponents and their fans."

The two sides have exchanged hats, jerseys and other gear. As a member of Ravens Roost 18 in Glen Burnie, Marcus said he has invited the Roach 2 crew to a Ravens game in Baltimore, but Boberschmidt said the members probably won't go until next season.

"They are the nicest people in the world, and Cincinnati is a great town," Marcus said.

Baltimore tops in tailgating

Baltimore has been named the best tailgating city in the NFL by a group of tailgating experts. Baltimore was recognized for M&T; Bank Stadium's pro-tailgating environment, expanded tailgating hours and overall fan enthusiasm. Denver, Houston, San Diego and Cincinnati rounded out the top five. The group that assembled the ratings included well-known tailgater Joe Cahn and Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell, who run The Ultimate Sports Road Trip blog (thesportsroadtrip. com).

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