Ravens fans grounded by cost of flight to Miami

The Baltimore Sun

For Ravens fans looking to migrate south for the playoffs, getting tickets to the game wasn't a problem yesterday. But getting to Miami - that's another matter.

Thanks to lukewarm Miami fans who don't always fill Dolphin Stadium, some of the Ravens faithful were able to buy tickets at face value on the Ticketmaster Web site yesterday morning. But with the Orange Bowl game in Miami this week, the college football championship game next week and seasonal travelers heading to Florida to thaw out, decent airfare is hard to come by.

Many flights out of South Florida on Sunday and Monday, when Ravens fans would be returning home, are full. Even round-trip tickets that would return on Tuesday cost at least $500. And driving that far - about 1,100 miles - would take more time than many people have.

Still, purple-crazed fans are finding ways to get there.

"Miami makes it a little more difficult to go because it's so far away," said Joe Carrier, 48, of Annapolis. He had no trouble buying game tickets for him and his two sons yesterday morning. He paid the $95 face value for three tickets. But he couldn't find a reasonable flight to South Florida. So he and his sons will fly to Orlando, then drive nearly four hours to Miami.

"There's just a lot of excitement around the team," said Carrier, a Ravens season ticket holder. "This is a pleasant surprise. I think folks want to enjoy it a little while longer."

Some fans will have to enjoy it from their living rooms. Mike Stahl, 27, of Canton priced airfares yesterday and couldn't find anything in his range. He said he'll save his money and hopes to use it on a Super Bowl trip instead.

"There are no flights available that are even reasonable," said Stahl, who has attended the past six Ravens home games. "I'm sure I can get a game ticket at a decent price, but I'm not going to pay between $500 and $1,000 for airfare for two days. ... I'd love to go, but this is unreasonable. I'll sit home and watch it on TV."

Baltimore fans have a long history of proud support for their teams, dating to 1957 when the first Colts Corral was founded. Over the years, the corrals chartered planes, buses and trains to take fans to out-of-town games and had regular meetings at which players, including Johnny Unitas and Art Donovan, spoke.

"There are long memories here," said Mark Yost, 52, vice president of the Council of Ravens Roosts, an organization of fan clubs. "That old Colt thing just won't go away. It's part of the heritage."

Last month, the 100th Ravens Roost was registered. The clubs boast more than 4,400 members, who sit together at home games, travel to away games and raise money for charitable causes.

Some Roosters went to Miami for the Ravens game against the Dolphins earlier this season and plan to return for the playoff game. But the problem is travel. Tammy Williams of Towson Travel put together a package for fans to fly down Saturday and return on Tuesday because Monday flights were full. The package includes a game ticket, hotel and transfers, and costs $1,200 per person. The biggest cost is airfare.

"It's because it's New Year's Eve and Miami is a hot destination," said Williams, the group operations manager at Towson Travel. She said she received six e-mails and 12 calls about game packages yesterday morning, but when people heard the price they said they'd get back to her.

Even though game tickets are easier to come by than an airplane seat, that hasn't stopped some Dolphins fans from trying to profit from the zeal of Ravens fans. Jonathan Davidoff posted an ad on Craigs- list, trying to sell four tickets on the 50-yard line. A Dolphins season ticket holder, Davidoff said he would have attended the game but will be in New York on business.

He was asking $600 per seat and said he was getting 25 phone calls an hour in response to his ad. The tickets sold in a couple of hours.

It was no problem for Scott Goldsmith, an offensive lineman on the Johns Hopkins University football team, to get tickets to the playoff game. He's home on winter break in Coral Springs, Fla., so he went to Dolphin Stadium yesterday morning and bought seven tickets for $60 each. Five will be for him and his friends. He's trying to sell two at $125 each but hadn't found a buyer by yesterday afternoon.

Jeff Eckhardt bought two tickets on Stubhub.com Sunday afternoon, when it looked apparent that the Ravens would win and clinch the playoff. He paid $70 per ticket. Airfare cost a lot more: He got a round-trip ticket for $269 from Baltimore to Fort Myers, where his parents live. Eckhardt, 37, will drive with his father to Miami for the game. They went to the October Ravens-Dolphins game together and, based on that experience, expect a lot of Ravens fans to show up for the playoff.

"In October, there were more Ravens fans than Dolphins fans," said Eckhardt, an Anne Arundel County firefighter. "It was like going to a Yankees game at Oriole Park."

He predicts a Ravens win by at least 10 points.

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