Ravens fever is spreading fast, and it's not only football fans who are becoming infected.
Yep, even those who don't give a darn about football, who wonder if Ray Lewis is Jerry's brother and think Flacco sounds like some sort of weird breakfast cereal ... even they can't help but be swept up in the excitement that overwhelms a town when its football team is one step away from the Super Bowl.
Even Orioles fans with only orange and black in their veins are starting to bleed a little purple. It helps that the Ravens are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, and O's fans of long-standing have never forgotten that Pittsburgh's underdog Pirates beat them in the World Series twice, in 1971 and 1979.
For the casual (or newfangled) football fan trying to fit in, the keys are simple. Wear purple. Mention the names Todd Heap, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs a lot (and sound very concerned that an injured Suggs might not be able to play Sunday). Invoke the name of the long-departed Baltimore Colts, but only in the sense that the Ravens are doing their legacy proud. Remember that the Ravens' head coach is now named Harbaugh, not Billick (who was coach back in 2001, the last time the Ravens made it this far and the city was similarly football-crazed).
Use the name Matt Stover and the word "dependable" in the same sentence.
Mark Viviano, in his seventh year as sports director at WJZ-TV, Channel 13, offers a few things for the casual fan to keep in mind over the next few days, while preparing for Sunday's 6:30 p.m. kickoff:
* Be a proud Baltimorean. "Bring civic pride to the room," Viviano says. "Know that you're not just rooting for your team to win, you're rooting for your city. Win on the scoreboard, and win bragging rights, too."
* Don't whine if neither team scores a lot of points Sunday. "These are two of the best defenses in the league probably; you're not going to see a lot of points scored," Viviano says. "But that doesn't make it boring, it just makes it well-played defensively. You can appreciate that both teams play very good defense. That's not a bad thing."
* Respect the kid. "Appreciate the fact that Joe Flacco, as a rookie, has done something no rookie has ever done" in winning two playoff games, Viviano says. And "he would be the first rookie to take his team to the Super Bowl - that is something that even the casual fan could grab onto."
* Live in the present. The Baltimore Colts were great and, when they left, the city mourned. But that was yesterday. "You should be over the hump by now," Viviano says.