Sunday, Jan. 6th was my first trip to M&T Bank Stadium since 2012, when I was part of what Al Michaels’ called “the loudest manure chant” he ever heard during a game against the Patriots; that was also the year of the Ravens second Super Bowl win. A few days after that game, I moved with my wife to her home state of Wisconsin. Prior to that move, I attended preseason, regular season and postseason games with my dad. There was a point, as I think is probably typical, that Ravens football for us was a lot like baseball for Phil and his dad in the movie “City Slickers.” Talking football has helped me sustain many relationships with people I moved 1,000 miles away from.
To cover that thousand miles to Ravens Stadium for the game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I took an Uber to Milwaukee on Saturday, the 5th, to take a bus to Chicago, to take an airplane to BWI, to take the train to downtown. I did the reverse to be back in Wisconsin for the work week to kick off on Monday. It was well worth the time and money to come back to Baltimore and spend time with my family and for us to share the experience. A home playoff game, and the Ravens had a chance to win in the 60th minute? Win or lose, that’s special.
There is a canonical list of clichés about how and why Ravens fans should be positive after this season. It was apparent, though, that since I moved to the land of Green and Gold, the supporters of the Purple and Black have become soured, cynical and ungrateful. It was evident in the pair of PSL (permanent seat license) owners calling out multiple fans for not seeing them at other games, without regard for the fact that many people simply lack the time, money or proximity to attend eight games per season. It was evident in the fans who streamed to the exits with a full quarter of football yet to be played. It was evident in the numerous screaming matches and fist fights between fans wearing No. 5 and fans wearing No. 8. The behavior of the fan base in Baltimore has degraded into something unrecognizable from the unified passion and fortitude that I remember and was reminded of by visiting fans when I attended the Ravens win in Green Bay.
The seasons since the team’s second Super Bowl victory have not been the best, but they have been worth watching. The team has remained worth supporting. In a league designed to rotate teams through the standings, the Ravens have managed to stay competitive despite a list of setbacks, including: having to eat Ray Rice’s contract, a plague of injuries (including to No. 5), the retirement of No. 52 and a set of empirically brutal schedules. Adversity comes in force to teams that hire and train their staff well, that draft and develop players well and that stay in playoff contention.
It is truly a joy to be a Ravens fan in the Midwest when talking with other teams’ fans. Packers fans wishing for a piece from our defense, Lions fans and Vikings fans yearning for a first Super Bowl win, fans in Ohio who just want one playoff win, Bears fans who lament an inefficient kicking game, fans in Indiana desiring a clear-headed owner. Ravens fans have — and experience — so much that other teams’ fans wish for.
At the end of the day, the NFL is entertainment, and the quality provided by Steve Biscotti and the Ravens is top -notch, with a high standard from fans. Criticism of a product by its users helps inspire improvement. It’s understandable booing a unit that had negative passing yards deep into the second half of a game. Ravens fans are vocal. Making Baltimore the toughest place for opposing teams should be a priority, and it used to be. There is something seriously wrong when Ravens fans are screaming at and fighting other Ravens fans. It was a ship of fools on Sunday.
In 23 years, the Ravens have given fans 185 regular season wins, 15 playoff wins, five division titles and two Super Bowl titles. It’s been a great 23-year ride. As the saying goes, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. The door is always open to get on or off. Ed Reed and John Harbaugh disagreed beyond speaking terms and won a Super Bowl. Game day at Ravens Stadium needs to be one team, one crowd, looking forward, together.
Christopher Bory is a former Marylander who now lives in Wisconsin. His email is email@example.com.