Pity the driver of a late-night city bus navigating The Avenue in Hampden after the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Shortly before midnight, the No. 27 bus bound for Port Covington was stuck on West 36th Street as a crowd of about 100 people outside the bar Frazier's on the Avenue milled in the middle of the street, briefly blocking the bus, cheering madly, slapping the sides of the bus good-naturedly and even trying to climb aboard. The rowdy crowd soon let the bus through, then cheered each passing car. Most motorists honked back at them.
Nick Ganci, 27, watched the scene unfold with humor and pride in the Ravens, who won their first NFL championship since 2001 by beating the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, in a thrilling game that was delayed for 35 minutes by a power outage in New Orleans.
"The last time they won, I was a junior in high school," said Ganci, a multimedia designer for an education company.
Ganci, who lives in Patterson Park, watched the game with a group of friends at a house on Keswick Road.
"We just came up here to enjoy the fun," he said.
But he admitted he wasn't the most popular guy after letting it be known that he wanted to see a close game and not a blowout. That was right about the time that with the Ravens leading 28-6, the favored 49ers made a near comeback that turned a laugher into a nailbiter. Nobody was laughing with Ganci.
"My friends were angry at me," he said.
But even as the 49ers stormed back, Alex Van Ness, 40, of Hampden, also partying on The Avenue, said he wasn't worried that the Ravens would lose the game.
"Hell, no," he said. "I knew they were going to take it."
At the Charles Village Pub on St. Paul Street, which was so crowded that a sign on the door turned more potential customers away, Peter McCaffrey, 26, wasn't nearly as optimistic that the Ravens would hold off the 49ers..
"I was freaking out," said McCaffrey, a medical student at Johns Hopkins University.
But when the Ravens pulled out the game, the capacity crowd whooped, chanted, "Let's go, Ravens," then poured into the street, some wearing T-shirts and shorts on a cold winter night. Their collective roar could be heard as far away as Oakenshawe, where neighbors gathered on Homewood Terrace and banged pots and pans. Fireworks could be seen from the Greenmount Avenue area.
Xavier Greene, 35, a property manager from Reservoir Hill, saw many in the crowd gasping as the 49ers gained momentum and the Ravens seemed to deflate after a game delay caused by an outage. One man stormed out of the bar in frustration, Greene said.
But he said he had a feeling the Ravens still would win and so did most in the crowd.
"They stuck it out. Everybody here believed," he said.
Leaving the Charles Village Pub after the game, Jillian Matos, 29, a private school librarian who just moved to Baltimore, said she took the Ravens win as a good omen for her career move.
"It makes me feel like I belong in Baltimore," said Matos, who recently moved here from New York.
Crowds were smaller but no less passionate or boisterous at the Ottobar in Remington, where security guard Marty Clay said a good 300 people crowded into the bar. Although the crowd was well-behaved, "it was hectic," he said.
For technology teacher Dan Arnold, 31, of Remington, the game was bittersweet because it was the last one for beloved Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who has said he is retiring.
"We won the Super Bowl, but we're losing Ray," Arnold said.
As the crowd dissipated, bartender Sarah Wallace, 27, stood alone outside the Ottobar at 25th and Howard streets, smoking a cigarette on a break and wearing a Ray Rice jersey.
"I bartended the whole game, so I missed the whole game," said Wallace, a Ravens fan. But she said she could tell how the game was going by the cheers she heard from the bar crowd and on TV.
That's how she knew the 49ers were gaining ground on the Ravens.
"You know it's bad when you hear cheering on TV, but nobody in the bar is cheering," she said.
It all came out all right, though.
"It's so exciting," Wallace said. "Everyone is so happy. Everyone is hugging and kissing and super stoked. It's very good for the city."