After celebrating last year, Ravens fans are struggling to get excited for Sunday's Super Bowl
By By Jeff Barker
The Baltimore Sun|
Feb 01, 2014 | 10:33 PM
On Feb. 3, 2013, crowds surged out of the city's restaurants and bars, filling the streets with purple attire and raw emotion after the Ravens' Super Bowl victory.
A thousand miles away, in New Orleans, fans madly high-fived one another at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as purple and gold confetti wafted down from the roof.
In its postseason reverie, Baltimore seemed to be floating above winter. But a year later — with the Ravens out of Sunday's Super Bowl after missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season — area fans are feeling the chill. And so are taverns and businesses lifted economically by the string of five postseason runs that had become a rite of January.
"We certainly benefited from an incredible streak," said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. "We've been hearing from bars that there are fewer customers [this year]. The Ravens are a significant economic generator."
If ever there was a Super Bowl that feels hollow to Baltimore, it is Sunday's game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Just ask Henry Louis, a Pikesville attorney and Ravens season-ticket holder who flew with a buddy to last season's ultimate game and was surrounded by Baltimoreans in the upper deck. "Everybody was hugging and jumping up and down" after the 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Louis recalled.
This year, Louis said his wife made dinner plans with friends for Sunday night, not considering that the Super Bowl is that evening.
"We just realized it," Louis said of the oversight. "Our season ended a number of weeks ago and football has really been out of mind."
Louis cancelled the dinner plans and says he'll "watch a little bit probably," but only as a dispassionate observer. "It's really not the same without the Ravens in it," he said.
Before this season, the Ravens' streak of consecutive playoff appearances was the NFL's best. The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers currently have five-year streaks.
The end of the Ravens' run has meant no January scenes like the one Colleen Broersma encountered at Mother's Federal Hill Grille after last year's AFC championship game.
The Ravens had just qualified for the Super Bowl by defeating the Patriots "and I had the opportunity to sneak out on the roof," said Broersma, the restaurant manager. "I could hear everybody screaming. It was very slow at first and then the streets were full — just hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people. I felt like I was watching history happen from a bird's-eye view."
This Sunday, the restaurant is offering a Super Bowl special on boneless wings and beer. But Broersma — who saved photos of last year's mayhem on her iPhone — knows it won't be the same. She said business seemed to triple at times during last year's Super Bowl run.
"I would say it's more back to normal," she said of this year.
The sale of Ravens merchandise has also been affected.
Unlike last season, no Raven ranks in the top 20 on the most recent list of players' jerseys sales, according to the NFL. Linebacker Ray Lewis was 17th during the nine-month period ending Dec. 31, 2012. But Lewis retired after the Super Bowl and no longer appears among the jersey-sale leaders.
Running back Ray Rice is the top Raven on this season's list, ranking at No. 21. The list is headed by Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.
After winning their first Super Bowl following the 2000 season, the Ravens made the playoffs the next year and won a wild-card game. This year, they finished 8-8 and their title defense ended abruptly with losses in their final two regular-season games.
The lack of a postseason game following a championship has left a void — almost as if a holiday has been cancelled.
"When your team is winning and is successful, there is a different social impact on a community," said Terry Hasseltine, director of the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing. "They're eating out more, participating in extracurricular activities in their community. There is a different pep to the step of your patrons."
The Ravens' postseason success had the effect of "almost extending the holiday high," Hasseltine said. Football was a welcome diversion from thinking about how "it's cold and miserable and what curveball Mother Nature can throw us."
The five-year run also raised the profile of the team's sponsors such as M&T Bank, which holds the stadium's naming rights.
Sponsors "get a bigger platform, a bigger lift," said Marc Bluestein, president and chief executive officer of Aquarius Sports & Entertainment, a Gaithersburg-based sports entertainment and marketing firm that advises sponsors. "It allows them to extend their promotions during a highly visible and exciting time."
Bluestein anticipates that many Ravens fans will still watch this year's Super Bowl broadcast, although certainly in less volume than last season, when even casual fans got caught up in the excitement.
"The Super Bowl is almost a national holiday," he said. "Ravens fans are football fans."
But their minds may be wandering back to last year — to the scenes of Jacoby Jones sprinting 108 yards for touchdown on a kick return, or cornerback Chykie Brown making a "snow angel" in the confetti that covered the field after the game.
Those memories can help sustain fans now, said Gregory Adamo, an associate professor of communications studies at Morgan State.
"I think it lasts for a couple years," Adamo said of a championship afterglow. "The NFL is set up for competition, and it's hard to repeat."