Ravens fans 'ready to celebrate' end of lockout, start of season

Carol Fabian, a Ravens season ticket holder, had waited to buy tickets to the pair of away games she normally attends.

But with the NFL lockout officially coming to a close Monday, not only can Fabian purchase those tickets, she can join many fellow fans in breathing a collective sigh of relief.

The NFL is back.

"I'm bummed that there's no training camp, but that's all right," said Fabian, 56, at the Inner Harbor on Monday. "As long as football gets back on the field, I'm good to go."

In addition to attending all of the Ravens home games, Fabian is looking forward to making two road trips, most likely to Tennessee and San Diego.

Other Ravens fans weren't so gung-ho about the NFL's return. In fact, the lockout disgusted some.

"At this point, I'm uninterested in listening to millionaires and billionaires fight," said Mick Arnold, owner of Arnold's Shipping Supplies in Baltimore. "I have paid no attention to it whatsoever. I didn't renew my tickets because of it."

Arnold, who called himself a "huge Ravens fan," said he would rather watch on his television than go to the stadium. He pointed to the money involved as the catalyst for his disdain.

"There's plenty [of money] to go around. Plenty," Arnold said. "And with them not being able to find that middle ground, I just stopped paying attention."

But Arnold, 40, said he could — potentially — be reeled back.

"We'll see," Arnold said. "I don't know."

While the exact settlement has not been released, one of the main hurdles during the negotiations were benefits for retired players. The new deal reportedly adds $1 billion in new funds for retired players, including $620 million for a "Legacy Fund" which will increase pensions for pre-1993 retirees. Randall Harris, a 19-year-old right tackle for Towson University's football team, said he supports whatever action the NFL takes to aid its retirees.

"As much as they put their bodies and everything on the line, when they retire they deserve a lot more than what they're getting," Harris said at Towson's student union.

Tia Brown, a teacher at Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School and Owings Mills resident, didn't take sides during the lockout. She's just relieved it's finished.

"I don't sympathize either way," said Brown, 42, at the Cross Street Market in Federal Hill. "I just understand why it happened. And I'm glad it's over now."

Brown, who said she just went through some contract negotiations of her own, thinks both parties are getting their due.

"I think [players and owners] deserve every bit of money they can get," Brown said. "I think they did what they had to do."

Brown couldn't fathom Baltimore without football — especially the passionate rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"The first home game is with the Steelers, and I do not want to miss that one," Brown said. "If it wouldn't have happened, it would have been very somber. A dark day."

With the prolonged lockout forcing the Ravens to cancel their annual training camp at McDaniel College, the atmosphere for the season opener against the Steelers should be electric.

That would be a welcome sight for David Rather, owner of Ravens hangout Mother's in Federal Hill.

"I'm ecstatic," Rather said. "I'm ready to celebrate."

And celebrate they will. Rather said Mother's is planning to throw a party Wednesday to revel in the return of football. He admitted the end of the lockout is "huge for [his] business."

"As we got closer and the dates passed by, I was nervous," Rather said. "One game wouldn't have been as major as losing half the season. But the Steelers game is going to be great."

Fabian, who plans to attend the Sept. 11 contest at M&T Bank Stadium, is looking forward to a sea of purple.

"[The Ravens-Steelers game] is going to be crazy," Fabian said. "You usually find some Ravens fans who sell their tickets to Steelers fans, [but] I don't think that's going to happen this year. I think Ravens fans are going to be out in full, and we're going to be ready. The Steelers better watch out."

With the Browns and the Bengals facing multiple question marks on both sides of the ball, many experts have predicted the Ravens and Steelers will once again duke it out for the top spot in the AFC North.

But this year, Fabian said, the tables will be turned.

"We're going to the Super Bowl baby," Fabian said. "No doubt in my mind."