Dan Granofsky, aka Real Fan Dan, has been leading the R-A-V-E-N-S cheer at the stadium since 1998
The Ravens defense took the field with under five minutes remaining in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As the unit lined up on the Steelers’ 6-yard-line, holding a 26-10 lead, a bald, burly, 59-year-old man emerged from Section 532.
In the constant downpour, the man ripped off his poncho and jersey and led a chant of “R-A-V-E-N-S.”
Two plays later, the defense was awarded a safety after quarterback Devlin Hodges was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone, exciting what remaining fans filled the seats at M&T Bank Stadium.
For over two decades, Dan Granofsky, otherwise known as “Real Fan Dan,” has spearheaded the cheer during Ravens home games.
It’s a continuation of a Baltimore sports tradition started by Leonard Burrier, aka “Big Wheel,” as well as William “Wild Bill” Hagy, who would lead fan chants at Colts and Orioles games, respectively.
Granofsky, a Baltimore native, watched Colts games as a kid in a friend’s garage. When the team scored, Granofsky would rush out of the garage to listen to the chants led by Burrier in Memorial Stadium, just three miles away.
In 1997, one year after the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore, Granofsky purchased season tickets.
“I didn’t immediately because I didn’t want to be [the] Baltimore Browns,” said Granofsky, now a Pasadena resident. “I felt for the Cleveland fans.”
When the nascent franchise transitioned from Memorial Stadium to then-Ravens Stadium for the 1998 season, Granofsky griped over the lack of rituals for the fans.
“When we came to the new stadium in ‘98, we didn’t have any traditions,” said Granofsky, a civilian contractor who retired after 26 years in the Maryland National Guard. “We had no history. We didn’t have anything for the fans.“
Dennis Metzler, former president of Ravens Roost 18, a team fan club based in Glen Burnie, quipped that Granofsky should take matters into his own hands.
The 20-12 win was pivotal for the Ravens, who squeaked into the postseason as the AFC’s sixth seed and reached the divisional round of the playoffs, but it also marked the birth of a mainstream fan tradition.
“For the first time since 1983, all of Baltimore fandom, 70,000 screaming Raven maniacs, joined together and chanted their team’s name,” Granofsky said. “It was a huge party.”
Before the start of the 2015 season, Granofsky received a call from Jay O’Brien, the team’s vice president for broadcasting and game day productions.
O’Brien informed Granofsky that he wanted him to lead the chant during the team’s home opener.
“When we produce our game day, we want it to be authentic,” O’Brien said. “As the team, we don’t want to create traditions and rituals. We want them to be organic and come from the fans. ... Real Fan Dan is definitely one of them.”
Over the years, the Ravens cheer has become a staple of the fan experience at M&T Bank Stadium, which includes Captain Dee-Fense (Larry “Wes” Henson), the “Seven Nation Army” chant and roaring “O!” during the singing of the national anthem.
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It’s become second nature for Granofsky, who wears a customized No. 33 jersey (referencing Memorial Stadium, which was located on 33rd Street), to rip it off at an opportune moment to stir up a raucous crowd for opposing defenses.
The act has landed Granofsky as a quasi-local celebrity; the NFL sent Granofsky and his wife on an all-expenses-paid trip to Super Bowl LII in 2018, where he met other NFL super fans.
Years after debuting the cheer in the inaugural season at Ravens Stadium, Granofsky met Burrier at the 50th anniversary of Colts Corral, the fan club that would become Ravens Roost.
In a night where fans came to celebrate Baltimore football, the two icons of local sports fandom led cheers for their respective teams.
“This is all about carrying on a Baltimore football tradition,” Granofsky said. “Memorial Stadium was the world’s largest outdoor insane asylum. And it has been the same for the Ravens at times.