Baltimore Ravens

Ravens are not the only road warriors

Monday night, Ravens fans are finally going to get what they've been talking about since January — a football game that counts in the standings.

But for many of the team's most fanatical followers — those either too impatient or too passionate to wait two more weeks for the first regular-season game of the year at M&T Bank Stadium — it's not enough. They need to be there, even if that means a foray into hostile football territory.


Matt Gramil is making his seventh trip to a

away game, heading to the New Meadowlands Stadium for today's season opener against the New York Jets with a group of friends eager to start heckling the notoriously ornery Big Apple fans on their home turf. Brian Snyder has booked more than 100 people to join him on a bus headed north.


For them, and hundreds like them, the perils of a hostile crowd, the unique thrill that comes with being a purple patch within the screaming tapestry of another team's colors, is all just part of being a Ravens fan.

"You want to get into that environment and show the team some love," said Brian Davies, who will be joining Gramil for the trip to New Jersey. "It's like with the Orioles and the Yankees. All the fans come down from New York and heckle us. It's nice to be able to return that even though we'll be on the short end when it comes to the number of fans."

It should certainly be worth the trip, considering that Monday's season opener between the Ravens and Jets in East Rutherford, N.J. is a matchup of teams being hyped as serious Super Bowl contenders.

It comes a decade after the Ravens beat New York's other NFL team for professional football's most coveted prize — the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

While playing the Jets might not evoke the same emotions as in Pittsburgh or Cleveland or Indianapolis — where wearing Ravens colors could be comparable to donning a Yankees cap in Fenway Park — comments this week by Jets coach Rex Ryan and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis could stir things up a bit in the $1.6 billion stadium.

What happens on the field will ultimately determine how Gramil and other Ravens fans making the trek to the Meadowlands are treated.

Recalling a December 2007 trip to Miami that ended with an overtime loss to a then-winless Dolphins team, Gramil said, "We were heckled pretty badly. When we were walking out, one of their fans said to me, 'You flew all the way from Baltimore for this? Thanks for the early Christmas present.' But it was all in good fun."

Gramil is expecting a different reception from Jets fans, considering what happened when he and some buddies went to a Giants game on the road two years ago.


"If I would pick all the games I've been to on the road, Giants fans were the rudest," said Gramil, whose Ravens road trips also included going to see them play the Dallas Cowboys in the last regular season game at Texas Stadium. "New York fans always think they're the best in everything."

Though the Giants fans celebrated that day, Gramil and his friends were able to remind them which team won Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Fla. at the end of the 2000 season.

With the Ravens opening the season with two straight games away from Baltimore for the first time in franchise history — one of three NFL teams this season to start with back-to-back road games — third-year coach John Harbaugh said after the team's practice Saturday that fan support away from home is much appreciated.

Unlike most of his coaching counterparts, Harbaugh has gone as far as high-fiving the fans sitting close to the field after a number of road wins.

"We have great fans," Harbaugh said." We've got really loyal fans — that's the thing — and our fans show up wherever we're at. They were in San Diego last year; they've been all over the country with us. It makes a big difference. You hear the 'O' on the National Anthem, and you hear them cheering. And sometimes at the end of games, when things are going the way we want them to go, they're the only ones left, and we appreciate that."

The trip to see the opening regular season game at the Jets' new stadium is partly business for Snyder, who has combined his passion for the Ravens and his fledgling social networking company, BMORE Around Town, into a potential gold (or is that purple?) mine.


Snyder, who helped organize a trip for himself and eight friends in a 12-passenger van for road trips to Foxboro, Mass., and Indianapolis for last season's playoff games, advertised for a bus trip to the Meadowlands back in May that also included a tailgate party. The cost of the trip with a game ticket is $329, and $99 for those getting their own tickets. At least three other Baltimore-area groups have also organized bus trips to the game

"I went a month without selling a seat, and the only thing I could think was that I priced it too high," Snyder said. "Right when they started talking about training camp opening, tickets started flying off the shelf. Two or three weeks ago, I sold out the first bus. I put a second bus together and just sold it out."

Each bus has 52 seats.

"Ray Lewis' number," Snyder said. "A good number to put on each bus."

Tickets to the season opener were not hard to find, in part because of an ongoing issue with longtime Jets ticket holders who dropped their season seats after the team had raised the prices for the New Meadowlands Stadium. Two weeks ago, the Jets announced on their website that 2,000 tickets were available to the public The price of the remaining personal seat licenses were also being cut in half.

Tickets to the Jets game are going for between $81 and $1,400 each on Stubhub, with most of the offers on Craigslist around $300 each.


Gramil is making the trek up Interstate 95 for the opener because of the love he has for his hometown team — and his wife, Bree.

The two are expecting their first child next month.

"I usually go to one [regular season] away game a year and my wife's pregnant, she's due October 25," Gramil said before the team's preseason game against the New York Giants.

Fans with a little more flexibility in their personal lives are waiting until later in the season to follow the Ravens on the road.

Dave Wells, a season-ticket holder from Hanover, Pa., joked during training camp that he "got [his] wife's permission" to go with some buddies to the game in Charlotte, N.C., against the Carolina Panthers the week before Thanksgiving.

"I like games later on that can help determine the playoffs," Wells said.


John Middlebrook, who recently returned to Baltimore after living in Switzerland for a couple of years, is trying to figure out if he will go on the road at all this season. His most memorable Ravens road trip came in 2006 when the team played in Denver.

He and his wife went to Mile High Stadium for their 10th anniversary and were joined there by several friends.

"How stupid is that? 'What do you want to do for our anniversary? Let's go to Denver for a Ravens game,'" Middlebrook said as he tailgated before the Giants preseason game. "It was a great time. The fans were cool. It was a great stadium. We lost, which was terrible because we should have won."

And then there's Mike Caldwell of Phoenix, Md., who doesn't want to go to any regular season games, or even the first three weeks of the postseason if the Ravens make it that far.

"Forget the little ones. We're going right to Dallas," Caldwell said as he tailgated the night of the Giants preseason game. "We're going to the Super Bowl."

As it was 10 years ago in Tampa, that would be the ultimate Ravens road trip.


(Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.)

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