These are the kinds of complaints it’s fun to have: it’s late September, and the O’s are making a glorious late-season bid for the playoffs, while the football season is getting underway. Purple Friday has long been a traditional way for Ravens fans to show support for their team… but then Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for “Orange Friday,” too. So how is a dedicated Baltimore sports fan supposed to display his/her team spirit? Why, with an exciting purple/orange outfit, of course. Some suggestions and fashion tips below:
Tag: baltimore ravens
This story ran its course pretty quickly. Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo’s visible support of gay marriage in Maryland caught the attention of Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., who wrote a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti on August 29 asking him to “inhibit such expressions from [his] employee.”
Were you one of the 70,567 fans lucky enough to go to the August 17 preseason game between the Ravens and the Detroit Lions? If so, you got to see a dispiriting 27-12 loss. Oh, and you might have been exposed to rabies, too.
On Saturday, 90 Ravens cheerleader finalists — male and female, culled from over 300 original competitors — auditioned for roughly 60 spots on the squad. Many were returning vets. Men tried out for “stunt” performance only, while women could strut their dance and/or stunt skills. Callback event happened loud and proud, before a paying 500-person crowd ($20 a ticket) at the Lyric Opera House. Fourteen “local celebrity judges” were on hand, including Ravens legend/TV personality Qadry Ismail. Spying the busy coverage in The Baltimore Sun got me pondering the value of performing as a cheerleader as an adult — I mean, I never saw the sense in the silly pastime when I was a kid. Growing up in Texas, cheerleading capital of the universe, I saw the sport as viciously competitive and snobby. Girls who secured a spot on the varsity or JV squad became the royalty of the huge school; they set the standard for looks and decided who fit into the larger popular crowd and who absolutely did not gain admission to keg parties in the woods.
After more patient research, I find myself hot-curler-ing a twist into my post’s narrative, a post that I first imagined would involve poking easy fun at these mostly blond and built, typically plainspoken + hyper-chipper gals. Sure, mainstream cheerleading will always sign up beauty and grace of the capital-C Conventional variety (though Cheer Coordinator Tina Galdieri promised she’s looking for beauty, brains, and skill, all three). But the Ravens cheer candidates I’ve recently videoed and read more closely about all come across as mature, realistic adults who are rather humbly passionate about both the Ravens’ team spirit and the joy of fitness. Many of the performers (blond/built/overly made-up included) are married people in their late 20s and early 30s, with kids to care for, and on top of that, full-time jobs to manage. (Full-time employment, full-time stay-at-home-parent status or full-time college enrollment is a requirement, as the Ravens pay cheerleaders only about $100 per game, though squad members can earn money through public appearances, according to About.com). A quick aside: In 2005, Molly Shattuck famously became the oldest Ravens mom-with-pompom at 38.
Yesterday’s Ravens/Steelers game started out with a message of unity — it was, after all, the tenth anniversary of 9/11. We all stood for Taps, paid more than the usual amount of attention for the Star Spangled Banner, then oohed and aahed as fighter jets screamed by overhead.
And then the football started. According to an opinionated man in the nosebleed section with me, there were fewer scuffles between players “because of today.” It still looked pretty brutal out there, though. After one nefarious move by Pittsburgh, everyone in my section started shouting “Steelers SUCK, Steelers SUCK!” One sincere-looking guy tried to switch it to “USA! USA!” but that didn’t really work. Resentment trumps nationalism, at least when it comes to football.
But it was hard to stay cynical when the Ravens were rocking it so hard. And the upside of having a long and sometimes miserable rivalry is that other times, you get to triumph. All those silly outfits seem worth it.
And on the hot, crowded light rail home from the game, no one was grouchy; we were even nice to the Steelers fan who tried to shove his way on the overstuffed car. After all, we felt kind of sorry for him.
It was the best of times at the tailgate party outside of the stadium, it was the bratwurst of times. It was the season of football, it was the season of–well, more football. It was the summer of despair (about potential lockouts), then it was the autumn of hope, and only then the winter of despair (about inevitable playoff losses).
But who needs Dickens when you can have Roddenberry? Have you ever seen that episode of “Star Trek” where these two groups of people just hate each other because one is white on the right side of their bodies and black on the left side, while the other is black on the right and white on the left? Pretty silly of them to wage all-out war with one another over such a minor difference, right?
But if one group of people were black on one side of their bodies and gold on the other side, and the second group black and purple? Ah, then it would all make sense. In that case, who could blame these mortal enemies for fighting to destroy each other?
At least that’s what we have to tell ourselves. The NFL season is just around the corner, and the first game of the regular season pits your beloved Baltimore Ravens against the dastardly, villainous, and altogether evil Steelers–the football representatives of that backwater, culture-free, hillbilly-infested town located so many light years away from Baltimore. Or at least 196 miles, as the Raven flies; but who’s counting?
Of course, to Captain Kirk, there was no meaningful difference between his two black-and-white guests on the Enterprise. But to those with a truly discerning eye, these two cities must seem terribly, terribly different.
For example, one was built on a foundation of heavy industry, but has a future focused on high tech startups and medical discoveries. Its past was shaped by its role as a crucial shipping port and rail center, with centuries of immigration and influx bringing wave after wave of people into a uniquely dynamic American melting pot–even if it didn’t always melt so well along neighborhood boundaries and across ethnic divides.
That city today is home to a surprisingly vibrant arts scene, highbrow and underground alike. Yet it can boast that it’s one of the most “livable” cities in America. It’s occasionally overshadowed by larger urban centers nearby, but has a justified sense of slightly parochial pride–paired, paradoxically enough, with a humility that borders on a clinical inferiority complex.
And the other city is Baltimore.
The parallels don’t stop there. People in both places talk funny, with an accent that’s a strange and fascinating blend of mixed European basenotes, East Coast pace, and Appalachian twang. Whether its Bawlmerese or Pittsburghese, both populations can agree that a week down the ocean is the best way to spend summer vacation, hun. Even if yinz go down the Jersey Shore instead of down Ocean City if you’re from da Burgh.
And what should these people talk about incessantly other than their sports teams? Especially the hard-hitting, downright ferocious defenses on their lunch-pail-toting local football teams. Better that than wasting breath on their downtrodden, long-suffering baseball teams. The ones that before being run into the ground by bad management recently, and starting to turn a corner even more recently, just happened to link up with each other in not one, but two World Series, three and four decades ago. No, better to spend time talking about the football teams, who just happen to link up twice a year, every year, and in two of the last three postseasons.
Familiarity breeds contempt, it’s true. And even if one place has harbors and another has rivers, these two places are about as familiar as it gets. They are, for lack of a better cliché, two blue-collar cities “separated” by a common heritage, common language, and common pastime on Sundays each fall.
Myron Cope was a Pittsburgh sports icon who served as comic relief on Steelers’ radio broadcasts, but the clowning was an act. He was a gifted sportswriter who provided many memorable stories for Sports Illustrated when it meant something to write for that publication. Once he wrote about the time in the 1930s that Pitt and Fordham battled to a scoreless tie each year for an incredible three football seasons in a row. He famously related that to what he chalked up as the old saying, “playing a tie is like kissing your sister.”
Well, pucker up Baltimore. Football season is upon you once again, and your first guests are those no good, dirty Steelers from that municipality so incredibly like your own you can’t even see the similarities.
Matt Wood is a Pittsburgh native living in Washington, DC, and won’t even remind you who won those two World Series or those last two playoff games.