Cheering "Grey Cup" and "U-S-A," an estimated crowd of 500 fans welcomed home the Eastern Division champion Baltimore CFLs on a dimly lighted cargo lot at BWI Airport last night.
Arriving at the lot on buses, the CFLs immediately were mobbed by rushing fans.
"I never expected this," said defensive end O. J. Brigance while shaking hands with fans. "It's a great feeling to know that we play in such a great football town. I've never experienced anything like this before."
The crowd began forming about 9 p.m., but had to wait 1 1/2 hours in the cold weather before the CFLs arrived. Led by owner Jim Speros, who was holding the Eastern Division championship cup over his head, the entire team walked on a stage as the crowd spelled "Colts."
Although the CFLs stayed only five minutes to address the crowd, most fans seemed to enjoy the rally.
"We bleed blue," said Bill Wheatly, a season-ticket holder who left Ocean City at 6 p.m. with his wife and mother to see the CFLs. "We love this team. We had to come."
The gathering was a combination tailgate party and pep rally.
Fans cheered with the CFLs' dance team and sang the Colts' fight song along with the Baltimore Colts' Band in anticipation of the CFLs' arrival. Others passed the time by lining the fences with signs that read "Beasts of the East," "Bring home the cup" and "B.C. Bound."
"We supported them as die-hard fans all year, so today was nothing different," said Tim Miller of Linthicum, who made a "Go Colts" banner out of a bedsheet. "I would have come even if they lost. I'm just proud of what they accomplished this year. I wouldn't have cared if the team finished at .500; we just love football."
While some fans wanted to show their support, others saw an opportunity to get autographs. People had the CFLs sign shirts, posters and caps.
"I've gone to all the games and never seen them up close," said Mark Wilson of Towson, who had 15 players' signatures on his Grey Cup poster. "Coming here makes you feel like you're part of the team."