Some fans donned their finest plumage for gala event $15 parking no deterrent to night of celebration

August 04, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

He came, he saw, he squawked.

Hamid Qayyum celebrated Baltimore's return to the NFL yesterday from the back of a pickup truck, with his body covered in black makeup and feathers extending down both arms for makeshift wings. Among the accessories were black shorts, sandals and sunglasses, which went nicely with the word "Go" painted in white letters on his chest.

The Ravens were making their preseason debut, and Qayyum, 27, of Baltimore had dressed for the occasion.

Most of his friends, Loyola College graduates like himself, took a more subtle approach to offering support for the Ravens, removing their shirts and painting a single letter on their chests that spelled out the team's name when they stood together. There also was a companion who came dressed as Batman, explaining that a Raven "is my sister bird," but nobody could upstage Qayyum.

"It took me about an hour to do this," he said. "I used to come to the Colts games back in the '70s with my dad. I was skeptical that we'd get another team until I got my season ticket stuff. Then, we were ready to go."

But not until touching up his makeup.

"I'll do this until it gets cold," he said.

Dan Callahan, 30, of Woodlawn, arrived at the stadium with his friends shortly before 4 p.m. They didn't bring a Ravens costume, though the price of parking was enough to ruffle a few feathers.

"It's well worth 15 dollars," Callahan said sarcastically, looking down at the asphalt. "These spots are worth at least 30 bucks."

Callahan and his friends already had shelled out $55 apiece for their seats, which they hoped would have put them closer to the middle of the field, rather than the end zone. But they weren't complaining. It surely beat the alternative -- watching games at home each weekend.

"We have no choice," said George Watson, 28, of Dundalk, after tallying up how much money his group had spent. "We've been crying for 10 years about not having football. Then what are you supposed to do, say 'Just kidding?' "

The signs warning against tailgating in the parking lots didn't appear to be taken seriously. Vehicles sat with their trunks open, exposing coolers filled with beer and sodas. People stood with cans and bottles in hand, and were given a friendly warning from police -- stash away the goods in 10 minutes or risk getting a citation.

"I don't think it's fair," said Larry Mishenko, 46, of Abingdon, whose drive to the stadium was delayed about a half-hour because of an accident on I-95. "Tailgating and football go hand in hand."

Not that he had any regrets about coming. "This game is a history-making event," he said. "It's pretty exciting. You save your ticket, you buy a program."

And, if you're Charlie Schirmer, you don't fret when your seats are in the last row in the back of the end zone.

"I'm actually pleasantly surprised," said Schirmer, 53, of Overlea, who brought his son, John Schirmer, 32, just as he did when the Colts were still here. "The people down there don't look as small as I thought they would."

Schirmer said the Colts' leaving for Indianapolis 12 years ago was for the better. "[Owner] Robert Irsay wasn't going to put a good team on the field consistently," he said. "I was here when the crowds were dwindling."

His son was in Cleveland last year for the Browns' home opener, and couldn't escape the irony of watching the team re-born as the Ravens. "That stadium was falling apart," he said, "but the support was there."

Support, yes, but not a lot of victories.

"I think they'll be a wild-card team this year," said Nick Moran, 27, of Rosedale. "They're in a weak division, and it's not like this is an expansion team."

Charlie Schirmer isn't concerned with how many games the Ravens win -- not yet, anyway. "This year, I don't care. When you get a franchise like this, you give it a couple years grace period," he said.

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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