They're cravin' a Raven 'Asylum' Fan club: A bar owner looks to start a tradition rooting on the NFL team at Memorial Stadium.

August 20, 1996|By Kevin Langbaum | Kevin Langbaum,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Before the Ravens took the field Saturday night for their second home preseason game, a dozen women dressed like cheerleaders walked along Memorial Stadium's lower level, holding gold and purple signs spelling out the word "Asylum."

They followed "Heavy J," a man with a purple- and black-painted face and wearing a Ravens T-shirt with "Maniac" painted across his large belly, before settling in their seats behind the closed end-zone seats.

They seemed a bit of a mystery Saturday, but if the man who

was behind it all has his way, they will soon be a well-known bunch.

They are members of the Raven-Maniacs, the brainchild of Baltimorean Ray Petty and represent one of the fan clubs that have been created to support the new team in town.

"People will know who the Raven-Maniacs are and where the Asylum is," said Petty, the owner of Big Ray's Sidepocket Saloon in Highlandtown. "That's our goal, to be a national icon."

The Asylum is the group's 200-seat cluster in lower sections 40, 41, 1, 2 and 3 behind the south end zone, where members of the Raven-Maniacs wave their yellow and purple towels. Fifty bars have joined the group, and Petty has trademarked the name in Maryland.

And plans for expansion are under way.

Another group of Raven-Maniacs set up a tent on 33rd Street before Saturday's game. The groups are separate and caused some confusion for fans Saturday. Petty said he has talked with Bill Palo, who runs the other Raven-Maniacs group and said he holds a federal trademark on the name, and the two may merge.

"This thing is really getting bigger than I ever thought it would," Petty said.

The new team does not necessarily mean the founding of new fan organizations. The Ravens Roost was founded as the Colt Corral in 1957 and existed in some form through the years of the Colts, the USFL's Baltimore Stars and the CFL Stallions.

"We've been very, very involved with anything and everything," said Jim Phillips of Hagerstown, the president of the Council of Baltimore Ravens. His involvement in the Colt Corral dates back to 1963.

There are 24 Ravens Roosts in Baltimore and the surrounding area, and more are being considered. Their seats are scattered throughout Memorial Stadium, but Phillips said a deposit has been made for a group of seats at the new stadium.

As the Colt Corral, and now the Ravens Roosts, the groups have emphasized charity work in their almost 40 years of existence. The Corral continued to hold meetings and banquets when there was no NFL team in Baltimore. Each Roost has its own charity and scholarship fund, in addition to the donations by the Ravens Roost club in general, Phillips said.

The team has chosen not to endorse any fan club as the team's official support group, said David Cope, Ravens vice president for marketing. After the team has completed its transition to Baltimore, it may adopt an existing group or create a new one as the team's official fan club, Cope said.

"We didn't want to dictate what these fan clubs were. We wanted to let them grow from the ground up," Cope said. "You can't ignore the support these groups are trying to give the club."

Ravens owner Art Modell, who has had nothing but praise for the fans here since he moved the team, welcomes the fan clubs.

"I'm very thrilled with the reception we've been given," Modell said. "It's a positive to have booster clubs in the town.

"We need a chance to get established, but certainly by the time we're in Camden Yards we'll have a whole program going to encourage the formation of Ravens Nests."

Pub Date: 8/20/96

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