Birds of a feather Sports: A look at their stats reveals that Orioles and Ravens fans aren't as different as the old yuppie-vs.-rowdy stereotypes would lead us to believe.

September 26, 1998|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

One of the first things they tell you in journalism school is to avoid sweeping generalizations, since they often prove to be inaccurate at best and patently offensive at worst.

Aw, what the hell ...

Snap profile of an Orioles fan: Spends half the game on his cell phone yakking with his broker. Wine-sipper. Gucci-tassel-loafer-wearer. Doesn't want to get on the opposing team too loudly, lest others in his section put down their Wall Street Journals and turn around and stare.

If he's in a luxury box, he's raking a shrimp the size of your thumb through cocktail sauce while asking his buddies: "Which one's Cal Ripken again?"

Snap profile of a Ravens fan: What's Sunday breakfast without shotgunning a couple of Buds? Likes to be the fat guy with the purple "V" painted on his gut when he and his buddies line up shirtless in 25-degree weather to spell out R-A-V-E-N-S.

Lifelong dream: To own a tank top for every day of the week.

If he's in a luxury box (God forbid), has to be reminded not to relieve himself on the carpet.

Boy, it feels good, stereotyping!

Of course, the truth about the essential nature of Ravens and Orioles fans is another matter altogether, as veteran observers delight in pointing out.

"The fans are incredibly similar," says Ravens vice president for marketing and sales David Cope, who was director of marketing and advertising for the Orioles in the early '90s. "The same people entertaining [clients] for business purposes at Camden Yards are going with their friends to Ravens games Sunday."

Cope appears to be on the mark. On closer examination, this business of bloodless Chardonnay snobs clapping like an opera audience after a towering Rafael Palmeiro homer, or a gritty blue-collar mob howling over a head-snapping Ray Lewis tackle, seems vastly overstated.

In fact, the demographic evidence suggests both Ravens and Orioles fans tend to be:

Upscale -- In a Ravens survey of season-ticket holders, 50 percent of the respondents reported an annual household income of over $75,000. In a survey given to potential corporate partners, 57 percent of Orioles season-ticket holders had an annual household income of $50,000 or more.

Well-educated -- Of Ravens season-ticket holders, 72 percent had a college and/or graduate degree; a 1996 study indicated 70 percent of O's fans had attained a similar education level.

Not exactly party-animal age -- Of Ravens season-ticket holders, 68 percent are ages 35-54; 66 percent of Orioles fans are ages 31-50.

Somewhat fully evolved, gender-wise -- The Ravens report that 45 percent of their in-stadium fans are women; the Orioles say 42 percent of their fans are women.

What it really comes down to is this: The differences between Ravens and Orioles fans have more to do with the sports they follow -- and the way those sports are watched -- than any other factors.

Baseball, with its leisurely, 162-game season, is a game to be savored. Baseball is hot summer nights, peanuts and Crackerjacks, nuance and strategy, no clock, shooting the breeze in the stands with your dad.

"Baseball is the generations looping backward forever with a million apparitions of sticks and balls ... the profound archaic song of birth, growth, age and death," wrote the poet Donald Hall.

Football is 16 games, just eight at home. Football is smash-mouth. Football is war: the ground attack, the blitz, striking through the air, the Red Zone -- you pick the metaphor. Sixty minutes in the killing fields. Every game is Armageddon.

"I'm still getting adjusted to the importance and intensity of one single football game -- it's unbelievable," says Cope, in his third year with the Ravens.

Ravens fan or Orioles fan, each celebrates the game in a unique fashion. Some more, um, unique than others.

Planning is everything

The RV squats on the side of a quiet, tree-lined street in Catonsville, outside a tidy white Cape Cod with green shutters.

You can't miss this RV. If you miss it, you should probably schedule a CAT scan, because this is a 25-foot-long, 1976 Dodge Tioga painted purple, black and gold, with a huge, menacing, black bird clutching a football helmet on two sides.

This -- the Cape Cod, not the RV -- is the home of Paul Adams, 28, a human resources manager for ADT Security Services. Adams, as you may have gathered, is a huge Ravens' fan. The RV belongs to Adams and his buddies, two sets of brothers: Greg Mayer, 27, and Brad Mayer, 23, and Rob Ferrer, 27, and Rick Ferrer, 28.

Hey, you show up at a Ravens game in a tired Jeep Wrangler if you want; Adams and his friends, all season ticket holders, wanted to go in style. So they bought the RV for $1,500, gutted the interior, and put $5,000 worth of renovations into this baby.

Now it has wall-to-wall purple carpeting, black leather couches, two huge Cerwin-Vega speakers, an Onkyo tape deck, and a cab spray-painted a tasteful chrome, for a spaceship-like theme. The bathtub doubles as a beer cooler.

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