Hate to say it, aversion here to 'Skins is unrivaled in D.C.

July 28, 2000|By Mike Preston

ASHBURN, Va. - The Baltimore Ravens-Washington Redskins rivalry is only in the psyche of Baltimore football fans.

Washingtonians don't care about the Ravens. They hate the Dallas Cowboys or the New York Giants with a passion. Though most Ravens fans can name prominent members of the Redskins, such as Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Brad Johnson or Darrell Green, Redskins fans would be hard-pressed to name a Raven other than linebacker Ray Lewis, he of Headline News and Court TV fame this spring.

"I know Ray Lewis and [Ravens running back] Jamal Lewis," said Redskins supporter Kevin Krom, 37, of Fairfax, Va. "Who is their quarterback these days? Harbaugh."

Oh, silly rabbit. Everyone knows it's Stoney Case.

Krom's response is sheer ignorance, but it's probably interpreted in Baltimore as smugness. Or arrogance.

How dare he?

"Washington is about as far from Baltimore as north is from south," said Dawn Muscato, 32, a Ravens fan and computer programmer from Glen Burnie. "The atmospheres are different, so is the attitude. Washington is the transplant capital of the world. That's why they have bandwagon fans. Everyone in Baltimore was pretty much born and raised here. Washington fans don't hate us, because they feel they are superior, that we're blue-collar, not as sophisticated as them."

Baltimore will never escape its blue-collar roots. General Motors and Bethlehem Steel may not be the moneymaking factors they once were, but the children of parents who worked there are the breadwinners now. They still remember.

Plus, Baltimore fans have always had an inferiority complex. They cherish the underdog role. Ravens fans can't get that in the AFC Central because cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore are too much alike in grit and work ethic.

But Washington is different.

"They consider us second-class," said Kathy Johns, 42, of Perry Hall. "They don't even consider us enough to even hate."

That's true, even if you say their stadium, with its burgundy-and-gold color scheme, looks like a giant McDonald's Playland.

Or that the only player to steal more money and play less than vagabond tight end Eric Green in the past two to three years is Sanders.

Or that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is really Peter Angelos South.

"We don't hate anybody. We're not player-haters," said Phil Lewis, 33, a D.C. postal worker. "The Ravens fans and their team is not a matchup for the Redskins."

They don't player-hate, but they don't back down, either.

"They never got over the Colts," said Bob Weatherwax, a Redskins booster for 25 years. "I have good friends who were Colts fans, and they always hated the Redskins. They hated them because we liked them so much. I think Baltimore fans have always had a big chip on their shoulder about the Redskins."

Said Scott Bonesteel, 24, a student at George Mason: "They are jealous they didn't have a football team for so many years and because we're better than the Ravens." Ravens fans said the hatred intensified after the Colts left in 1984 and the Redskins tried to move into the Baltimore market. They say the team was forced upon them.

"I guess it started way back when the Colts played the Redskins," said Dave Kryglik, 52, of Ravens Roost No. 5 in Dundalk. `There was a lot of frustration when the Colts left town, so why not take it out on Washington? [Late Redskins owner] Jack Kent Cooke absolutely had a bearing on our hatred by trying to make the Redskins our team and then blocking an expansion team from moving here."

Uh-oh, reason No. 99 to hate the Redskins. During the expansion derby, Cooke felt the Baltimore-Washington area was one market and helped block the league from putting an expansion team in Baltimore.

The two teams went to Jacksonville and Carolina in the early 1990s. "He [Cooke] was a smart businessman," Weatherwax said. "It's the same way Peter Angelos is blocking Washington from getting a baseball team."

To which Ravens faithful Tresa Melvin, 33, replies: "Again, they are so close, but so bold and so brazen."

Baltimore's attitudes will never change about the Redskins. The fans grow up hating them. It's a reason to live.

And even if Baltimoreans can't get the mutual respect of hate, they at least have the satisfaction of knowing the Ravens were the first team to beat Washington, 20-17, in 1997, at home in McDonald's Playland.

"Luck, it was luck," said John Ward, 23, a sports medicine major at George Mason.

"Yeah, I remember that," Phil Lewis said. "That's why we got to do it to Baltimore. They are the first team to beat us in the new stadium."

Finally, some respect.

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