Frozen fans are all fired up

Party time: Thousands painted their faces and drank libations to celebrate the return of football playoffs to Baltimore.

January 01, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

With a fervor not seen since the glory days of the Colts, a record crowd converged on PSINet Stadium yesterday to declare that as much as fans cherish Baltimore's football past, they are looking toward the future.

And they haven't forgotten how to party.

The boisterous crowd of 69,638, a record at PSINet, braved biting winds to do what National Football League fans seem to think they are supposed to do:

Drink. Eat. Hassle fans of the opposing team. Wear wacky clothes. Drink some more.

"Baltimore is back with the football," said Kenneth Franklin, 30, of West Baltimore. "We are here to stay."

Many of the fans yesterday said they did not remember the last Baltimore playoff football team, but those who did said they were impressed with yesterday's daylong party.

"I think they learned," said Britt Kirby, 45, who was at the Colts playoff game in 1977. "The city really has gotten around the Ravens and turned it into what we used to have with the Colts."

Yesterday, thousands of fans ate almost anything that can be cooked on a grill and drank beer and hard liquor as early as 7:30 a.m.

Police appeared to be unable or unwilling to enforce laws against open containers as throngs of beer drinkers walked through the streets around the stadium and Federal Hill.

Vendors were selling products such as Ray Lewis Hot Sauce. And fans such as Tom Kelly were showing off the product of six months' work: the conversion of a rusting Volkswagen Beetle into a purple Ravensmobile.

"It should not have been done for another three months, but I wanted to bring it down here for the playoffs," said Kelly, who is from Hydes. "This car was a rust bucket."

Kelly spent $10,000 fixing the 1967 Beetle and equipping it with a television, seats, curtains and a stuffed Raven that is perched on top.

Kelly and other fans said the enthusiasm is their way to thank the people who made yesterday's playoff win possible.

They wanted to thank Art Modell, who moved the team to the city from Cleveland. They wanted to thank city and state leaders who fought to build a new stadium. And, most of all, they wanted to thank the players for their winning record.

"Now we have to be recognized whether they like it or not," said Shirlee Cohen, 57, from Jessup. "You have to know the history of what we went through to get here."

The message was much the same in Federal Hill, where hundreds of people crammed the streets and caused business at local bars to surge.

Dick Leitch, the owner of Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood in the Cross Street Market, said his business was 75 percent higher than a typical Ravens home game.

"It usually does not get busy until noon on game day, but my boss came to open at 9:30 and there was a line at the door," said Colleen Moonan, a Nick's bar tender. "They are wild and out of control, but everybody is in a good mood and they are good tippers."

Several hundred patrons also flocked to Mother's Federal Hill Grille for the establishment's "Purple Patio" parking lot party. Dave C. Rather said the party went well despite his continuing battle with city zoning officials who are trying to close the event.

"I do it for the love of the Ravens and the love of football," said Rather, who had his face painted purple and was wearing a plastic purple hard hat.

The celebration only intensified inside the stadium -- except for Rob Thayer from Centreville.

Thayer -- who was one of the few Denver Broncos fans inside the stadium yesterday -- left his seat to roam the concession area after the Ravens scored their first touchdown.

Thayer, 31, said Baltimore fans were harassing him.

"I ain't going back to my seat until Denver scores," said Thayer, who grew up in Nebraska. "I look at all the purple and feel like an idiot wearing orange."

Jason Kubilius, 25, of White Marsh, was also wandering through the concession area. Kubilius, who said he began drinking beer at 9 a.m., had a sign hung around his neck with his name and address so somebody could take him home if he passed out.

"I answer to the name Jason. ... Cab fare is in the back pocket," he had written on the sign.

Ravens players said they were buoyed by the enthusiasm raining down on them from the stands.

"The sound was deafening," said guard Edwin Mulitalo. "We drew on the emotion of the crowd."

Said offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden: "The towels were going and people were screaming. They were a great 12th man."

Lt. J. Charles Gutberlet III, from the Baltimore Police Department, said that despite the raucous crowd, there were fewer problems than during a regular season game.

Gutberlet said 10 people were ejected from the stadium, down from an average of 15 to 20 fans.

Three people were also arrested -- two of them after they ran onto the field -- including a fan who assaulted a police officer who was attempting to eject him for drunken behavior, Gutberlet said.

The fan, who was not identified, was charged with assaulting an officer and disorderly conduct. The officer was not injured.

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