Like many die-hard Baltimore football fans, Michael F. Meyer wants to make the trip to the Ravens' playoff game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
But he has a problem: His wife. She wants to go, too. And in two weeks the couple has a costly trip to Cancun, Mexico, planned.
"I can't afford for both of us to go," said Meyer, a 29-year-old sales representative and Ravens season ticket holder. "If I go [to Nashville without her], she would be going to Mexico with someone else."
With their marriage possibly on the line, Meyer and his wife, C. J., will instead reluctantly have a party at their Elkridge home.
But Ravens officials say they expect thousands of loyal fans to begin leaving today on the pilgrimage to Nashville.
By bus, car or plane, fans will make the 600-mile journey in hopes of claiming a seat at the most important football game for Baltimore fans in decades.
Then comes the hard part.
Officials are telling the fans that if they want a ticket into Adelphia Coliseum, the Titans' home stadium, they will have to rely on ticket brokers, scalpers or their temporary archrivals, Titans fans.
And they must be ready to pay.
"We are telling some pretty prominent people that we can't get them tickets - politicians, network anchors, business leaders," said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens' vice president for public relations and marketing.
The winner of the game Sunday advances to the American Football Conference championship game a week later. That game will determine who will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, Jan. 28 in Tampa.
Roy Sommerhoff, director of Ravens ticket operations, said the Ravens-Titans game sold out in 25 minutes. The Ravens organization received only the standard allocation of 500 tickets, which are reserved for players, coaches and staff members, who can buy up to eight tickets each for their families.
"I just don't anticipate any being left over," Sommerhoff said.
He said Ravens headquarters has been flooded with requests from season-ticket holders, sponsors and others.
"Our season-ticket holders know what the situation is and more than likely they have gone and tried to explore the secondary market," Sommerhoff said.
One result has been bidding wars on online auction sites. Ticket brokers, who buy and sell tickets at a profit, say they are being inundated with calls from desperate fans.
"Getting in the door right now is $125. The best seats in the house, at the choice 50-yard line, are $425," said L. T. Schroeder, a manager at AATIX, a ticket broker in Nashville. "As soon as the AFC game between the Ravens and Denver ended, the calls started coming."
John Herz, a ticket broker in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said his company, Frontrow.com, has had "a bunch of Baltimore fans" calling to order tickets. He said he is getting between $175 and $600 per ticket.
Pete Jacobsen, the owner of Executive Tickets in Catonsville, said he has sold about 100 tickets to Ravens fans traveling to Nashville. Jacobsen said tickets have been selling for between $100 and $500. (The face value of the cheapest tickets is $46.)
Jacobsen said fans who have been calling his office for tickets "just want to be there."
"A real fan is going to go no matter what the price is," Herz said.
Carol Pennington, the manager of Inner Harbor Travel, said a hastily arranged trip to Nashville is affordable, except for the football tickets. A round-trip ticket on Southwest Airlines, which has hubs in Baltimore and Nashville, would be $233.50, she said.
Sports talk-show host "Nasty" Nestor Aparicio obtained 182 tickets from a Nashville ticket broker. For between $500 and $700, he offered a package that included round-trip airfare, two nights of lodging and a ticket to the game. All the packages were snatched up within a day, he said.
"This is the big one," said Aparicio, who has taken several road trips with the Ravens this season. "People feed off the excitement. They had such a great time on Sunday, they want more."
Aparicio's group will join other fans at an all-day pep rally tomorrow at Sports Cafe on the Water, a Nashville bar owned by Ravens safety Corey Harris.
Fans who are making the trip with Aparicio said it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I was at the Colts playoff game in 1977 and have never been to an `away' football game and do not even know if I will ever have this chance again," said Paul Charles, 37, of Glen Burnie. "I keep thinking of [former Miami Dolphins quarterback] Dan Marino who only had the chance to go to the Super Bowl one time."
Charles admits, however, that "some bills I wanted to pay off are going to wait another month."
Bobby Nyk, 50, a disc jockey from Columbia, is also making the trip to Nashville, but he does not have a game ticket yet.
"I have plane tickets, but I do not have seats," Nyk said. "But I am confident between now and then I will find enough money to get into the stadium."
If he succeeds, Nyk plans to wear an oversized Ravens helmet. He is plotting how to handle what are expected to be hostile Titans fans.