Festive send-off to Super Bowl

Inner Harbor turns purple as Ravens leave for Tampa

January 23, 2001|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

A purple mass of thousands of trash-talking, sign-waving Ravens fans woofed like dogs and stomped until the ground trembled at the Inner Harbor yesterday in a raucous Super Bowl send-off for the team.

"What time is it?" Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis bellowed at the crowd.

"Game time!" responded the faithful, frenzied fans.

"Are the dogs in the house?" Lewis continued.

"Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!" they chanted.

"We're going to win the Super Bowl, baby!" Lewis screamed, egging on the crowd that needed no pumping up.

The fans - many of whom ignored work for a few hours yesterday - piled into the Harborplace Amphitheater and packed the second levels of the Pratt and Light Street pavilions to give the team a proper send-off to Tampa. On a purple carpet, of course.

The "purple and black nation" (as fans call themselves) began assembling as early as 7 a.m., 4 1/2 hours before the team arrived and brought traffic to a standstill. Baltimore's Office of Promotions estimated the crowd at 25,000.

For many, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the closest they'll get to the big game. A chance to finally root for a winning team.

They dressed their pets in purple feather boas. They dyed their hair purple. They painted their bodies purple.

"I bleed purple," said Paul Webber, 27, a Fells Point musician who lives in Canton.

Perhaps no Ravens fan was more excited than Webber, who believes Sunday might bring paybacks for a debt long overdue.

He swears on his life that starting Giants quarterback Kerry Collins stole his high school sweetheart in Pennsylvania at a Christmas dance in 1991.

He wants Collins to get his comeuppance and thinks the Ravens can settle the score.

"Oh my God, it's great," Webber said. "I've been on a high since we got in the playoffs."

He said that for five years, every time Collins is sacked, he has downed a purple-colored shot at a tavern on Eastern Avenue. He wants to be drunk Sunday.

A friendly act

As Webber was standing in the crowd, he caught a man out of the corner of his eye wearing - of all detestable things - a wool Redskins hat.

He pleaded with the man: "At least turn it inside out."

When he complied, Webber told the stranger: "I love you, man."

For those who didn't have a grudge against any Giants players, the Festivus Maximus rally was a way to show love for Baltimore, which has gotten national attention since the homicide total sank to fewer than 300 last year and the football team shot through the playoffs.

"We need to take a lesson from the Ravens," Mayor Martin O'Malley told the crowd.

"We showed the rest of the world what Baltimore's about: persistence and resistance and being the best," he said.

The mayor, who is riding the crest of the purple wave, filmed a series of tongue-in-cheek, "trash talkin'" Super Bowl promotional spots Sunday for national television.

Team owner Art Modell, coach Brian Billick, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger and U.S. Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski were also at the rally, standing on the purple stage beneath purple lights.

"It's about having the best team, the best owner, the best coach, the best fans in the world," Glendening said.

Billick assured the fans they were "truly the 12th man." As if anyone had a doubt.

And Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe told them: "Next Sunday about 9 p.m., get ready to celebrate, because we'll be world champions."

A splash of purple

Then a cloud of confetti shot into the air and floated down like purple rain.

As it landed on fans' heads, it blended with the scores of purple-colored manes there.

One of them, belonging to 20-year-old Jennifer Trombetta, will remain that way for three to six weeks, she said.

She had it dyed at the J.C. Penney styling salon in White Marsh for $30 because she knew her Ravens-crazy boyfriend would like it.

"Looks good. Shows spirit," Mike Walsh, 22, said as he caressed her locks.

The purple may have been too much to handle for some people yesterday.

A black sport utility vehicle was in a crash involving a Ravens bus and a police cruiser as the Ravens motorcade was bound for the airport about noon on Interstate 395. The bus carried no Ravens players, but members of the team support staff were aboard.

The police cruiser was crushed against a concrete barrier. The officer later complained of back pain.

Lingering festivities

After the crash, and after the players left the Inner Harbor, throngs of people remained for a while, to savor the spirit.

Three of them, siblings Ida Esposito, 83, Lena Palmer, 78 and Frank Cipolloni, 76, came to the rally from Little Italy and stood for a while, taking in the scene.

The three are big fans and say they never miss a game on television.

"I pray for them; I always pray for them," Eposito said. "I always say, `Goose [defensive tackle Tony Siragusa], don't fall on anyone and hurt them.'"

Her sister, bundled up in a thick winter coat, said she needed a rest after screaming all day.

"I've never seen anything this big. It's really great, believe me. It does your heart good," Palmer said. "We've never used our voices like we did today. I need another bowl of soup."

Sun staff writers Peter Hermann and Michael Ollove contributed to this article.

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