Car flags are a beacon for the purple-hearted

January 25, 2001|By Kevin Cowherd

TELL ME something: When did the streets of this town start to look like something out of "The Road Warrior"?

With the Ravens in the Super Bowl, is it a law now that every car has to fly a Ravens flag?

It must be, because everywhere you look, people are zipping around with purple flags attached to their windows. You see them on humble Dodge Neons and $80,000 Mercedes sedans, on pickup trucks and Land Rovers, on Volkswagen Beetles (there's a sight) and 18-wheelers - even on police cars.

The other afternoon on the JFX, a late-model BMW zoomed up on me with four flags flying, one from each corner of the car.(By the way, what is it with Beemer owners? Do they only sell these cars to jerks? When you pick up your new car at a BMW dealership, they must hand you the keys and say: "OK, now go out there and drive like an idiot. Make sure you tailgate and weave in and out of lanes and really tick people off.")

I'll tell you how out-of-control this whole Ravens flag business has gotten: They're even putting them on minivans.

Let's face it: It's hard to make a minivan look cool.

I have a Mazda MPV, for instance, and as soon as I get behind the wheel, I automatically look like Dagwood Bumstead. I could be wearing my cool shades, my leather jacket, Third Eye Blind could be blaring from the CD player - it doesn't matter.

People see you in a minivan and automatically think: Scout leader.

Or they think: "Oh, look, it's the nice man who's come to fix our dishwasher."

But you put a couple of Ravens flags in each window and even a minivan can look cool.

Well, cooler, anyway.

OK, not as dorky as usual.

Actually, these Ravens flags are tailor-made for a vehicle like Dave Jemellaro's '98 Ford F-150 pickup.

Jemellaro, 32, of Parkville, is a big Ravens fan. His dark red F-150 is currently sporting two Ravens flags, one that he bought for himself and one he "borrowed" from his wife Dawn's Honda Civic.

Jemellaro is a friendly, clean-cut-looking guy. But when he drives down the road in his pickup, flags fluttering in the breeze, he looks sort of menacing.

Which is the whole point, of course. If you're a football fan and you're trying to make a statement about your team, you don't want to look wimpy doing it.

Luckily, there's not much chance of that when you're flying twin flags with a fierce bird depicted on each. Now, if your team's mascot was a daffodil or a unicorn or something, OK, you've got major problems in the menacing department.

"I just like the way the flags look," said Jemellaro, who bought his two weeks ago, putting him slightly ahead of the curve in terms of when most Ravens fans first began flying their colors.

In any event, for those overnight entrepreneurs springing up everywhere to sell Ravens merchandise, the flags are huge sellers.

Yesterday morning, I stopped at a tent selling Ravens stuff at the corner of York and Ridgely roads in Timonium. Despite the bright sunshine outside, Justin Germaine, the lone vendor present, shivered in the early morning chill.

At the entrance of the tent was a box of Ravens flags, maybe 25 in all. The flags were selling for 14 bucks apiece, which is cheap. (I've seen them for as high as $18 and reports are they're selling for as little as $7 at some area supermarkets. )

"Are the car flags your most popular items?" I asked Germaine.

"Oh, definitely," he said. "We're selling maybe 100 a day."

Germaine's tent had only been open a few minutes, but already a man who had pulled up in a maroon Oldsmobile was buying four flags. This, Germaine said, would be repeated all day long.

As I left the tent and headed south on York Road, a news report I'd seen on a local TV station the night before came to mind.

The report said the flags have become so popular - and so scarce, in many places - that people were actually starting to steal them off of cars.

Bring your flags in at night, the police were warning people, and for a moment I wondered if we had all gone stark raving mad over this Ravens team.

Then a car cut me off right near the Krispy Kremes store - it was a BMW, naturally - and I had other things to worry about.

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