Baltimore's game time

January 28, 2001|By William Donald Schaefer

IT'S BEEN 30 years since the people of Baltimore came together to celebrate a Super Bowl victory. I was the mayor of Baltimore when the Baltimore Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V on Jan. 17, 1971. Like many of you, I have seldom been prouder of our city.

Football is as much a part of Baltimore culture as painted screens, formstone and club basements -- many of which have become shrines to the Colts or the Ravens. Now the people of Baltimore are once again coming together to celebrate our city's return to the Super Bowl. This time it's the Ravens who are taking on the New York Giants instead of the Colts, and I am comptroller of Maryland instead of the mayor of Baltimore.

I guess that as comptroller I should discuss the economic benefits that the Ravens bring to Baltimore and the exposure that the Super Bowl brings to the city. And, of course, I could talk about the boost in retail sales and tax revenues as fans purchase goods and services from Baltimore-area stores. These are important to a Super Bowl team.

But what matters just as much is something that money can't buy. What I'm talking about is pride and love for a city that more Marylanders still call home than any other place -- Baltimore.

At one time, Baltimore's pride was the Colts and Johnny Unitas who was the link between a generation of parents and children. Many of the Colt players, like my friends Jim Mutscheller, Tom Matte and Artie Donovan, made us proud each Sunday at 2 p.m. at "The World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum."

These cheers were led by the No. 1 Colts fan, Hurst "Loudy" Loudenslager. And when the game was over, the players went home to houses purchased in our communities. They, too, were proud to call Baltimore "home." They invested in our city, starting businesses that we all came to enjoy -- places like Ameche's, Gino's, Colt Lanes and Johnny Unitas' Golden Arm.

In the off-season, we may have even had a Colt player working next to us at our jobs. They may have been our guests at the Colts Corral meetings or helped to raise money for the Baltimore Colts Marching Band. This bond between fans and players made it important to me to return the National Football League to the city of Baltimore.

Well, Baltimore is back in the NFL. The people of Maryland will be rooting for their team, the Baltimore Ravens, in Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens have enmeshed themselves in the fabric of Baltimore. They have brought our entire community together.

Fans in places like Hamilton, Hampden, Druid Hill and Waverly as well as Oakland, Owings Mills and Ocean City will meet at one another's homes, wear their purple and black and cheer for Trent Dilfer, Tony Siragusa, Jamal Lewis and Chris McAlister.

Folks walking down the street are not strangers -- they are fellow Ravens fans. All we have to say is "Go Ravens" and we have made a friend. The Ravens have brought families together. Today's parents take their children with them to Ravens events just as their parents once took them to Colts events.

Our Colts Corrals are now Ravens Roosts and Ravens Nests. Our marching band is now called the Baltimore Marching Ravens and is led by another good friend of mine, John Ziemann. Colt Tom Matte does commentary on the Ravens broadcasts. We've added new words to our vocabulary -- like "Goose," "The Chain Gang" and "Festivus."

Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of "Festivus," and now it's a Baltimore holiday.

Once Colts fans would proudly say the name Johnny Unitas, now Ravens fans proudly say the name Obafemi Ayanbadejo without missing a beat.

America is watching us as we celebrate our Ravens and our city. Buildings are lit up in purple or have signs in front of them cheering on the Ravens. People have dyed their hair purple. Television and radio stations are sponsoring contests in which Ravens fans do crazy things to win Super Bowl tickets. And some people thought I looked funny jumping into a seal pool. People are wearing purple hats, purple shirts and purple pants -- all of which, I trust, were purchased at properly licensed businesses which charged the correct sales tax.

Baltimoreans don't need the NFL to make us proud. We've always have had a great town. We have Harborplace, the National Aquarium and Camden Yards. We have our history. We have crabs and oysters. And as every Ravens fan knows, we have the finest "museum" in the NFL. Our trip to the Super Bowl is just icing on the cake.

Today, a new generation of fans will be watching as the Ravens take on the Giants in the Super Bowl just as their parents and grandparents once watched the Colts defeat the New York Giants in the NFL Championship. And once again, the legacy of this proud city and our entire state will be passed to a new generation through our football team, the Baltimore Ravens.

To each and every Ravens fan: Happy Festivus Maxiumus.

William Donald Schaefer is the comptroller of Maryland. He has been mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

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