For partyers, no ticket, no problem

Fans not lucky enough to get into stadium spread purple fever

Ravens 34, Giants 7

January 29, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg and Tim Craig | Lisa Goldberg and Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - This was it. The big one.

And Bruce Paquin didn't plan to miss a minute of it.

So what if the Baltimore County police officer and his two buddies didn't have tickets to the big show just minutes before kickoff? They had something almost as good - a 13-inch television set and a prime tailgating spot just outside Raymond James Stadium.

That's not to say they wouldn't have jumped if someone had offered them seats - at a reasonable price. But they weren't going to whine about it. They were going with the flow.

"We're not in a situation where we're desperate and going to spend a fortune on this," said Paquin, 44, of Loch Raven. "What this is for, is the ambiance, the experience."

As the clock ticked toward 6:18 p.m. yesterday, the purple fever here was growing at a fast pace. Ravens fans partied. They parked. Some even begged.

Of course, there were only so many seats and too many folks standing outside the stadium, flashing a finger or two - for the desired number of tickets - and signs stating their wishes. One man even offered to trade his wife for a pair.

Those lucky enough to find spare tickets had to pay a heavy price; some sellers were asking as much as $4,000 for a single seat.

Delilah and Michael Schroeder stood outside in matching purple fatigue pants and Ravens shirts, Delilah with a sign that read "I need two tix." After eight hours, the Odenton couple was desperate.

"I have not missed a game since the Ravens came to Baltimore," said Delilah Schroeder, a 37-year-old attorney for the Internal Revenue Service. "I am not giving up hope."

Some managed to snag tickets after the game started from the "will call" booth. Kathy Lertora of Frederick and her family got six seats - together, at face value.

Then there were the gate crashers. Maj. K. C. Newcomb of the Tampa police department said several fans of both teams were arrested after they tried to rush the gates.

About 80 people were arrested in all for scalping, forging tickets and trying to sneak into the game. But Newcomb said overall the crowd behaved well.

The throng outside the stadium resembled one giant bruise with the Giants' royal blue mixing with Ravens purple.

But over at Whiskey Joe's in Clearwater, it was all purple, all the time. By 1 p.m., about 2,000 Ravens fans had converged on the bar for a radio station-sponsored pep rally carrying signs that read "Play Like A Champion" and "Today's Forecast: Purple Reign."

They drank. They sang - and they prayed.

Most of the fans did not have tickets to the game but said they felt compelled to make the trip to Tampa to show support for the team that had given them a reason to get excited about football again.

"I love this team," said Gail Feldman, 57, of Columbia. "I had to come here because this team has been so wonderful for Baltimore."

She came dressed in black leather boots, black and purple tights and purple camouflage fatigues and a feather wrap. Compared with some, though, her attire was tame. There was the purple Elvis. There was the man with the flag draped on his back as a cape. Then there was 25-year-old Gretchen Dobelstein of Annapolis.

Dobelstein spent four hours last week making a green dress that resembled a football field - complete with yard markers and a set of 2-foot-wide purple wings.

The fans knew they looked a bit odd, but they didn't care.

Patton Roark, a 34-year-old portfolio manager from Frederick, had painted one side of his face purple, the other black. He was wearing a curly clown wig - also purple and black - and black lipstick. Roark's friend, Mike Caulfield of Ellicott City, explained the craziness. "It's because it's the Ravens and we've been waiting a long time for this to happen in Baltimore," said Caulfield, a 33-year-old salesman. "And it all happens today."

All over the stadium, purple-clad folks' eyes sparkled as the Ravens took an early lead.

"Come on, come on baby," Jeffrey Thomas, 38, pleaded as Jamal Lewis drove up the field with two minutes left in the half.

"This is what I am talking about. That right there makes you feel good about B-more," he said. "We can do things - a blue-collar town - and we can still succeed."

With the score 10-0 Ravens at halftime, Giants fans were understandably depressed.

"Right now, we look a little down." said Matty Zee, a 26-year-old from Manhattan, shaking his head. "I can't believe we got shut out in the first half."

Both those who couldn't find tickets and those lucky enough to grab a seat or two said they wouldn't have missed this experience for the world.

After all, they said, where else could they walk through a crowd and make friends just because they were wearing purple? Where else could they finish restoring the city pride that took a beating when the Colts sneaked out of town 16 years ago?

"It's a given that this place is going to rock when we win, and if we lose, we'll still love the Ravens," Bruce Dell, a Frederick County employee, said hours before the game. "I mean we made it to the Super Bowl."

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