Tougher loss for some fans

Rivalry: In Bolton Hill, Ravens backers took defeat in stride, but at Hawley's Pub in Morrell Park, where the enemy is across the street, the game went down hard.

January 21, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Smack dab in the middle of crab cake country, they had the nerve to brag about a weird-sounding sandwich with coleslaw and french fries tucked right in the bread with the meat.

"It's a taste of home," Chuck Babiak, a Pennsylvania native living in Laurel, said at a Baltimore bar serving what's known as a Primanti Brothers sandwich.

Those were fighting words yesterday as Baltimore-area Steelers fans savored the Iron City delicacy and a 27-10 blowout victory over the Ravens.

Never mind that the name of the Morrell Park bar - Purple Goose Saloon - evokes the Ravens' team color and one of its star players, defensive tackle Tony "the Goose" Siragusa.

The bar, headquarters for a Steelers fan club, is on Washington Boulevard opposite Hawley's Pub, where Ravens fans railed against the "traitors" across the street and the game that killed their dreams of back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

At halftime and after the game, fans poured out of both pubs to lob insults and a few snowballs at each other.

About a half-dozen police officers stood watch.

"If you love 'em that much, move to Pittsburgh," William Barner, 37, a mortgage broker from Catonsville, hollered during halftime.

Across town in Bolton Hill, Ravens fans dealt with the disappointment in more genteel fashion.

Members of Memorial Episcopal Church watched the game on a big-screen television set up in the church hall, over a meal of bread and soup.

But unlike the bar crowds, who kicked off the day about 9 a.m. with raucous tailgating, Memorial's pre-game show consisted of the annual church meeting.

About 60 members sat patiently in the sanctuary, listening to reports about the operating budget, the endowment and membership, as the clock ticked toward kickoff. The meeting ran long and they missed the start of the game, but there were no complaints.

No one seemed to mind when, just as Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister intercepted a pass in the first quarter, someone told the crowd to "shhh" and turn down the television. John Payne of Guilford, just elected the parish's lay leader at the meeting, wanted to say a few words.

"I think we've got a great year in store," said Payne, 66.

Alas, he was not talking about what remained of the Ravens' season. But there were no profane outbursts from this group.

"It doesn't look like much is clicking," said David Warner of Bolton Hill, an office assistant at the church, as running back Terry Allen fumbled the ball in the second quarter.

The score was already 17-0, Steelers.

"I guess we're not going to the Super Bowl, huh?" said Paul Seaton of Fells Point, a church member who coordinated the lunch. "I think I'll go clear off the tables."

The loss didn't roll so easily off fans at Hawley's, who downed potent purple shots to take the edge off their disappointment but felt lousy anyway.

They fumed at the players for turnovers. At quarterback Elvis Grbac for bad throws. At Ravens coach Brian Billick for keeping Grbac in. And at the folks across the street, where the much more upbeat crowd drank Iron City beer, hugged strangers and hopped to "Steelers Polka."

The Steelers fan club took root in the Purple Goose about 15 years ago. Baltimore wasn't an NFL town at the time, the Colts having left for Indianapolis in 1984. No one was concerned about the handful of Pittsburgh transplants who started meeting at the bar to cheer on the Steelers.

When the Ravens arrived, plenty of Baltimoreans embraced the new team, although some stayed true to the Steelers. The Baltimore-based Steelers fan club numbers 2,400 today, Babiak said, and that sticks in the craws of some Ravens fans - especially when their team is losing.

"Go across the street. Go across the street," the Hawley's crowd chanted at one point at Debbie Rade of Lansdowne, the one person in their midst wearing a Steelers shirt.

Over at Purple Goose Saloon, Eileen Flinn, 33, of Harrisburg, Pa., said she was thrilled to find a Steelers bar. She was traveling and wound up in Baltimore on the big-game weekend.

"We needed a safe place to watch the Steelers," said Flinn, who sees the rivalry as just good fun. She said the waitress at ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor joked Saturday that Flinn couldn't be seated in her Steelers garb.

"Pittsburgh and Baltimore really have a good rivalry on the field, and the fans have that rivalry off the field," Flinn said. "Both towns love their teams."

But on the losing side of the street, the rivalry didn't feel so lighthearted.

Barner, the Ravens fan who told Steelers fans to move north, said people need to follow his father's example and root for their hometown team.

"On Sunday, if the Colts lost, he would get ill," Barner said. "He would go to bed. He wouldn't talk to anybody. Wouldn't eat dinner. That's the kind of fans Baltimore has. But obviously we have traitors across the street who couldn't hold out [for an NFL team to come to Baltimore]. It's not just about the team. It's about the city you live in."

For those devoted Ravens fans feeling sick after yesterday's rout, the Steelers crowd suggests a cure: a sandwich with coleslaw and fries.

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