Tailgaters celebrate Christmas Day with the Ravens

December 26, 2005|By JOHN FRITZE | JOHN FRITZE,SUN REPORTER

It wouldn't be Christmas without a tree, a turkey and presents. But for Ravens fan Chad F. Hartlove, it just wouldn't be right to skip the last home game of the season.

And so the 22-year-old from Pasadena did what he had to do. He brought Christmas to the game - including a hip-high plastic tree with colored lights and a portable DVD player that played A Christmas Story.

"It's Christmas Day and the Ravens are in town - what's better?" said Hartlove, whose family adjusted their routine and celebrated Christmas on Saturday so they could make the game.

Yesterday's match-up against the Minnesota Vikings was the first time the Ravens had played on Christmas. And though there were fewer tailgaters than usual, dozens relinquished the warmth of their homes for cold and wet parking lots near M&T Bank Stadium.

They rolled out tarps to stay dry and huddled around grills for warmth. Some unfolded chairs and brought generators to life as though it were any other football game, but others put up decorations, blared Christmas music and donned Santa hats.

The Hartloves even brought a turkey and presents, which they placed under their tree for a Secret Santa exchange. Among the rules: All gifts had to be under $20 and all had to be Ravens-related.

Christmas last fell on a Sunday in 1994, and few National Football League games have been played on the holiday (this year, most games were scheduled for Saturday), but now the league is planning games on Christmas, just as it does for Thanksgiving.

Meaning tailgaters will cease for no holiday.

David J. Grden of Canton said he's attended every Ravens home game since the team moved to Baltimore - and a little thing like Christmas does not stand in the way of a die-hard fan.

He and his wife, Maria, celebrated Saturday.

The two pulled into a lot west of the stadium about four hours before kickoff and set up a grill, a couple of chairs and a small gas heater. Sitting under the Russell Street overpass, the couple was shielded from a cold, driving rain that fell for hours yesterday evening.

"If you want to be indoors, you may as well get tickets for the NBA," said David Grden, while Maria tended the spare ribs and drumsticks on the grill.

"We had lasagna last night," he said. "That wasn't good grill food."

Most tailgaters yesterday came as families, with men, women and children huddling around the food and beer hours after more traditional holiday ceremonies were over. But some left behind family who were content to watch the game on television.

When Rick Hare, 55, told his wife, Irene, he wanted to attend yesterday's game, it was clear he would be going alone.

And so he did.

"She said, `Are you kidding?'" said Hare, who stood a few hundred feet from the stadium.

Reached at the couple's Lake Shore home, Irene Hare, 54, said she was busy cooking dinner for her mother, his mother and other family members who stayed home last night for Christmas.

"Isn't that nice? I'm here cooking ... and in a nice dry spot while they're out standing in the cold weather. Who's the fool?" she said, laughing.

She said she wasn't sore her husband went to the game, though. How could she be, on Christmas?

"Whatever makes my family happy makes me happy," she said.

John G. Rosskopf avoided the problem by bringing almost the entire family along in a small mobile home painted with purple stripes and decorated with colorful Christmas lights.

He brought his children, his fiancee, a nephew, a son-in-law and others.

As a Christmas song by AC/DC rang out from the mobile home, the family deep-fried a turkey on the asphalt lot. Rosskopf, wearing a Santa hat, proudly noted that his family has missed only one home game since the stadium opened in 1998.

They weren't going to miss one on Christmas.

"We're here as a family. We're three generations of football," Rosskopf said. "Whether it's raining outside or snowing outside, this is a great way to say Merry Christmas."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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