Ravens fan, on a roof, H-O-P-I-N-G

Man says vigil atop city bar will last until the team wins

December 13, 2007|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,Sun reporter

City Hall isn't glowing purple this year. Last year's plum-colored bulbs have apparently been mothballed.

As the Ravens lose and lose and then go ahead and lose a little more, Baltimore, it seems, has recovered quite fully from last year's football fever.

Yet, on a well-trafficked corner southeast of downtown, the Ravens spirit of at least one stout-hearted fan hasn't gone dark - in fact, he's not coming down from a Canton roof until the team rewards his positivity with a win.

As a man who lives, breathes and dreams Baltimore football, Ron Stack considers this literally lofty campaign no less than his duty, his sacred calling, really, as a sports-minded Baltimorean.

"I'm trying to drum up support because a lot of fans are ticked off right now," he explained yesterday, bundled in a Ravens parka atop Canton Station, a bar owned by his longtime Highlandtown buddy Darryl Petty.

"It's because I'm a football fan. I love football. The greatest game ever played was played here. It's football. And we could do better as a city and as a team."

He climbed onto the roof at the corner of Conkling and O'Donnell streets Tuesday afternoon and assumed the part pep rally, part protest position that he intends to hold at least until Sunday, when the Ravens play the Miami Dolphins, a team that manages to boast an even worse record.

If the Ravens can't make it happen against Miami - "If they don't beat a 0-and-13 team, it's back to bingo for them," Stack said - he'll stay on the roof until they do.

"I'm sticking," he said. "I'm not cutting out."

Stack does, however, have his limits as a Ravens loyalist. He has toyed with the idea of staying on the roof until coach Brian Billick is fired. Sunday's sound beating by Indianapolis was more than he could ignore. ("If you only win one game all year," you have to beat the Colts, he groused.) But, feeling the holiday spirit and all, Stack's sort of hoping any coach canning won't happen until after Christmas.

Stack, 40, works in construction, so his stunt doesn't involve playing hooky from a job. He's also single, so no one at home is second-guessing his shenanigans.

His rooftop Hail Mary was inspired by a bartender who in 1991 climbed atop the roof of a Dundalk club to protest bickering between Orioles owner Eli Jacobs and then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer over the name of the baseball stadium. The man stayed up there for 23 days.

And though it didn't involve a roof, in 1988 disc jockey Bob Rivers broadcast for 11 days straight to coax the Orioles from a demoralizing record losing streak.

Stack, with the help of his temporary landlords, the Pettys, has made his home away from home, if not exactly comfortable, than reasonably livable. There's the tent that shields his air mattress - all warmed with a little space heater, the Ravens chair with its built-in cupholder and a mechanical wire Raven that oh-so-slowly raises its wings and exercises its beak.

There's the violet garland wrapped around the fire escape that glitters even in the soggy, gray, daylight. There's the matching purple lights to help his spirit burn brightly into the night. There's a blow-up Ravens player, a team megaphone and - redundantly- a sign that says, "Home of a Ravens Fan."

He dropped about $500 for all this, things, he'll have you know, that aren't easy to find at the end of a losing season. Even as big a fan as he is, he giggled about seeing all the Steve McNair stuff half-off at the Highlandtown liquidation shop.

Every so often while Stack showed off his fan's nest yesterday, cars driving by on Conkling honked their support. A couple brethren devotees rolled down their window to holler, "Go Ravens!"

"See? That's what I'm saying," he insisted, after someone in a black pickup beeped, cheered and then drove on. "Everyone wants to keep standing behind them."

When Stack isn't waving to supporters or trying to stay warm and dry, he's reading the Bible (the Job portion might be appropriate for a Ravens fan) and poring over an SAT study guide because he wants to go back to school.

He's promised to stay on the roof only 23 hours at a time so that he has an hour a day to run to his home in Greektown to take care of so-called "personal obligations."

Stephanie Greico, who works across the street at Bravo Health, came over on her lunch break to snap his picture. She admired Stack's resolve.

"You gotta do something this year to show support, right," she agreed. "You gotta show that people actually care and are still hoping."

Jennifer Petty, who owns the bar below with her husband, walked up some afternoon sustenance for Stack - steaming coffee, more garland, an inflatable Ravens seat so that he can properly entertain visitors.

The bar, she says, will support Stack's cause by inviting people to a pep rally before Sunday's game and then broadcasting it from a big-screen TV they're somehow going to get out onto the roof.

"We're gonna get these guys riled up - that's the goal," she said.

Of course, Stack is hoping everyone gets riled up sooner rather than later. His loyalty is probably weatherproof, but he doesn't want to overly test it, if possible.

"I hope [Baltimore] can come out of this with something," he said. "There's still some love left."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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