Mick Benham and his friends were supposed to be roughing it this weekend - just a campfire and a couple of tents high up on a Pennsylvania mountain. "It's testing your manhood, that kind of thing," he says of the yearly winter camping trips.
But there's testing your manhood and then there's testing your manhood. Benham can handle no running water and below-freezing temperatures, but missing tonight's Ravens playoff game is one sacrifice that he's not willing to make.
"I'll have my Ravens flag flying high upon the mountaintop Saturday," the 29-year-old computer technician promises, even if that means roughing it a little less than tradition would normally dictate.
Before leaving for the Gettysburg area Friday, he planned to pick up an $80 battery-powered TV.
Benham is one of dozens, if not hundreds, of Ravens fans tweaking their Saturday night plans so they'll be able to follow the game. Wedding receptions are being outfitted with TV monitors, concerts are being rescheduled, dinner times are being pushed up. Some events are being postponed altogether, as purple passion wreaks happy havoc on weekend schedules.
"My husband wasn't going to be going to the theater when there's sports to be watched," says Randi Faith of Towson, who traded in her tickets to see "Young Frankenstein" tonight at the Hippodrome. Adds Kerry Grossmiller, who had a cocktail reception in honor of her 30th birthday moved to a room where there was sure to be a big-screen TV, "Now all of the men and women are trying to figure out what they can wear that is purple for the fancy affair."
And it wasn't only individuals who had to do some last-minute tinkering. At the Contemporary Museum, the Winter Party, a major fundraising event, will start at 6 p.m., an hour earlier than had been planned. At 8, revelers will be heading down to the Peabody Court Hotel, where museum officials have arranged for a special viewing lounge, complete with big-screen TV. "We decided to embrace the news," says Irene Hofmann, the museum's executive director. "We've invited all our audience to 'Winter Party like a Raven.' "
Likewise, country musicians Caleb Stine and Arty Hill will be performing alongside TV monitors tuned to the game at Rams Head Live. "It's not like we're playing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony," says Stine, a Ravens fan since moving to Baltimore from Colorado in 2001. "Country music and football go pretty well together. Plus, the Ravens are going to be spanking the Colts so violently, people are going to want to look away for a second."
Most Ravens fans seem to be taking any scheduling hassles in stride. With their team peaking at just the right time, in the midst of a playoff run that seemed pretty unlikely just three weeks ago, it would be churlish to complain about a little rearranging.
Client services executive Jordan Maloof had been putting together a corporate trip to Boston for the weekend, complete with dinner at a swanky restaurant tonight; now, her clients have changed their reservation to a sports bar, where they've been assured the TV will be tuned to the game.
"When we offered them the chance to switch to a more casual place that offered the game, the vote was unanimous," she says.
Caitlin Caldwell had planned a pub crawl for this weekend in honor of a friend's birthday. But neither she nor any of the other 20-some would-be crawlers wanted to risk being caught between drinking holes while the game was still going on. Now they're planning a party at the birthday boy's house. "There was no way we were going to risk not being able to see the game," says Caldwell.
Bill Nigrini, 66, a retired small-business owner living near Philadelphia, has bled Ravens purple ever since former owner Art Modell relocated the team here from Cleveland in 1996.
He now works as a high-school basketball referee, and he says he didn't think twice several weeks back when a colleague asked to switch games with him. Normally, working a Saturday night wouldn't bother him.
"I did it to myself; I have no one else to blame," says Nigrini, who still was able to fashion a happy ending out of the whole mess. Since he's the one in charge of assigning refs to games, he simply turned around and assigned someone else. Now, all he's out is the money he would have been paid for the job - a fine trade-off, so far as he's concerned.
"I would have given back double to see the game," he says with a laugh.
Event planners at some Baltimore reception halls say that, given the circumstances, they're happy to make the minor accommodations their customers are seeking.
William Fischer, vice president of operations for Martin's Inc., says his company's three Baltimore-area reception halls - Martin's East, Martin's West and Martin's Valley Mansion - will all be bathed in purple light this weekend. While no one has tried to reschedule any events planned for Saturday night, he says, there have been some worried phone calls from people wanting to ensure there would be some TVs in the immediate vicinity.