Daisy Sudano and Jim Pellegrini are planning to get married… (Algerina Perna, Baltimore…)
This is what kind of roll the Ravens are on now: they've even inspired a love story. It's not a gauzy, Hallmark Channel tale, but a story of serendipity, fate and perseverance — and a football team at the center of it all.
It stars an Overlea couple named Daisy Sudano and Jim Pellegrini, who will travel to New Orleans next week and tie the knot the day before the Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
But if you're thinking it's the story of two crazy, love-struck kids about to get hitched in the Big Easy on a purple-and-black lark, think again.
Sudano is 44, a laid off executive assistant at a pool club. Pellegrini, 42, just started a company that transports boats, RV's and trailers around the country. They've been through plenty of life's ups and downs, including childhood cancer (Jim), unemployment woes and financial issues. Jim also has had several brushes with the law.
"Those troubles are behind me now," Pellegrini said. "I can promise you right now I'm a different person."
Their story begins on Jan. 28, 2001, when they went on their first date. This was at the big Ravens' Super Bowl party at the old Bohager's nightclub in Fells Point .
As die-hard fans, both were excited. The Ravens had made it to their first Super Bowl and were playing the New York Giants in Tampa, Fla.
But the date did not start auspiciously. Pellegrini rolled up in a Honda Civic that looked like something from the last row of the used car lot.
"Metallic green with black tinted windows," he recalled.
"I thought: 'Uh-oh, what have I gotten myself into?'" Daisy said.
At Bohager's, though, they hit it off. It helped that the joint was electric that night, packed with hundreds of fans screaming themselves hoarse for Baltimore's still new-ish football team. It helped that the Ravens were on their way to thrashing the Giants, 34-7.
It helped that the alcohol was flowing.
"She was absolutely great company," Pellegini said. "I was able to feel like myself right away."
When Jim dropped her off later in that snazzy Civic, Daisy was pleased to see her border collie, Dee Dee, take immediately to her date.
"When an animal likes you, that's a good sign," Daisy said.
By 2003, they were living together. The relationship could be tumultuous. They would separate for months at a time, get back together, fight. Then the cycle would start all over again.
Money was always tight. They went through periods of good jobs, bad jobs and no jobs.
"There were times when his family was like: 'Oh, just get rid of her.'" Daisy said. ""And times when my family was like: 'Just get rid of him.'"
But as the years went by, there was a growing sense that the two were destined for each other. Jim marveled that Daisy loved all the things he did: the Ravens, hiking, camping, fishing. And she wasn't one of those prissy types who hooked a trout, held it at arm's length with two fingers and pleaded: "Ewww! You take if off the hook!"
"I knew I had found my lifelong companion," he said.
But in the ensuing years, whenever folks asked when they were going to get married, Daisy's answer was the same: "When I win the lottery or the Ravens make it to another Super Bowl."
People thought she was kidding. Except she really wasn't.
"I think in her head, she was buying a little time," said Sam Sudano, Daisy's brother. And he was right.
"I was the one with cold feet," Daisy admitted. "I wanted a little more time to go by and make it interesting. Because if (the Ravens) were ever in another Super Bowl, it would make our wedding special."
For the couple's extended family, it came as no surprise that Daisy would tie her wedding day to the incredible odds of a hitting a Lotto jackpot or seeing a football team play on the NFL's biggest stage.
"Daisy and Jim, they're both strange cats," said Shawn Santoro, Jim's sister. "I love 'em to death. But that's the kind of thing they'd do. "
In 2008, with a new coach in John Harbaugh and a new, sleepy-eyed quarterback named Joe Flacco, the Ravens made it to the AFC Championship game.
"This could be the year!" Jim cackled to Daisy. But in a bitter defensive struggle, the Ravens lost 23-14 to the Pittsburgh Steelers at frozen Heinz Field. The wedding plans were still on hold.
In 2010, the couple went on a cruise to the Bahamas. As they stood on the ship's deck with other cruise-goers the night of Dec. 21, watching a rare total eclipse of the sun during a winter solstice, Jim took her aside.
"He gave me a little speech about how I'm the one he wants to spend the rest of his life with," Daisy said. Then he pulled a ring from his pocket and proposed.
Of course, Daisy said yes. And of course, she dusted off the old line about winning the lottery or the Ravens making it to the Super Bowl before they could be married.
On this front, more drama ensued.