To which Bernadette Ruzicka of Dundalk says quite succinctly: "Phooey on them."
Maybe it's denial, maybe it's magical thinking, maybe it's the bluster of a city tired of perennially being put down. Ravens fans like Ruzicka are heading into today's playoff game against the
"Baltimore is not considered one of the elite metro areas of the country, and that transfers to our sports teams," said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the
Without New York's swagger or Washington's self-importance, Baltimore is used to being underestimated, if not outright dissed. And perhaps nowhere does the city feel that sting more sharply than in football, after losing one team in the middle of the night and being denied a new one for years by a dismissive
Since those dark years, though, the Ravens have offered fans a way to settle old civic scores as well as stand up to newer insults, be they from Vegas oddsmakers or naysaying pundits.
"You don't think we're good? We are good, and we're going to remember that," Gibbons said, channeling Baltimore's grudge-holding ways.
As the game neared, fans rallied at locations around the region Friday. At a jewelry store and supermarket north of Towson, cheering fans wore team jerseys and other purple-and-black clothing. In Towson, Baltimore County Executive
Gibbons is predicting a 27-17 Ravens win, noting that several key players have returned from injuries since the team faced, and lost to, the Broncos in the regular season. Much of the pregame chatter giving the game to Denver reflects what the national media would like to see, he said, but not necessarily what they will see.
"They're so intent on seeing Denver playing New England," Gibson said of the conference championship match-up that many envision. "The national perception is we're not one of the sexy glamour teams."
Fans say the predictions of a Broncos win aren't dampening their spirits as they head into the weekend. Members of the Ravens Roost fan clubs expect big crowds at their gathering spots.
"Based on the crowd I had here Sunday," Lenny Banack of Laid Back Lenny's in Essex said, "I expect the crowd on Saturday to be huge."
About 75 people jammed into the pub to watch the wild-card round of the playoffs, his largest crowd for a home game, Banack said. The retired Social Security branch manager started Ravens Roost No. 73 about 11 years ago and ended up buying the bar where the club holds its get-togethers.
Darryl Despeaux of Roost 65 said predictions of a Denver victory won't keep his members away from their usual hangout, Beefalo Bob's in Pasadena. "That doesn't stop us from supporting our team," he said.
While Despeaux himself will be far away — he took his wife to Key West, Fla., for her birthday — he brought his Ravens flag to wave from their rented apartment and has already scoped out bars there for a spot to watch the game.
If Sunday's game was fraught for any number of reasons — it was Lewis' last home game and brought the
"My heart tells me the guys are going to fight like warriors and find a way to get to play
Those marquee quarterbacks don't impress Ruzicka, whose husband, Melvin, owns the Ravin Store on Eastern Avenue.
"We can beat Denver. It's only Peyton Manning," she said, standing amid racks of purple attire in the store. "Our quarterback and our team is good, too."
The store ran out of Lewis jerseys but has been moving a lot of "Thanks for the Memories" shirts bearing his silhouette.
Further down Eastern Avenue, at the Baseball Card Outlet and Sports Memorabilia shop, it's been "chaos" since Lewis announced his retirement, said Mike Tanner, who owns the store with his brother. The most popular item has been autographed prints of a photo showing Lewis kneeling over the just-sacked Steelers quarterback
As usual on a game day, Tanner will close early today since most of his customers will not be out and about shopping for memorabilia but in front of their TVs — which is his plan as well.
"Everyone wants to win it for Ray Lewis," he said. "People are optimistic, because of how healthy the team is now. The Broncos are due to lose a game, and we're due to catch a break."
Gibbons, of the Sports Legends Museum, says the Ravens' success over the years, coupled with the Orioles' return to the postseason last fall, should go a long way in turning around the city's undeserved reputation as "second-class."
"If we can be competitive next year," Gibbons said hopefully, "maybe we can lose that chip on our shoulder."