Edited by Jess Mayhugh
Written by Lauren Cohen, Michelle Harris, Jess Mayhugh, and Mike Unger
Photography by Mike Morgan

Sports

Ca-Caw!
The Ultimate Ravens Fan Guide

The best super fans, bars to watch the game, pro tailgating tips, and more.

Every fall, as the humidity subsides and the leaves turn crunchy on the sidewalks, shades of royal purple begin to blanket the city. You start hearing the familiar “Seven Nation Army” chant streaming out of sports bars. And every Monday morning, loyal fans passionately analyze the game on talk radio or in office break rooms throughout the region. It’s those fans, of course, that make the Ravens the phenomenon they are today. The way this young team in a mid-market city has been embraced is nothing short of impressive. “Our city is not always painted in the best light,” says Ravens VP of marketing Brad Downs. “But people who live here have tremendous pride. I go to a lot of road games and you’ll see stadiums that are half full—you can’t even imagine that here. The fans have adopted the team as a part of their identity.” So this guide is dedicated to them, the most loyal fans in the game. We talk to those enthusiastic fans in the stands, provide tailgating tips, round up the best places to watch the game, reveal stadium secrets, and even chat with nose tackle Brandon Williams about what the fans mean to him.

SUPer fans

these ravens devotees wear their purple pride like a badge of honor.

CRABBY PATTY

aka Lauren Mueller

Kingsville resident Lauren Mueller remembers riding her bike to Memorial Stadium as a young girl to catch Colts games. “When they left, everyone was devastated,” she says. “So it was natural that I would be a Ravens fan.” What was surprising is just how far she took it. As the president of the Chamber of Ravens Nests, a social club for fans, she is always planning events and fundraisers. “It’s great because you get together once a month and meet new people,” she says. “No matter where you are, you can find people to watch a game with.”

“We love standing in front of the stadium and greeting people as they walk in, Just to say Baltimore is a friendly place.”

In 2008, her fandom evolved even more when she started dressing like a hon for games— complete with cat’s-eye glasses and a beehive. When she was asked to be in the Bel Air parade, organizers inquired if there were others like her. So she started a group called the RavHons, which consists of her, aka Crabby Patty, and Spicy McCormick, Beth Steele, and Natalie Boh. “We love standing in front of the stadium and greeting people as they walk in,” she says. “Just to say Baltimore is a friendly place.” And in case anyone was worried, she and her fellow hons sport a low beehive on game days: “We don’t want to block anyone’s view.”

Mueller’s routine also includes visiting the firehouse across from Lot N, drinking cherry bombs, and watching the marching band.

“I love the people in this city,” she says. “When we’re watching the game, we’re not rich, not poor, not black, not white. We’re just Ravens fans.”

captain deE-fense

aka Wes Henson

During the Ravens’ first season, Wes Henson was holding a cardboard sign that read “DEFENSE” when a little girl asked him, “Hey mister, are you captain of the defense?” “I liked the sound of that,” he recalls with a laugh.

Now, Henson is arguably the most famous Ravens fan: He was inducted into the ESPN Fan Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, appears at weddings and bar mitzvahs, and has even spoken at two graduations. As a veteran who served in the Navy for 24 years, he has all branches of the military on the front of his jersey. His shoulders were originally adorned with pom-poms, but they don’t last in bad weather, so he found spikes and chains at a local Halloween store and spray-painted them white. “My wife and daughters didn’t know what to think at first,” he says with a laugh.

“Players come and go. But the fans are still here. We are the constant.”

“I gave my daughter a picture me dressed up when she went off to college. But I don’t think she ever hung it up.”

His family certainly came around when they saw how he inspired fans with his spirit and charity work. Favorite moments include meeting a rookie Ray Lewis, who told him “I can hold my own,” and telling a kid the Ravens would come back when they were down three touchdowns to Jacksonville. “They actually won,” he says. “It was unbelievable.” For every game, Henson gets a coffee and an apple pie while driving from Southern Maryland. He’s been going strong since 1996 and says he has no plans to stop. “Players come and go,” he says. “But the fans are still here. We are the constant.”

  • WHERE TO WATCH

    These bars around town are the perfect places to show purple pride.

    Tap to Expand

REAL FAN DAN

aka Dan Granofsky

Real Fan Dan rocks the body of a true man. Tens of thousands of Ravens fans know this because every time the team scores a touchdown, he’s on the big screen, spelling out R-A-V-E-N-S with his arms and legs. At least once per game, he does this shirtless.

“I don’t vouch for anybody’s taste, but they see my big gut and they get leaps and bounds louder.”

When the Ravens moved to M&T Bank Stadium in 1998, Granofsky got season tickets in Section 532, surrounded by members of Ravens Roost 18. (His future wife was among them. Married 11 years, they still sit in their original seats, two rows apart.) During a particularly drab game that season, he stood up and performed the cheer, and got a rousing reception. By the fourth or fifth game, he was doing it after every Ravens’ score.

“They weren’t loud enough, so I said, ‘What the heck am I gonna do to get them louder?’” he says. “So on a big score, I ripped my shirt off and swung it around my head, and for whatever reason the decibels would go up 100 percent. I don’t vouch for anybody’s taste, but they see my big gut and they get leaps and bounds louder.” By the 2012 Super Bowl-winning season, 10 sections were the only regular cheer participants. That changed on December 14, 2014, during a game against Jacksonville. After a Joe Flacco TD pass, the big screen captured his routine. “It was like all 70,000 people joined in,” he recalls. For the past two seasons, he’s been on the screen after every touchdown, sometimes showing some skin.

By the 2012 Super Bowl-winning season, 10 sections were the only regular cheer participants. That changed on December 14, 2014, during a game against Jacksonville. After a Joe Flacco TD pass, the big screen captured his routine. “It was like all 70,000 people joined in,” he recalls. For the past two seasons, he’s been on the screen after every touchdown, sometimes showing some skin.

Golden Rule

We talk to tackle Brandon Williams about his fandom philosophy.

Congratulations on the offseason contract! How were the fans during that process? I felt a lot of support. There were waves of direct messages saying we love you here. There were even fans that said, ‘I understand it’s a business decision. I’ll be a Brandon Williams fan either way.’ It was a great feeling to be wanted by the fans, even when I could have not been in Baltimore.

You went to a small college. Was there a big shock coming to a fan base like Baltimore? It was crazy. Missouri Southern is in a small town. There weren’t many people in the stands, though the ones you saw were diehard. But switching over into Baltimore with a big town with great sports was nuts. As soon as they announced me on draft day, I was getting flooded on social media with people saying, ‘You’re going to be awesome for the team, you’re going to do just what Goose [Tony Siragusa] did.’ And I hadn’t even started playing yet! The immediate love and family feeling the fans gave me was amazing.

To you, what makes Baltimore Ravens fans unique? There are rarely any fair-weather fans. No matter how we’re doing, they’re like, ‘We’ll get ’em next time.’ I never really hear any backlash or anything, it’s always love and praise. The biggest thing about Baltimore, they are a bunch of hard-working people and they just love a team that’s in the community and shows love to them.

Explain your love of dancing and how fans react to that. The dances just happen. Sometimes when I’m home offseason, I just sit around and I start thinking weird things like, ‘You know what would be fun? If I did the Carlton dance.’ Or it’s like the dog days of training camp, and [Terrell] Suggs throws on music and I tell myself I won’t dance and then I’m like, ‘What is my body doing?’ and I just can’t control it.

There’s one video I took—we lost the game and everyone was so down in the dumps. So I put Wham! on and I started running around with the coaches and players. Let’s have some fun, let’s get a little loose! So many people come up to me in the street and say that it made their day. Man, that’s awesome to change someone’s perspective, just me being me.

What have been some highlights with fans over the years? When we went down to the veterans hospital and met with the military families. They’re going through the worst thing, but these kids are so inspiring. There was a kid who couldn’t walk and he said he couldn’t wait to get out of there to start playing football again. It was amazing to see his will and his heart. And I’ve been involved at the Boys & Girls Club down in Westport. I remember when I was a kid, I went to a boys club. So many people come to the games, but a lot of kids don’t have the means. I want to reach people beyond the stands.

I also have to shout-out the women. A regular old sexist man would think that women don’t watch football. But it’s the opposite here, and it’s awesome to see how many women support the team—a lot of times even more than the men.

“The biggest thing for me is I think about being a fan. . . . I treat fans how I’d want to be treated.”

When you were growing up, who were you a fan of? Okay, so I have to say this was before 1996, and before the Ravens were around. Being a big kid growing up, I wanted to do what the skinnier kids were doing, which was running the ball and scoring touchdowns. And Jerome Bettis was the fat kid who could touch the ball. He was kind of showing the small guy that we can do this, too. I actually got to meet him and I don’t think I even said anything. I just mumbled something and I was geeking out. My wife got me a signed jersey from him and I bawled.

How do you try to repay the fans? I learned it all from Haloti Ngata. He taught me how to be with fans. I would just look at him, how he had a big smile on his face as much as the fans did. The biggest thing for me is I think about being a fan. How would I feel to see someone from my hometown team in Wegmans? I treat fans how I’d want to be treated.

  • Tailgate TOPPERS

    Some of Our Favorite Local Food Options for a Ravens Tailgate.
    Illustrations by Holly Wales

    Tap to Expand

london calling

At least one fan won’t have to go far when the Ravens travel to England.

There can’t possibly be a bigger British Ravens fan than Ben Mortimer. A framed photo of Joe Flacco hangs on the wall of his office in York (the one north of London, not north of Towson) along with a football autographed by Brian Billick. He has been to more than 100 Ravens games, and even though he lives 3,500 miles from Baltimore, he still makes it to M&T Bank Stadium at least once each season.

On September 24, he won’t have to fly to catch a game. When the Ravens take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London, Mortimer, pictured, on the right, will be there proudly wearing purple.

“It’s pretty much my first passion,” he says.

During the decade Mortimer lived in Fells Point, he became obsessed with the Ravens, despite having grown up in England. He bought season tickets (he still owns seats in Section 529) and went to just about every home game. When the team was on the road, he watched on the big screen at Max’s Taphouse. He moved back to England in 2011 and started MVP Travel, a company that sends Brits to the United States for NFL (and other professional sports) games.

“I think it’s leaving niche territory and entering the early stages of the mainstream,” he says of the NFL’s standing in the United Kingdom. Sky Sports, a satellite network, televises multiple games during the week.

Since 2007, the NFL has routinely staged regular-season games in London, and while many Brits are Patriots fans (“They have England in their name,” Mortimer explains), the Ravens have a solid following. The U.K. Ravens Facebook page, which he helps administer, has more than 1,600 likes.

Since Mortimer’s credentials are firmly established, he offers advice for Ravens fans traveling across the pond for the game. Ground zero for the NFL in London, he says, is The Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square. The location dubs itself “the premier destination to watch the NFL at its finest,” and advertises “an authentic North American menu and fans in jerseys.” Home base for Ravens supporters this season will be The Admiralty in Trafalgar Square. With many games kicking off at 6 p.m. (1 p.m. here), a fitting meal would consist of traditional English pub fare like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and meat pies.

A more upscale meal can be enjoyed at Hawksmoor Seven Dials in Covent Garden. Mortimer calls the steakhouse’s meat and cocktails “fantastic.”

Among Mortimer’s other suggestions is pairing the trip with an English Premier League soccer—er, football—game and visiting the Tower of London. For one weekend in September, the tower’s resident ravens, whose presence is said to protect the British crown, will be the least important ones in town.

What have been some highlights with fans over the years? When we went down to the veterans hospital and met with the military families. They’re going through the worst thing, but these kids are so inspiring. There was a kid who couldn’t walk and he said he couldn’t wait to get out of there to start playing football again. It was amazing to see his will and his heart. And I’ve been involved at the Boys & Girls Club down in Westport. I remember when I was a kid, I went to a boys club. So many people come to the games, but a lot of kids don’t have the means. I want to reach people beyond the stands.

I also have to shout-out the women. A regular old sexist man would think that women don’t watch football. But it’s the opposite here, and it’s awesome to see how many women support the team—a lot of times even more than the men.

For one weekend in September, the tower’s resident ravens, whose presence is said to protect the British crown, will be the least important ones in town.

When you were growing up, who were you a fan of? Okay, so I have to say this was before 1996, and before the Ravens were around. Being a big kid growing up, I wanted to do what the skinnier kids were doing, which was running the ball and scoring touchdowns. And Jerome Bettis was the fat kid who could touch the ball. He was kind of showing the small guy that we can do this, too. I actually got to meet him and I don’t think I even said anything. I just mumbled something and I was geeking out. My wife got me a signed jersey from him and I bawled.

How do you try to repay the fans? I learned it all from Haloti Ngata. He taught me how to be with fans. I would just look at him, how he had a big smile on his face as much as the fans did. The biggest thing for me is I think about being a fan. How would I feel to see someone from my hometown team in Wegmans? I treat fans how I’d want to be treated.

  • stadium SECRETS

    How To Have the Best Game-Day Experience.

    Tap to Expand

roll out

Take a peek inside Ray Schissler’s tricked-out Ravens bus.

A/V Club

There are two flatscreen TVs on board, as well as a sound system with speakers inside and outside the bus.

Drink Up

A keg box with a tap for margaritas and five for beer. The trailer hitched on the back has six additional beer taps.

Park It

The bus has had a few tailgate locations over the years, including Lot S, Hamburg Street, and outside of reclaimed goods store Second Chance.

Paint Job

Two tables on the bus have hand-painted depictions of the winning Super Bowl teams. Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis, Matt Stover, and Art Modell are on one table while Joe Flacco and Ed Reed are on the other. Ray Lewis is featured on both.

Travel Time

The bus has been up to New England for a Monday Night Football Game and made the trek down to New Orleans (despite a lost tire on the way) for Super Bowl XLVII. This season, the bus will be heading to Nashville on November 5.

Hungry Man

The trailer also features a smoker, a char-broiler, and a stovetop. Popular meals include flank steak, grilled haloumi, wings, and salmon.

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