Cold weather, warm feelings
Fans brave chilly temps for return of playoff football
Updated: Sunday December 31, 2000 1:51 PM
BALTIMORE (AP) -- The heck with the wind, cold and the Denver Broncos. Nothing was going to ruin this day for Baltimore's long-suffering football fans.
Three hours before kickoff, hundreds of bundled up Ravens backers were grilling burgers and whooping it up Sunday in anticipation of the first playoff game in Baltimore since 1977.
Wearing Ravens sweatshirt, turtleneck, cap and coat, Rich Singleton reached into his pocket and produced a ticket to the last postseason game in Baltimore. The $12 he paid back then was less than most people shelled out for parking Sunday.
After enjoying a tailgate party featuring Italian sausage, hamburgers, grilled green peppers and plenty of beer, Singleton prepared to walk to Section 527 and plunk himself down in his $85 seat.
"A little different than $12 a seat, huh? But it's well worth it," he said.
At another parking lot, accountants Al Zawody and Murat Tasel were sitting on folding chairs behind their open hatchback, where a small stove provided little relief from the howling wind.
"It's a tradition. No matter how cold or windy, it doesn't matter to us," Murat said.
Zawody went to the last playoff game in Baltimore, on Dec. 24, 1977, when Oakland beat the Baltimore Colts 37-31 in double overtime.
"As usual, the Colts lost it. But it was a very good game," Zawody said.
Most of the fans were wearing Ravens colors, yet the sellout crowd also contained a few people rooting for Denver. Tim and Sharon Gonzalez walked toward the gate wearing orange and blue coats; Sharon's had the word "Broncos" etched on the back.
"We got the tickets at the last minute," said Sharon, of Culpepper, Va. "We tried and tried and we couldn't get them and then I heard that some were going to be released yesterday. I got on the Internet and got myself some tickets."
Wearing Denver colors wasn't exactly a safe proposition in a stadium filled with rabid Baltimore fans, but Sharon was happy to take the risk.
"We've been to all kinds of stadiums. We went to Cincinnati and Denver lost really badly," she said. "Everybody has been great. We don't have any worries about coming to Baltimore and doing the same thing."
For most fans, though, this day was 23 years in the making.
"The anticipation has been incredible," Singleton said. "It brings everyone together. It doesn't matter what type of work you do, where you're from, everybody in town is pulling for the Ravens."