From 1946 to 1983, the city of Baltimore served as the home of the Colts. The club won world championships in ‘58, ‘59 and ‘71, and claimed an all-time great, Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas. Then, on a dark March night in 1984, the unthinkable happened. A series of Mayflower moving vans were loaded up, and the vehicles left on a one-way trip to Indianapolis. The pain of that memory stung for quite a while, but hope returned to Charm City in 1996 when the Baltimore Ravens took flight for the first time.
In their past life, the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns. However, once they adopted the Purple and Black, any ties to that former locale were cut forever. While the Ravens won only four games during that first season in Baltimore, they sold out each home contest, as fans proved to be eager to support an NFL team once again. In ‘99, Brian Billick assumed the head coaching reins and quickly got to work assembling a contender. The Birds would earn eight victories during Billick’s first year, but they also sent five players, including franchise cornerstones Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis, to the Pro Bowl.
The 2000 campaign was a series of ups and downs for fans. Ultimately, the Ravens would win 12 games during the regular season, but they also went the entire month of October without scoring a touchdown. Thanks to a devastating defense, though, Baltimore held opponents to just 165 points over the course of 16 games. Led by Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis, the Ravens stormed through the playoffs to set the stage for a Super Bowl battle with the New York Giants. With the world watching, the Ravens ran away with a 34-7 victory, and just like that, the Vince Lombardi Trophy was headed to Baltimore.
Trips to the postseason would be booked in ‘01, ‘03 and ‘06, and while Lewis remained the face of the franchise, another Super Bowl triumph remained out of reach. Coach John Harbaugh arrived in time for the 2008 season, and the Ravens rattled off four straight playoff appearances. Quarterback Joe Flacco proved that he belonged in the club of elite passers, while defenders such as Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed emerged as perennial Pro Bowlers. The stars finally aligned in 2012, and once again, Baltimore was home to world champs.
At M&T Bank Stadium, purple camouflage is the most stylish look and “Seven Nation Army” is the #1 hit song. Just like they do when they’re across the street at Camden Yards, fans shout out “O” during the National Anthem; only at Ravens games, they also make “Caw!” sounds to intimidate opponents. Baltimore diehards have experienced both all-time highs and crushing lows, so they know better than to lose hope if their crew suffers a defeat. It takes a tremendous amount of faith and a hearty dose of guts to survive being a fan in the rough-and-tumble NFL, but Ravens supporters possess ample amounts of both.