Steelers vs. Ravens, the very thought of it makes any fan salivate at the thought of their team putting a beat down on their arch rival. For now we’ll step back from the players point of view and take a look at what it’s like for us fans.
The only thing better than than talking smack on the cyber level is seeing the rival fan in your house in those dreaded colors that aren’t yours. We live to hate Ravens fans as much as we live to hate the Ravens themselves. This particular fan takes it to a level that is probably not healthy but nonetheless, it is what it is. I have spent my NFL life hating the Ravens almost as much as I love the Steelers. Well lets clarify that, since the Ravens were the Browns, it started back in Cleveland with Art Modell. When he yanked that team out of that city and transplanted them into Baltimore it went to another level. Not only is Baltimore closer to where I reside in PA but then they top it off with picking a name for themselves like the Ravens and decide that the epic color of tough is now purple! I mean seriously folks, nothing screams NFL franchise like purple camo and a bird beak on your head, right?! (photo courtesy of blak4rest.com)
Anyways, now that they had the greatest team ever, the attitude they used to present their case became as undesirable as the cause itself. The word “class” has never been used in the same sentence when talking about Baltimore fans. If you think the Eagles fans are bad, they’ve got nothing on the morons at M&T Bank Stadium. Let’s go back in time just a bit shall we and I’ll tell you one of my stories of an adventure to Ratbird land for a game.
So let me preface this with the fact that I know going into enemy territory, you expect to get flack from the home team fans. It’s part of what makes the NFL so much fun. This however was a wake up call even for me. So, it’s week 2 of the 2004 season. The Steelers are at Baltimore, and as you probably remember that was the game that saw the emergence of Ben Roethlisberger as the new Steelers starting QB. Things started off relatively quiet on the way down via the light rail to the stadium. A few Ravens chants from the people on board but nothing out of the ordinary. We get to the stadium and all hell breaks lose right off the train. We start getting bumped and shoved around exiting the train on our way to the stadium, being called every name in the book by men, women and children. So right off the bat I’m on the defensive and not backing down from anyone. My wife, and 3 friends of ours were with us. Myself and my 2 buddies are not small people so were more than happy to oblige any idiot that attempted to assert their manhood. After some shouting and name calling, we break away from the crowd and decide to explore alittle bit hoping to find a Steelers haven or 2 amongst the tailgating. Sure enough there were several groups of black n gold proud that welcomed us into their circle. After spending some time in the friendly confines we headed out to the ticket gate again and of course the heat was turned up standing in line by snickers, laughs, name calling, and the periodic “accidental” bump from some drunk wannabe who’s standing there with 10 other drunk morons thinking they are all Hulk Hogan.
We proceed through the stadium, again taking more frequent elbow, shoulder, and general tough guy looks from all the Ravens fans. We stop along the way to hang with Steeler faithful and get pumped up for the game, always a good time meeting new friends like that. You have to respect the Steeler Nation faithful who live their daily lives in a rival city and put up with all the crap that we did for a few hours, 100 times over every week.
We find our seats and get the proverbial “who the hell are you” looks from the season ticket holders expecting to see their normal constituents in the seats that we are now occupying. (we bought the tickets through my wifes’ friend who’s parents are season ticket holders). In any event after getting settled in we did actually manage to talk to a couple Ravens fans near us who were quite pleasant and congratulated us on making to our seats wearing our Steelers garb. That was the ONLY time we encountered such hospitality for the entire trip. As half time approaches my wife, her friend decide to make a trip to the restroom. Of course me and my 2 buddies are more than willing to accompany them for safety reasons and it’s a good thing we did. My wife and her friend enter the line waiting their turn when they begin to get harassed from the female black n gold haters. Literally getting physically pushed out of line, back in line, screamed at, and being called every name in the book. So my buddies and I step in and make sure the ladies know it’s uncalled for and to knock it off. We help keep the peace, as much as possible, until they enter the ladies room. At that time it starts again and they are unable to even get to a stall without being physically assaulted and berated. My wifes friend (and one of my life long friends too) picks up my better half and literally carries her out of the bathroom as my beloved spouse is giving every bit of criticism right back to them and then some. It’s quite a sight seeing your wife being carried out of a ladies room kicking and screaming. If you knew my wife, she is not a big girl but she is tough as nails and takes nothing from anyone. If you are nice to her, she is sweet as pie and will give you the shirt off her back. If you are a jerk, then expect the same. So, at this point the game has not gone particularly well as you recall so we decide to take advantage of the folks in the yellow jackets. I’m not one to squeal usually on anybody but when you start going after my wife, all bets are off. We watched as several women were escorted out of the ladies room and through the front gate for disorderly conduct. That brought a smile to our faces to say the least. For the rest of the halftime experience we arrived back at our seats and notice yet another sad sight. About 2 rows down and 1 section over was a lone Steeler fan sitting there trying to eat a piece of pizza and drink a beer. Minding his own business in spite of the fact that about 30 Ravens fans are all around him screaming obscentities and trying to get in face. My 2 buddies and me in our infinite wisdom walk over and get between him and the mob and proceed to give it back to them 10 fold. The guy was grateful for the help and eventually they gave up as the players came back onto the field for the 2nd half kickoff.
As the game went on, of course it ended badly for our Steelers that day, but we did witness the emergence of one Ben Roethlisberger. I am proud to say I was there for his first NFL game. The game lets out, all the fans are screaming their usual victory chants and what not. We leave, still proud as all get out to be Steeler fans, and make our way through the maze of people to get to the train. On the way out the we get all the flack you can imagine and then some of course. I was approached by what a child, probably 10 or 11 years old who proceeds to get up in front of me and tell my to “F&%$ off” and that the Steelers sucked. I looked at his father, I assumed, and simply said “hey man, nice parenting there, you should be proud”. He told me to “Eat Sh&%” and walked away. We took more of the same type of abuse till we got to the train and then seemingly it all calmed down.
So there you have it, that’s my story of one fateful day in Ratbird land. My wife has vowed to never go back because she’s afraid of being thrown in jail for fighting. I on the other hand relish the thought of sporting my Terrible Towel in enemy territory. It’s an experience, not for the faint of heart. Now, are Steeler fans at Heinz Field perfect angels? No. Are there Steeler fans who get thrown out of games in Pittsburgh for fighting or bullying, sure. However, and I can say this with confidence, Pittsburgh fans are far superior in every way to a Ravens fan if for no other reason than we can actually let you come to our stadium and watch the game without needing a police escort out.
So yes for me and countless others in the Steeler Nation, hating the Ravens is a personal experience that started from their very existence. Not every Steeler fan takes it to a level that many of us do, and that’s ok. No matter how you handle this rivalry from a fan perspective, you know it’s going to be an event you’ll remember.