The Baltimore Ravens returned home as champions Feb. 5, bringing home the Super Bowl XLVII trophy to the thousands upon thousands of loyal fans who not only packed the parade route, but filled every available space inside the 71,008—seat M&T Bank Stadium for a homecoming celebration.
On a day when clouds line the sky and temperatures dipped into the 30s, throngs of fans walked, rode bikes, took trains and buses or drove hours through bumper-to-bumper traffic to celebrate the return of their victorious heroes. The parade route, which started at City Hall and stretched through downtown over to the stadium, was dozens of people deep in some places. In a post-celebration statement, team officials said they were originally expecting around 30,000 to gather for the 12:30 live show on the Ravens’ home turf. Instead, the event was so heavily attended that around 10 a.m. police sent out public notices that said the doors to the stadium were “closed to fans” because the stadium was filled past capacity.
The high traffic led to congestion so thick on area roads that the parade started roughly a half-hour later that originally scheduled. When the team finally arrived, they found fans still rabid with excitement two days after the team’s 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The festivities capped off a celebration that started with a send off rally downtown and thousands of Super Bowl watch parties at restaurants and private residences in Baltimore and around the region.
“I don’t live in Baltimore, but the Redskins are out and I love football,” said Angela Ritter, 47, of Bowie, as she shopped for wings, chips and sodas at a Giant supermarket just hours before kickoff. “Baltimore is close enough that we here in the Washington area consider them our neighbors. You have to support your neighbors, right? Go Ravens!”
On game night, fans huddled around big screens inside the Phaze 10 restaurant and entertainment lounge on Howard Street in Baltimore and cheered as they feasted on Buffalo wings, barbecue sliders and burgers served up by waiters decked out in team gear. Under purple Ravens penants and football helmet cutouts decorating walls and windows, dozens of fans spent the four quarters alternately perched on the edge of their seats and cheering wildly. A blackout at the stadium did not dim their enthusiasm, though some people headed home as the game delay stretched beyond a half hour.
But once the game started again, the cheering picked up. There was some anguish as the 49ers began to catch up, but the die hards kept the faith. As the game ended, the revelers high fived, hugged and celebrated as a chef passed out gourmet cupcakes.
“They’re nothing but the best,” said Gerald Oliver, a native of Baltimore who said he’s been a fan of the Ravens since they came to the city in 1996 said at the restaurant. “I’m feeling like a champion. It’s for the entire state of Maryland.”
Some fans said they had not been worried. They knew the Ravens would bring the Vince Lombardi trophy home.
“The purple rain came down on New Orleans,” said Marvin Barber, who said the power outage in the third quarter did nothing to shake the Ravens’ determination.
“We did what Baltimore does. We played our game and we did our thing.”