Ravens backers expect big win
For most kids, a snow day in late January means an excuse to watch cartoons, play outside and not worry about school.
For 9-year-old Melody Vaughan, it meant having a chance to see off her team in person.
While many of her classmates were presumably sleeping in on Monday after learning that school had been canceled for the day, Melody and her father Michael Vaughan were making the drive to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for the Super Bowl sendoff party for the Baltimore Ravens.
“For a 9-year-old little girl, she knows more about NFL football than most adults I know and she’s the one that suggested going,” said Michael, 49, of Berryville, who noted that Melody’s room is one big black-and-purple shrine to her favorite team. “It was awesome; we had a great time.”
That seems to be the general sentiment for Ravens fans everywhere these days.
Left for dead by most experts after they closed the regular season by losing four of their last five games, Baltimore has found new life in the postseason.
Whether it’s been the emotional lift of star linebacker Ray Lewis returning from a torn triceps to finish what he has declared will be his final season, the stellar play of quarterback Joe Flacco or simply the fact that they are healthier than they have been all season, the Ravens have been nothing short of magnificent in the playoffs.
They beat the upstart Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round, upset the No. 1-seeded Denver Broncos in double overtime a week later and then shut out the mighty New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
In doing so they’ve not only reached the Super Bowl for the first time since 2001 — where they will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday — but they’ve also given their fans plenty to crow about.
“It’s been really exciting to watch; there’s been a lot of close games but they’ve been playing really well,” said Katelyn Troupe, 24, a Shenandoah University graduate who grew up in Hagerstown, Md. “I always hoped they’d get this far, but it is a bit of a shock, especially the last couple games.”
A third-grade teacher at Stonewall Elementary School, Troupe said most of her students are picking against her beloved Ravens, something she’s become used to while living in Redskins country.
“I usually wear either my [Ray] Rice or Torrey Smith jerseys when I watch them play and some people like to say things every now and then,” Troupe said.
Michelle Madagan, 27, of Stephens City can relate.
A special education teacher at Sherando High School, the Baltimore native is not shy about her love for the Ravens, even if it means hearing some smack talk from students.
“I used to get a lot of flak from kids at school for being a Ravens fan, but they’re not talking as much these days,” Madagan said. “There aren’t a lot of Ravens fans around here, but when I see someone in a Ravens jersey or a hat, I’ll be like, ‘I like it!.’ ”
That’s music to Greg Demski’s ears. Madagan’s father and a lifelong Baltimore football fan, Demski was attending games when Johnny Unitas and the Colts were still in town.
After the Colts left for Indianapolis in 1984, Demski couldn’t bring himself to be an Indy fan or a Redskins fan, instead choosing to cheer for the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League until the NFL returned to Baltimore in 1996.
“I can remember when it was being rumored that they were coming back and my brother and I were at a sporting good store in Hagerstown and we saw these Ravens T-shirts. We bought them before they’d even moved back,” said Demski, who has passed on his fanaticism not only to his daughter, but also his sons Joe, 18, and Dan, 15. “We were extremely excited; once the Baltimore team was back, we were back.”
And now that the Ravens are back in the Super Bowl, all of the Demski clan and their relatives will be back as well.
Madagan said the family plans a big party on Sunday; the only caveat is that it’s for Ravens fans only — although spouses will be allowed to join.
Grandparents are flying in from Florida and Joe, who Greg said called this Super Bowl run when the Ravens seemingly could not win a game toward the end of the regular season, will be driving from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, where he is a freshman.
It will be one of numerous Super Bowl parties in town on Sunday, many of which will include Ravens-themed baked goods.
“I’ve gotten a lot of orders for Ravens cake pops, cakes and cupcakes the last two weeks,” said Farozan Jivraj, the pastry chef and owner of Cupcake Novelties in Winchester. “I got calls for the Super Bowl last year [when the New England Patriots played the New York Giants], but there’s been a lot more local interest this year with Baltimore being in it.”
For Michael, his wife Melissa, Melody and the rest of the Vaughan clan, which includes the appropriately named dog Raven, Sunday can’t get here soon enough.
“We’re all diehard fans,” said Michael, who also has three sons — Ethan, 24, Tyler, 23, and Kyle, 17 — who bleed purple and black. “We used to live within walking distance of their old training camp in Westminster and the kids would walk down there all the time and talk to the players and get autographs.
“We share a season-ticket package with a guy I went to high school with and I’ll take my wife to one game and all of the kids get to go to one game. They’re our team.”
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