PART 1: The Ghost Of Baltimore Football Past
The empty seats and the many unused tickets at Ravens games are no longer “breaking news” in Baltimore. Swaths of shiny purple seatbacks at M&T Bank have been without derrieres this fall and everyone, it seems, has a different excuse, reason or rage toward the football team that has delivered two joyous parades for the metropolis so far this century after the lost NFL generation between the Ravens and the Colts.
The truth is obvious to any of us who watched Ray Lewis dance The Squirrel for 17 years and its accompanying roar in a bursting fit of civic celebration for all to cheer and emulate. It’s clear that the fanaticism that spawned a generation of fans in Baltimore is now waning.
For many, the thrill is gone.
And it happened so quickly.
Tens of thousands of Baltimore Ravens ticket holders – vested by PSLs purchased two decades ago for the price of a nice vacation week in Ocean City – are staying away, and from my vantage point are protesting more than just “The Knee” or the political statements of players of color in the NFL.
The fans, even with the money already sunk on their credit cards months ago, are saying “Bah! Humbug!” to the Baltimore Ravens as we enter 2018. And the arc of the glorious purple football honeymoon, which seemed to last a good generation after Art Modell brought the Cleveland Browns to the Charm City, is now gone – evaporated amidst the empty patches throughout the stadium and the long line of ticket sellers on everyone’s social media threads.
I own two PSLs in Section 513. I lovingly called them “Poor Suckers Licenses” on the radio to David Modell’s face 20 years ago. I paid $500 each. I have now purchased somewhere around 220 Ravens game tickets since 1996. It’s almost like a $2.50 per game “surcharge” at this point. As I pointed out then, it was simply the small upfront cost of having NFL football for everyone in Baltimore and Maryland who wanted it. I never saw it as “an investment” but I also never tried to sell my PSL after the Super Bowl wins, when apparently they held strong value.
This three-part series is about the obvious issues the Baltimore Ravens are facing – on and off the field and many of the issues are similar in other cities around the NFL that would prefer full stadiums and fervor but instead settle for massive television revenue. This civic nonchalance has spread into a community that has become somnambulant about what used to stir passions to fight men from Pittsburgh – or anywhere the Ravens purple name was disparaged.
I will be the first to tell you that I don’t have any answers or fast solutions for the Baltimore Ravens and their beleaguered front office and ownership. Steve Bisciotti, Dick Cass and everyone in charge in Owings Mills are keenly aware of all of the issues I’ll address. Many season ticket holders have been called. Letters have been written. Opinions have been expressed in many directions. I’m sure you’ve seen them on your social media thread as well. Everyone has at least one “outraged” Ravens fan and civic patriot in their universe.
At some point, the season ticket renewals will be coming in February and March and the folks who individually write the checks for the tickets will vote their conscience and wallet.
Candidly, the Ravens spend most of their time working on the only thing that they can’t fully control