Here’s the end of the story: Super Bowl Sunday and the streets of Baltimore were crowded with packs of fist-pumping fans in purple shirts — groups of pedestrians who whooped and hollered at every passing car whose drivers in turn honked at every group of fans. Goodwill was the emotion of the moment.
We were on our way home from a party, and my daughter, who happens to excel in exuberance, rolled down the car window and called out, “Ravens!” Then she let out a shriek that only a teenaged girl can muster.
Here’s the beginning of this story: We were in an Old Navy more than a year ago where they were selling T-shirts with vintage-looking athletic designs, long-sleeved shirts that promoted minor league hockey teams and longtime baseball teams. Actually I don’t even remember all the teams, except for the one — the Indianapolis Colts.
I remember that one, because that was the one my daughter decided she had to have. Yeah, the Indianapolis Colts. The team that of course once was the BALTIMORE COLTS until that night in 1984 when the owner snuck the franchise out of town, essentially stealing football away from Charm City.
Maybe it’s an overstatement to say that people in Baltimore are still bitter about this, although I have a friend who refused to recognize Peyton Manning as a good quarterback until he went to the Denver Broncos. It is fair to say that here in Baltimore we don’t like the Indianapolis Colts.
Except for my daughter apparently. Who really, really liked that shirt. And she really, really wanted me to buy that for her.
No way, I told her. No way was I going to let my daughter wear an Indianapolis Colts shirt all around Baltimore. OK, this might have been a little overly dramatic on part. Wearing a Colts shirt wasn’t like wearing a rival gang’s colors – nobody in Baltimore was going to rough her up for her wardrobe.
But Leeannah didn’t really like sports – any sports. She just liked being a contrarian. I think she was 12 at this point in the story, a moody, idea-challenging seventh grader. A normal kid who was trying to find out who she was by seeing how people responded to her. You know, pushing the boundaries.
“You don’t even like football,” I pressed her. “What is this all about?”
For more than a year, she insisted she was a Colts fan – and then this year the Colts were never mentioned. Occasionally Doyle even prodded his sister to cheer for her favorite team and there was no response.
After Baltimore beat Denver and Peyton in the playoffs, Leeannah posted a “Woohoo!!!” on Facebook. When they beat the Patriots, she wrote “Super Bowl here we come!!!”
Of course, we were going to a party. “Who knows when this will happen again?” I told the children about the big game. We had never lived in a city that had made it to the Super Bowl. I had lived in Baltimore when there wasn’t football and College Park when the Redskins weren’t good.
And who knows if Leeannah is really a Ravens fan, or if she just gave in to the giant sea of purple? Suddenly she was raiding my closet and borrowing a Ravens shirt to wear to teen yoga. While I don’t want her to be a follower, in a hard knocks city like Baltimore sometimes it’s hard to find something big to celebrate. I didn’t want her to miss out on the fun.
And she didn’t. She watched the game, she cheered for the home team, she critiqued the commercials, and she danced with Beyonce. Later that night as we sped past the purple street lights, she pumped her fist and shouted. She was a woo girl, a cheerleader, a team booster.
Who knows if she’ll even watch football next year? At that moment I just wanted to take a picture of her, because she was having so much fun.
“Honk again, Mom” she urged me. And then she shouted from her window, “Ravens Nation, baby!”