You’ll never forget your first time. It’s almost three years since I took my pilgrimage to Baltimore with my partner and in some ways it feels like only a few weeks have passed since I was there.
The trip was a spur of the moment decision. How I could justify spending four figures for a four-day trip across the Atlantic? It seems absurd but, after a few hours’ thought, I considered it a once in a lifetime opportunity.
As a man in my mid-twenties, thoughts of weddings, children and other issues had prevented me from fulfilling my ambition of watching the Ravens play at home. “Who knows where we’ll be a year from now?” my now fiancée said, which made me hit the confirm button.
The trip was wonderful. We visited Washington DC, explored some of Baltimore’s historical and cultural sites and had a tour of Camden Yards, the Orioles baseball stadium.
Game day was Sunday, 9th November, 2014. After chatting with a few people on the Russell Street Report forums, I had a few offers of tailgating with locals. I met up with a crew of about 20 people on a plot of land 10 minutes from M&T Bank, just off West Ostend Street.
The reception I got from these people who, it should be noted, knew nothing about me other than my screenname and nationality, was heart-warming. They introduced us to other tailgaters, invited us into conversations about the team and players and shared some proper tailgating food on a portable hob.
As the Ravens were playing the Titans that afternoon we were happy recipients of Tennessee style ribs and some mac ‘n’ cheese. The Americans know how to tailgate, I can only hope we in the UK learn and adapt in time for a possible UK franchise…
The game itself was slow starting as Zach Mettenberger (remember him!?) led the Titans to an unlikely 7-0 lead. The Ravens gradually took control in the second quarter and comfortably won 21-7.
As first-time fans, we were treated to almost everything; a passing TD, two rushing TDs, an interception and a fumble recovery. There was even a dubious sack at the one-yard line, which to this day I insist was a safety.
I was fortunate to see a fantastic 2014 squad that day, including a rookie CJ Mosley, an outstanding Justin Forsett and the devastating sack duo of Suggs and Doom, who combined for 4 sacks. Joe was, well, Joe was Joe, throwing for just shy of 170 yards with one TD and no interceptions.
The atmosphere at the stadium was electric and I tried to soak in every minute. However, the memory that sticks in my mind the most came 30 minutes after the match had finished.
My partner and I stayed behind taking the obligatory photos and then decided to head back to West Ostend Street to see if the crew we met up with earlier were still there. As we approached and they saw us, the whole gang started clapping and shouting with glee and we were welcomed back like family, a truly touching moment.
We became lifelong friends with that couple from Baltimore and are still in contact with them to this day.
As for once in a lifetime? Maybe not after all. After seeing them at Wembley this year, we will also be visiting Baltimore in 2018 for our honeymoon. They say you’ll never forget your first time but they also say the second and third times are better!
November 9, 2014
Tennessee Titans 7
Baltimore Ravens 21
Photo: Keith Allison