On that weekend in October when the Baltimore Ravens were in town to play the Dolphins, purple jerseys mobbed Fort Lauderdale Beach. I encountered about 100 fans boarding buses at the Yankee Clipper the morning of that game. There was no mistaking the ruddy faces and rowdy moods: These Ravens fans were wasted.
And good for them. They won that game 27-13, cheering their Ravens loudly enough to neutralize the Fins' home-field advantage. It's one of the few newly created franchises in all of sports that immediately attracted a rabid fan following and that has sustained it in the years since.
Now the Ravens are coming to town again, and this being the Dolphins' first playoff appearance in nine years, the stakes are considerably higher. For Ravens fanatics, it's a chance not just to see their team in the post-season; it's a tantalizing break from the Baltimore winter. (Ray Lewis won't even need to bring his fur, pictured above.)
Alas, Baltimoreans have been greeted by inhospitable airline fares of $500 to $1,000. After all, Miami's a New Year's Eve destination, there's an Orange Bowl, and we're nearing prime time for tourists. That means that cash-strapped Ravens fans will either stay home or blow their last remaining bucks on our local merchants. Pregame edge: Fins.
-- Thomas Francis