John Harbaugh walked into the locker room after Tuesday’s Super Bowl celebration still in awe of what he had just witnessed.
“Have you ever seen anything like that?” he asked. “Unbelievable.”
Nobody in Baltimore had even seen anything like it.
The city turned out in a huge way to celebrate the Ravens bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.
More than 75,000 fans packed M&T Bank Stadium, and thousands of others lined the city streets for a parade that stretched from city hall to the stadium. In total, hundreds of thousands of people participated in the event that brought downtown Baltimore to a grinding halt.
“It’s awesome, man,” safety
The celebration was so large that the Ravens even had to push back the start time of their own parade because players were stuck in traffic for hours getting into downtown. Some players weren't even able to make it on time because of traffic.
As the team rolled through downtown, spectators packed the streets, lined bridges, climbed trees and peered out through office buildings. Even policemen and firemen stopped to get some pictures of the world champions.
At one point, fans toppled the barriers separating the motorcade from the sidewalks, and started parading with the team themselves.
“When you see something like this, it makes you want to play even harder for this city,” linebacker
Team officials expected about 30,000 fans to come to the stadium for the celebration. Instead, the turnout was so large that the gates had to be closed because it had reached full capacity, including a standing room only crowd on the field.
The event dwarfed the celebration that the Ravens had in 2001 after winning Super Bowl 35, which drew more than 200,000 people downtown.
“On a scale of 1-10, the parade in 2000 was a 10,” said former wide receiver and current radio broadcaster Qadry Ismail. “But this is off the charts.”
Once the Ravens made their way into the stadium, they took the field with some traditional theatrics.
Lewis was holding the Lombardi Trophy, with “Hot In Here” blaring over the speakers. The future Hall of Famer did an extended version of his famous dance, then was joined by Ed Reed and
“Baltimore! There is nothing in the world, there is no place on this earth, that is better than Baltimore," Lewis said. "This city, this city, we believed in each other from Day One, from 1996 to now. We believed in each other, Baltimore.”
Once they took the stage, the celebration included speeches from Harbaugh, Flacco, Reed, Lewis and Owner Steve Bisciotti, who all thanked the fans for their support.
"Baltimore, we did it," Flacco said. "Super Bowl champs, baby! Hey, this is for you guys. Hey, we’ve been through a lot this year -- a lot of highs, a couple lows. And you guys stood there through it all. Just like you always do. You’re a special group and we love you.”
When Reed took over the microphone, he sang “Two Tickets To Paradise,” just like he’s been doing the last couple weeks leading to the Super Bowl. He also led the crowd in a Seven Nation Army chant.
“Hey, Baltimore, the best team, the best team in the world, is right here. Right here," Reed said. "No better team right now. This year, nobody can beat these boys. Not us. Not in the world.”
When Harbaugh spoke to the crowd, he also sung the praises of team’s fans.
“Thank you for today," Harbaugh said. "Thank you for every single day. We talk about the team. Look around. This is the team. This whole stadium is packed with the Baltimore Raven team together.
“Thank you very much for being here. Our team, I’m talking about all of us, one of the keys was our determination. We played with incredible determination and resolve.”
Harbaugh led the entire stadium in a chant, as if to make sure the whole nation knew the Ravens had arrived.
"What's our name?" Harbaugh said.
"Ravens!" the crowd screamed back.
The event was a public showing of the way the team has connected with the city in the 17 years that the franchise has been in Baltimore.
“I don’t know how many more times we can do this, bringing championships home before Baltimore loses that chip on its shoulder,” Bisciotti said. “I hope it doesn’t ever happen.”