I always get excited when asked to share my Ravens story, and especially as the Ravens are headed down to Jacksonville, Fla. The Ravens have been a very important part of my life, and my story is one of devotion, salvation, and, most importantly, love.
My family moved from Maryland to Florida in 1970. Although only 4 years old, I understood we had to for my dad's health. Mom hated Florida, but loved Dad more than a place. I always tell people that I was a football fan in the womb. Mom was a devoted Baltimore Colts fan who watched her games religiously and passionately. I remember the day the Colts snuck out of town; Mom was a mess and tears were flowing. After five years of caring for my dad, the stress and sadness of losing him, Mom wanted and needed to come home to Baltimore.
Two years before the journey back home, my brother told me to watch ESPN. The announcement was made, Art Modell was moving his team to Baltimore. My exact words were, "If they do not name them after Edgar Allen Poe, and the color is not purple, I will root for their biggest rival." With that, I moved back to Baltimore to be with family, the Orioles and now my beloved Ravens.
After four years in Baltimore, I was depressed and wanted to go back to Florida. But one night, I decided to go to The Barn because I heard Brian Billick was going to be there for a live radio show. It was there that I saw a banner for Ravens Roost 50. I met Thomas Elliot (a.k.a "T"), who explained what the Roost was all about and told me that he'd better see me at the next meeting. I wasn't going to go, but I did, and I met so many wonderful new friends. The darkness in my life was lifted.
The new friends I found in the Roost taught me how to tailgate, and on one very icy day, Mom and I took the bus to the stadium (no icy roads for this Florida girl). I asked a man if he could give us a ride home, and he pointed us to his brother, Jan. I was a bit nervous. I didn't know who the brother was besides seeing him in his Ravens Elvis costume. Mom and I walked up and his first words were, "Your mom wears combat boots." I knew then that we would become great friends.
A few months later, on Nov. 20, 2003, I sat next to Jan at the Ravens vs. 49ers game, which we won, 44-6. I knew then he was "The One." The Roost hosted a New Years Eve party, and Jan, in his Ravens Elvis costume, was the DJ. One dance, one midnight kiss, one amazing party turned into the love of my life. On Sept. 9, 2006, Jan and I were married. It was opening weekend for the Ravens, so we turned our backyard into a tailgate party for our rehearsal dinner. The wedding was all purple and black and the best man speech was a Ravens tribute to our love. Of course, Ravens Elvis showed up for our first dance.
Like many others, Jan and I took the 44-hour journey to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. After the win and a whirlwind party on Bourbon Street, we headed straight back to M&T Bank Stadium for the victory celebration. This year, we renewed our vows in New Orleans, complete with Ravens vows and rings. During our renewal, I realized that our love of the Ravens is like our love for each other: we are a team, we support each other through the good and the bad (including 13 surgeries) and we root each other on, always encouraging each other to strive for greatness and the win. Our motto is "Love is gaming together."