When I moved to New England in 2009 with my now wife ("I gotta see about a girl"), I knew being homesick would be tough. I spent my entire life in Maryland – grew up in Howard County, went to University of Maryland (College Park), and started my career in Rockville – but I was ready for something new.
Dropped deep in enemy territory, the first question I have always been asked from anyone who learns I'm not a local is, "Ah yah, a Sax and Pats fan yet?"
The region's famed allegiance to the local sports teams is most definitely real, but a fan's perspective is often generational. My father-in-law frequently reminds me of how great the Orioles teams were in the 60s and 70s, and how awful the Pats were for so long, while teenage cousins have only known Boston as "Titletown." Tom Brady marching the team down the field to victory in the final seconds of a game is confidently viewed as a given, an assumption; not something viewed as a hope and a prayer. And don't get me started on New England sports talk radio callers …
But you have to give credit where credit is due. The Patriots have done an excellent job foraying regular-season dominance (of a soft division) and one of the greatest coaches of all time (Annapolis-raised), into consistently making the playoffs and winning on the big stage. The team and fan base have taken Belichick's mantra "Do your job" to heart, just as we have taken on "The Team. The Team. The Team."
You could understand if New England fans were confident playing us. We've had our hearts broken plenty of times before, so much so that I generally watch these games alone. One might think they have our number after backbreakers like losing in primetime in 2007, or the 2010 overtime loss at Gillette, or the 2013 regular-season drubbing at home. Or, put more plainly, Billy Cundiff.
But what is clear to me is that playing the Ravens makes New England fans nervous. Nervous because our defense is never intimidated. Nervous because of flashbacks to Ray Rice breaking an 83-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. Nervous because we came into Gillette and took home the AFC title during Ray's last ride.
So what's it like being a Baltimore fan in New England? Sure, you take your licks from family and colleagues, and Purple Friday doesn't seem to resonate here. But it has only emboldened me. You take on the Ravens persona, relishing the underdog "us against the world" mentality. You hope filling your 19-month-old son's wardrobe with purple will subliminally lead him to cheering on his dad's favorite team.
And you always answer that first question emphatically - "Never!"