The Ravens fly to Los Angeles today for the first time in franchise history as they get ready to take on the L.A. Chargers at the StubHub Center.
When the coaches and players take the field Saturday night, they may find themselves surprised by the sea of purple love that awaits them.
The West Wing L.A. may be the Ravens’ biggest fan hub outside of Baltimore, bringing together an average of about 60 people to watch every single Ravens game and hosting thousands more on social media.
“We are SO excited for this game,” said Nick Slatkin, who is one of the founders of the group. “We’re taking the displaced fan base by storm.”
Statkin moved from Baltimore to Los Angeles in 2003. He randomly met some other people from Baltimore and they met up to go to Ravens games, bouncing from bar to bar. He met a family friend from back home, Daniela Pane Peeler, who introduced her to Pete Shaulis, who had already started a Southern California Ravens fan Facebook page.
They used that to put together their first event for a preseason game in 2010 with all of seven people. By the end of that season, they were up to about 150 people at a bar to watch the Ravens play the Steelers in the playoffs.
“It just grew from there,” Slatkin said. “Sometimes we would have 300 people just lining up out the door. It’s been crazy.”
The following year, they adopted a certain somebody Ravens fans may remember. Mike Duffy, the guy who held my BaltimoreRavens.com staff writer job before me, moved to L.A. to take a job writing for Fender Guitars.
Duffy left early in the 2011 season, and on his very first weekend in town, in late October, he was invited by a guy named Kazy Brown, who he had met during a tour of the Ravens’ facility years prior, to come to watch the game at a bar called The Parlor with West Wing L.A. Duffy went and was blown away.
“If you didn’t get there an hour early, you almost couldn’t get in the bar,” Duffy said. “And this place is big. It was crazy. I remember watching the playoff games and the Super Bowl there. People were lined up around the block three hours before the game.”
No offense to Duffy, but the group welcomed other bigger celebrities to their watch parties over the years. Ravens Hall of Fame tackle Jonathan Ogden, former linebacker Jamie Sharper, pastry chef Duff Goldman, actor Josh Charles and Orioles outfielder Adam Jones have all swung through.
The parties try to make it feel like Baltimore as much as possible. Any bar that hosts is required to hang a Maryland flag. They’ve had Utz potato chips and Bergers cookies brought in. No luck yet in securing Natty Boh.
“We want it to be like home,” Slatkin said. “When we made that Super Bowl run, we had a lot of people. We met up for the fourth-and-29 game and had about 1,000 people show up to the tailgate.”
There’s no tailgating allowed at the StubHub Center, so The West Wing L.A. is joining forces with Jimmy’s Seafood, who is bringing a ton of crab cakes with them, to host a pregame tailgate at a nearby brewery Saturday afternoon.
And when the game starts, don’t be surprised to see a lot of purple jerseys in the stands at the smaller-than-usual venue. It’s a road game, but The West Wing L.A. crew is determined to give the Ravens a taste of home.
“I have a feeling we’re going to have a ton of people,” Slatkin said. “It’s a little weird because it’s Christmas weekend, but I still think it will be a lot.”