During the Ravens' Thursday Night Football win over the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 26, Dan Granofsky, aka Real Fan Dan, was rewarded with tickets to Super Bowl LII.
Fans who come to M&T Bank Stadium know Granofsky as the guy who rips off his shirt and leads the "R-A-V-E-N-S" chant to the delight of us all. He's amazing.
Well, it's been two weeks since he had the time of his life in Minneapolis, and Granofsky shared his story (which he first posted on the Russell Street Report's forums) with me.
Here's the tale, in his own words:
As many of you know, the NFL and Baltimore Ravens rewarded me for getting half nekkid and leading R-A-V-E-N-S cheers after touchdowns for 20 years by sending me and my blushing bride, Robin, to Super Bowl LII – all expenses paid.
Each of the 32 fans and their guests who won tickets had a different story on how they got them, and the tales came out as we partied and went to the various events together the whole weekend. Besides the game itself, they were the best part of the whole venture – hands down. What a party!
The Redskins couple in their 70's had season tickets for over 50 years, as did a gent from San Francisco who was bequeathed his tickets by his uncle, who passed when he was 7. The Colts reps got married on the field in Indy and were given the Super Bowl trip for their honeymoon! "Moose" represents the Jaguars. This lively guy has Down syndrome, and he enjoyed himself immensely. Titans fans Lisa and Tim really got along with Robin and me. We reveled in shared stories of the Ravens-Titans rivalry in the early goings of our franchises. That was knock-down-drag-out football back then of the like not seen nowadays. A little guy we loved was Hector, a vibrant boy who is bravely fighting a serious illness. He proudly represents the Rams. Please remember him in your prayers. He wasour team captain, mascot and hero.
The Steelers couple was very nice and we talked amicably. His name is Rob; my wife's is Robin. My name is Daniel; hers is Danielle. That was just too weird, so I ordered another bourbon and ginger. The cat from Cincinnati qualified with an excellent video of his man cave and tales of famous Bengals games. He then networked with Bengals fans on the internet to win a fan vote. You could tell that he initially took umbrage with being at close quarters with fans of certain teams, but he (like everyone else) quickly got over it and we just got along great.
Sam and Martha came from Tampa Bay. Sam is a deacon in the Baptist church, as I am in the Lutheran churches. Sam got his tickets because of his charitable work with the Buccaneers; he's a great guy. Many fans won contests or raffles or, like Lori and Harland (farmers and wonderfully friendly Cowboys fans), they simply got a phone call from their team asking them if they wanted to go to the Super Bowl. The fan representing Atlanta said she got hers because she was the only Falcons season ticket holder living in Minnesota. Although she wasn't in our group, I met a Ravens fan who sat near us who said she was a PSL owner who lived in Minnesota and that's why she had received free tickets.
I can't stress enough how outgoing and friendly the Minnesotans are. A couple of Minnesotan Ravens fans reached out to my niece on the internet to offer to pick us up, drive us around, even open up their home to us. Harry and Nicky were absolutely terrific, and I met several people like them.
All of the fans we talked to were in agreement. The bar manager in our hotel said there is "Minnesota Nice" but also sometimes "Minnesota Ice." I walked through a crowd of thousands on all three days and didn't see one fight. I think maybe the visiting fans on both sides sensed that the folks around them were super cool and they needed to act the same.
On Friday, we had a meet and greet with the fans of all 32 teams who had won Super Bowl tickets. Each of the 64 chairs had an on-the-field jersey on it, with No. 52 (for SB LII, although I insisted it's for Ray's Hall of Fame announcement), and SUPERBOWL on the back, as well as a big bag of goodies for each of us.
Senior Vice President of NFL Officiating Al Riveron, Vice President of Instant Replay & Administration Russell Yurk and their team who help review every touchdown in the league were waiting for us. They hosted a "You Make The Call" session showing film from controversial plays that occurred throughout the course of the season. They showed a play at speed, asked us to make the call, then they broke it down from there using every angle available. They rolled tape and the fun began. Remember there are fans from every team in the room, so somebody's bound to catch an attitude with some of these calls.
On Saturday, our NFL guides took us a 1/2 mile via the Skyway to the Super Bowl Experience in the Minneapolis Convention Center. Got pics with the Lombardi, checked out all the Super Bowl rings, wore our team's jerseys on "Draft Day," checked out plays in virtual reality, and watched fans coach, officiate and execute plays on near full-size fields. The best thing was interacting with all kinds of fans from every team. Ran into about a dozen Ravens fans over the course of the day.
On gameday, they led us down to "Level 3" in that truly magnificent stadium. We had to wear a special secret bracelet as we went down the stairs, then were issued a special secret card. We had to walk about 20 feet to a guy who did a flashy thing with it, then a right turn. That's when we almost walked into Bill Belichick in the tunnel leading to the field!
One of the Bengals fans took a video of me doing the R-A-V-E-N-S cheer on the Eagles sideline on the actual field at Super Bowl LII. That's probably the high-water mark of this bald-headed, fat guy's cheering career. Still can't hardly believe all this happened!
Please be advised that in U.S. Bank Stadium, it was an Eagles home game. They came running out with the lettered flags and the Eagle waving the big flag and half the stadium singing. The Patriot cheerleaders were there, but other than that there was very little fanfare for them. Man, I liked that.
We were all seated together in Section 302 (about seven rows from the top). While Zach Ertz's touchdown catch and run was being reviewed, I hollered, "You make the call!" and the Bills fans on the other end of our group screamed back "Did the ball survive the ground!?" (which is what Mr. Riveron asked us after every film clip he showed). Of course, Ertz had shown clear possession and control, had become a runner, and all he had to do was break the plane of the goal line. The slight bobble when he hit the ground was inconsequential.
Attending the Super Bowl is a once in a lifetime type of experience – absolutely awesome in every detail. I just hope we get the opportunity again someday and our beloved Ravens are in the contest! The NFL's championship game remains the preeminent event in all of sports – bar none, hands down.
I am exceedingly grateful to the NFL, Baltimore Ravens and all of their staff at the team and league levels who so professionally made this happen, and especially to our owner, Mr. Steve Bisciotti. Rewarding fans from across the league by sending them to the Super Bowl is a class act all the way, and it is my fervent hope that you guys continue to spread the love!
The friendships and memories we made in that super intense three-day period will last a lifetime. We have been home over a week and Robin and I still can't believe it happened! Moments like this are fleeting, and I would encourage everyone to soak in the moments, enjoy and appreciate the people who enhance the world around you, and thank God for the opportunity.
And to all you fantastic unbelievably diehard Ravens fans who have joined in on the R-A-V-E-N-S cheer for 20 years, especially those in Sections 531, 532 & 533 where it all began. And to the great folks who adopted the cheer over in the west end zone, keeping it alive and growing until it caught the eye of Mr. Jay O'Brien, who put it on the Big Screen in 2014. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of our team!
Together we will continue to ROCK THE HOUSE! GO RAVENS!
Real Fan Dan