I've never rode the team charter with the Ravens to an away game. From what I've heard though, the players and coaches rarely walk through an airport when they travel on the road. The buses they ride drive directly onto the runway and the players and coaches can quickly board a private flight without a single fan even seeing them.
During our travels from Baltimore to Punta Cana today, the Ravens cheerleaders and the rest of our contingent did not have the same special transportation privileges that our fellow purple and black brethren receive.
So if you happened to be traveling on a flight out of BWI airport at around 8:00 this morning and you were in the vicinity of Gate E, you probably happened to notice 18 young women decked out in purple sequined tops and with full hair and make-up done up before sunrise. Actually, there was no way you could miss them.
As we waited to board our 8am flight, many tourists approached the cheerleaders. The girls were great. Even at an hour when I was still wiping the sleep out of my eyes, they were all willing to flash a smile for a photograph, pose for pictures with travelers and even sign a few autographs.
Looking around at people's faces, it was obvious that even the travelers who didn't get out of their seats to photograph the girls still took an interest in them.
On the plane—which was packed to capacity with people young and old—the captain made an announcement welcoming the special guests that were onboard. And anyone sitting between row 22 and the back of the plane needed to walk through a sea of blond hair (with a few touches of brunette and a some red) in order to get to their seats.
One of the funniest moments of the day came when one passenger, who was walking behind his wife down the center aisle, noticed he was in the presence of an NFL cheerleading squad and yelled for his wife to stop and get the camera out of her bag so he could get a picture.
After he snapped a few shots with some of the girls, I asked this gentleman how he felt when he got on the plane and realized he was on a flight with the entire Ravens cheerleading team. A smile as large as his stature immediately gleamed across his face as he answered, "Oh man, this feels absolutely marvelous!"
(I managed to capture this entire moment on video. Check it out in my *I Love My Job Video Blog at 25,000 Feet in the Media Player to the right, as my description here definitely doesn't do it justice!)*
Of course, once we arrived in Punta Cana, most places we walked we were greeted with raised eyebrows as people took note of our group. Even the customs agents wanted photos!
Leaving the airport, I heard several men yell, "Go Ravens!" as we walked by. I said to a few of the girls that I wondered if their visit to the Dominican Republic might increase the popularity of American football in this baseball-crazed nation.
I'm pretty sure if Ray Lewis had walked out of the Punta Cana airport today, the vast majority of locals would not have given him a second glance. Jonathan Ogden probably would have garnered a few glimpses…but that's only because he would be the largest human being these folks have ever seen in their lives. Around these parts, it's the cheerleaders who are the real celebrities.
…Oh, and did I mention that it's my job to travel around with them this week? Just checking.
I do love that job of mine!