As a native of New York City and an alumna of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I’ve seen my fair share of die-hard sports fans. On any given day in New York, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a person walking down the street sporting a Yankees fitted cap, a Mets t-shirt, or a Carmelo Anthony Knicks jersey. I even own a “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” Nets t-shirt. I spent most of my undergraduate career seeing others in Carolina blue, whether at a basketball game, a house party or in class.
But none of my experiences in New York or Chapel Hill braced me for “Purple Fridays” at my school, aka the capital of Ravens Nation. I had never witnessed such loyalty and devotion to a sports team within a community, until I started teaching here in Baltimore City. On any given Purple Friday, I see kids in all grades, from Pre-Kindergarten through eight, sporting a Ravens jersey, hoodie, t-shirt, or a purple accessory (like a bead necklace or bracelet) to display their support for their hometown team. At my school, the most important names on Monday mornings are Lewis, Flacco, Rice and Smith.
Outside of the school gymnasium is a “Play Like a Raven” poster that I pass by multiple times each day. It wasn’t until the day after the Ravens beat the New England Patriots to secure a spot in this year’s Super Bowl that I thought deeply about that poster and what it could mean for my students, our school, our school community, and the city of Baltimore.
What I love about the Ravens’ journey to the Super Bowl this year is their “underdog” story. In Baltimore, a city in which 40% of students fail to graduate from high school and fewer than one in six will graduate from college, children live a real-life “underdog” story every day.
When I think about how inspiring it will be for the Ravens to win the Super Bowl, and for the “Play Like a Ravens” poster to foster inspiration in the lives of all the Ravens fans at my school, I can’t help but root for them. I am originally a New York Giants fan (if by “fan” you mean I wait until they make the last round of the playoffs to start watching games, pretend I’ve been watching all season long, and then argue with everyone else that I am their number one fan). But this coming Sunday, I will be sporting something purple and cheering loudly for the Baltimore Ravens. It is my hope that their underdog story will end in the same way I hope the underdog stories of many students in Baltimore, mine included, will end - triumphantly!