Every Sunday during the football season, a group of 30 diehard Jewish Baltimore Ravens fans suit up in purple pants, jerseys, socks, face paint and special Ravens tzitzit to watch the game together.
If the game falls on a Saturday, the club gathers for a “purple Shabbos,” when they wear Ravens jerseys under their suits, eat Ravens-inspired food from a purple menu and go into lockdown mode once the game starts so they don’t accidentally discover the final score before they can watch the recorded broadcast post-Sabbath.
“Yes, we’re all absolute Ravens nuts,” Noam Heller, a 25-year-old Baltimore native, told JTA. “We’re not just casual football fans like some other states. Everyone who knows our crew knows we’re crazy.”
The group has been reveling in the Ravens together for about five years at the homes of its members. Wives and kids come along now, too.
With their beloved squad slated to face off against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Heller and company no doubt will get even crazier than normal.
Adding to its significance, the showdown comes just six months after the death of former owner Art Modell, the Jewish Brooklyn native who moved the team to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1996. Ravens players dedicated this season to Modell, wearing a patch with “Art” on their jerseys.
And even more poignancy: The Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce whether Modell will be inducted the day before the big game.
“Honestly, I’m kvelling over this game,” David Modell, one of the late owner’s two sons and a former president and CEO of the Ravens, told JTA. “I’m not praying for results, I’m praying for the strength and courage of this team, and the rest will take care of itself. But a Super Bowl victory and a place in the Hall of Fame would be an incredible way to honor my father’s memory.”
Modell’s legacy is something of a touchy subject for football fans. Supporters see him as a brilliant businessman best known for his role in negotiations with the ABC television network leading to the creation of “Monday Night Football” in 1970, and for his support for community charities in Cleveland and Baltimore.