- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Washingtonians, decked out in fresh-from-the-rack Ravens jerseys, sweats and hats, are clambering aboard the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl-bound bandwagon.

A day after the team beat the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship, area sporting goods stores have seen nearly everything with a Ravens logo fly off the shelves.

The Stadium Store in Wheaton, Md., known for carrying all types of Redskins items has fans who are coming in looking for Ravens merchandise, according to employee George Jamerson.

He calls them all "bandwagon fans."

"Whenever there's a good team there's a bandwagon," he said. "Everybody does that this time of year."

Mr. Jamerson said the store used to stock Ravens items, but no one was buying.

"We almost had to give the stuff away," he said.

That's hardly the case now.

For those willing to open their wallets, tickets to Super Bowl XXXV between the Ravens and the New York Giants are going for $325 and $400 each at face value. Those who buy through ticket brokers or the Internet auction site EBay will shell out between $1,800 and $5,000 for each seat.

Local watering holes usually catering to Redskins fans found a different team the topic of conversation.

At Patriot's Cafe in Fairfax City, Va., regulars said they had no problem cheering for the Ravens, since the $100 million Redskins were a bust.

"They're a home team, basically," said Pat Warren, 38. "I am a Redskins fan, but I'm rooting for the Ravens."

Rick Hochmuth, 43, said the Ravens are a sister team for the area.

"They're down the street," Mr. Hochmuth said. "It's extremely disappointing, considering [the Redskins] paid all that money."

The local lovefest with Baltimore isn't sitting well with everyone, though.

Andy Pollin, sports director of WTEM-AM (Radio 980), said he's critical of those trading in the Redskins for a team whose players they might be hard-pressed to name.

"To act like it's a Washington team is a joke. This is not a local team they might as well be in Tennessee," Mr. Pollin said.

The last time Washingtonians had a right to root for a Baltimore team, he said, was in 1971, when the Baltimore Colts beat the hated Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V.

Harley Schwarz, the manager of Grevey's Restaurant and Sports Bar in Fairfax County, said most Redskins fans just don't have die-hard devotion. When they see a nearby winner, they claim the team as their own.

"This is a very transient area," said Mr. Schwarz, a Pittsburgh native who has remained true to the Steelers. "Nobody's from here."

Washington-area fans like the hundreds who crammed into his bar Sunday to watch the Ravens win on its 51 television screens are also rooting for the underdog, he said.

"I think this is a Cinderella story," Mr. Schwarz said of the Ravens, a team that's been in the league only five years.

Carlos Navarro, manager of Modell's Sporting Goods at Fair Lakes Center in Fairfax County, said that before yesterday, he would sell Ravens items now and then. But after their big win, the Johnny-come-latelys swooped down en masse.

Since opening yesterday morning, Mr. Navarro's store has nearly been wiped out of Ravens goods. Of the 144 sweatshirts, T-shirts and jerseys they had bearing the team's name, only eight were left by late afternoon. A metal trash can Redskins ticket holders may want for their season tickets and a few backpacks with the Ravens logo were still available.

The only bit of Ravens merchandise left at the Sports Zone in Beltway Plaza was one Qadry Ismail jersey. And he's not a household name.

"That's our last jersey left," said sales associate Adam Mahone. "You can see all the Redskins stuff."

Redskins jerseys are on sale for $29, far below the $44.99 price tag on the Ismail jersey. "I'm not going to lie. I went out and got a Ravens hat the other day," Mr. Mahone said. "The Ravens are 30 miles away. I can hop on their bandwagon."

But Everett Lusadju, 25, of Glen Burnie, Md., insists he's no overnight fan.

"I've always been a Ravens fan," he said while browsing for purple gear in Just Sports, a shop inside Arundel Mills mall.

Asked if he used to root for the Redskins, Mr. Lusadju answered: "I wasn't into watching football before the Ravens."

Ravens fans closer to the District hoping to show their pride were out of luck.

Store after store along Rockville Pike south of Rockville, Md., reported new and old fans coming to snap up some gear, but many left empty-handed.

Champs Sports in White Flint mall had lots of Redskins sportswear hanging on display, but virtually nothing of the Ravens. Manager Wil Rice said they had sold jerseys, jackets and caps with the Ravens' logo.

Now that everyone's on board, it's difficult to keep up with demand. Stores order their inventories in February and March before the season begins, and no one knew Ravens jerseys, mugs and hats would get so hot.

"You take a chance on it," said Harold Wiggins, who runs Gift World in Beltway Plaza in Greenbelt. He said he took a chance on ordering a lot of Redskins stuff before the season started.

"I never even thought about the Ravens, ever." He said this is definitely a case of Redskins fans switching allegiance to back another local winner.

"That's exactly what they're doing. But if it helps sell merchandise, hey."

• Gerald Mizejewski and Arlo Wagner contributed to this article.


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