- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2001

BALTIMORE It rained on their parade, but that didn't dampen the spirits of thousands of football fans who rallied downtown yesterday to celebrate the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl victory.

The parade started at 10:30 a.m., when the Baltimore Marching Ravens band and the team's cheerleaders and mascots began the march along a route that passed Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor. It halted in front of City Hall, at the War Memorial Plaza, at about 11 a.m.

Baltimore police estimated that 200,000 fans jammed the square and flooded the surrounding streets. They screamed and chanted for the Ravens, cheering for their 34-7 victory Sunday over the New York Giants in Tampa, Fla.

Many staked out territory in the plaza before 7 a.m., but none left disappointed.

"I never expected anything like this," said Mark Ortiz, a lifelong Baltimore resident and a Ravens season ticket holder. "Just the excitement of seeing it for the first time, even if we come back next year, it's going to be hard to top this."

Conswella Moore, 27, said the Super Bowl victory goes a long way toward paying off PSINet Stadium, the state-of-the-art, taxpayer-funded facility where the Ravens play their home games.

Asked why she didn't watch the parade on television instead of braving the elements, Miss Moore said, "Jamal Lewis, Ray Lewis, Trent Dilfer, everybody did their part. We're from Baltimore, we come to the Inner Harbor. Rain or not, they needed it."

Ravens owner Art Modell led the procession of players from a limousine, while his son, team President David Modell, walked along the parade route with the Vince Lombardi trophy held high.

In what is quickly becoming the signature gesture of this championship team, the younger Mr. Modell again gave fans who crowded the parade route the chance to touch the trophy.

The players followed in 30 Humvees, arriving at the plaza where Mayor Martin O'Malley called each player onto the stage.

The first player to appear was middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the Super Bowl MVP and overwhelming fan favorite, who energized the crowd by giving an encore performance of his pregame dance.

The elder Mr. Modell delighted fans with a jig of his own before thanking the home crowd, which responded with a spontaneous chant of "Thank you."

Mr. O'Malley presented Art Modell with an oversized key to the city, emblazoned with the Ravens logo.

Head coach Brian Billick drew cheers when he told the crowd, "This team really taught me that the word 'team' is just an extension of the word 'family,' and you all are part of that family."

But the fans went wild when the pop group Baha Men made an unannounced appearance, singing their hit "Who Let the Dogs Out?" to the barking responses of the fans.

Baltimore police spokesman Kevin Enright said officers were "pleasantly surprised" by how easily manageable the crowd was. He said a crowd of about 100,000 had been predicted and that was before forecasts called for foul weather.

Mr. Enright described the fans as "well-behaved" and said police gave them plenty of room to celebrate. There were no reports of arrests during the rally.

Gloria Wilkins, 63, said she took the bus downtown Monday to buy her Ravens hat, T-shirt and pennant and would not have missed yesterday's celebration for anything.

"I'm a Baltimorean and this is history," she said.

Remembering the city's last NFL title, when the Baltimore Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V in 1971, Mrs. Wilkins said, "Words can't even explain. It doesn't even compare."

But the Colts, who left Baltimore for Indianapolis in 1984, weren't far from the minds if not the hearts of many Ravens fans yesterday.

"I think there's something particularly sweet about the way Baltimore lost the Colts and got another team and still got back to the Super Bowl first," said Sue Sawyer, a Baltimore transplant but a Ravens fan nonetheless.

"I waited 17 years for this," said Scott Robinson.

He then gestured to his son, Shane, 15, and in a voice hoarse from a weekend of cheering, said, "I couldn't let him go to school today. This may only happen once in his lifetime."

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