Have we ever told you how much we love road trips? Combine that with football, and BOOM! (Did you hear that? It was our minds being blown.)
As I’ve been hinting at the last week, the Ravens organization gave us a great reason to go on this latest adventure. Katie Bollinger, a Ravens Advertising and Marketing Coordinator, extended an invitation on behalf of the Ravens to attend their annual Purple Evening after we sang the praises of Purple (their female fan club) on The Snap. It didn’t take much convincing for us to accept a chance to hang out with some football lovin’ ladies, so we rearranged our schedules and channeled our inner Thelma and Louise. We hit the road to pay Charm City a visit (ok, it was only a little over an hour drive from Delaware, but that’s besides the point) for Purple Evening this week and let me tell you – it was an awesome experience.
I don’t even know where to start, except to say WHY DOESN’T EVERY TEAM IN THE LEAGUE DO THIS?!
Let’s ignore the fact that the event is marketed toward women. Purple Evening was a football fan’s dream. This “football-first” approach is what made the event so successful/appealing. The marketing toward the ladies (Why, yes, I’d love a chance to win a Pandora bracelet, and thank you for that lip gloss sample!) was just a cherry on top.
If you didn’t read our Purple post (you should), Purple Evening is annual event catered toward female Ravens fans. It includes access to explore the stadium, on-field activities, giveaways, discussion panels, autograph sessions, photo opportunities, and more.
This year’s Purple Evening was on Monday, October 13 and we stayed at the event for its entirety of 5 hours.
When we first walked in, it was a little overwhelming. I was actually rendered speechless for a few minutes and it was all I could do to hold onto the Ravens tote bag I was handed upon entering.
Val felt the need to take a picture of my face. This is what I look like when my mind is being blown by football goodness:
We couldn’t decide what to do, so we just got in line for the closest thing, which was the locker room tour. They definitely had housekeeping go through because the room was way too empty and organized to resemble what it looks like on game day, which disappointed some of our fellow tour attendees.
The highlight of this experience was when a sassy woman next to us asked where all the men were.
I don’t know what it says about us, but our favorite part of the night was probably the Q&A Session with an NFL Official, featuring back judge Greg Steed, who is in his 12th year as an official.
This wasn’t the best attended event of the night, but that didn’t phase us because that meant that we got to ask more questions. We actually got there early so that we could sit front and center. (Go ahead and judge us. As Tay Tay would say, haters gonna hate.) It was well-moderated and people, in general, asked good questions about a variety of topics – from calls on the field to Greg’s life outside of football.
Some interesting tidbits:
– As a back judge, Greg covers quite the distance on the field during the game. In fact, when he’s worn pedometers during games, he usually covers 6.7 – 7 miles over the course of a game. (Val asked a question about his fitness regime that prompted this answer.)
– Officials watching games that they are not officiating will text the guys who are and give them a hard time if they miss a call. Hilarious.
– Biggest misconception about the job? According to Greg, it’s that they just show up on Sundays. They spend the week reviewing tape of the teams they will be officiating to get familiar with their tendencies. They also do work in the pre-season to help teams adjust to rule changes.
– Greg’s wife (who we met and was also super nice) will travel with him to games, but only to the cities of her choosing.
– Occassionally, you hear about making the officials full-time. (Can you believe they are part-time?! Most officials have full-time jobs outside of their NFL gig. Greg is a computer program analyst.) According to Greg, if they were to go full-time, they would be able to spend more time working directly with the teams outside of games.
– Greg spoke highly of Jim Caldwell, the head coach of the Lions, calling him a gentleman on and off the field.
Brace yourself for some epic football nerd-i-ness – We asked Greg Steed to take a picture with us and he kindly complied. Pretty sure we’re like BFFs now.
If Val had a second favorite part of the night, it would have been when I dressed up as Poe, the Ravens mascot.
Yes, you just read that correctly.
I put on a bird suit for a team I only cheer for in certain circumstances, usually games with playoff-implications.
As soon as we saw this photo opportunity, we knew it had to be documented for The Snap. We didn’t even discuss the fact that I would be the one doing it, as Val’s got me beat by three years. (Shout out to all the younger siblings out there!)
Let me just say, I am SO SORRY Pat Patriot. IT FELT SO WRONG.
The guy who helped me put on the costume was super friendly and God bless him for taking women in and out of that costume for 5 hours. He appreciated the fact that I really tried to channel the bird and participated in his suggestions to show my touchdown dance and my “the other team just scored a touchdown” reaction (I like to call that one “sad bird”). Little did he know that I was visualizing the Patriots as part of my method acting during the experience so that I could really be fully committed.
I’m not saying I was a natural, but I did get some positive feedback and should circumstances ever dictate I put on a mascot suit, I know I can handle myself.
I’m glad at least one of us was able to enjoy this experience…
Let me just say, if this doesn’t prove the lengths to which I am willing to go for this blog, I don’t know what will!
If I had a second favorite part of the evening, it would be meeting Justin Forsett at our autograph session. In case you didn’t read the Ravens profile, Forsett has stepped it up to split the starting running back role with Bernard Pierce this year. He’s an NFL journeyman, having played for the Seahawks, Colts, Texans, and Jags prior to coming to the Ravens, so it’s nice to see him having so much success this year.
Justin is also a “leaner” in pictures. I can’t keep my head straight in pictures for the life of me, so it’s always nice to be photographed with someone else who also has this tendency. (I’ve been trying to work on this ever since it was pointed out to me. You have no idea how hard it is for me to not tilt my head and not stand weirdly close to people. I swear, I don’t realize I do it! I guess I have an irrational fear of being cut out of pictures. Must be a middle child thing.)
Admittedly, we didn’t know the other two players at our autograph session, but that didn’t stop us from chatting with them and getting autographs. (Give us a break – there are 1600+ active players in the league at any given time. We can’t actually know all of them.) Both Ryan Jensen and Kamar Aiken were absolutely lovely and so we’re adding them to The Snap family.
FYI – Our standards for being added to The Snap family (or “Snappers” as we like to call our readers) are pretty low – you basically have to acknowledge our existence.
The Ravens were super smart about the way they did the autograph sessions. In order to attend an autograph session, you had to be given a voucher, which assigned you to a certain location at a certain time. This enabled attendees to essentially be guaranteed an autograph and the wait times to be limited.
While you were waiting for your autograph session, they had you sit in the stands, where you were able to watch activities on the field and live player interviews. Brandon Williams, a defensive tackle, was one of the players interviewed while we were sitting there. He can walk on his hands, which is pretty impressive for a 340lb man. He busted out a pretty impressive rendition of Happy Birthday to one of the women in the crowd. The boy can sing.
Later, we saw Owen Daniels being interviewed. They spent a lot of time talking about his meteorology degree, which was entertaining.
I’ve got to hand it to the organization because the number of players that participated in the evening was truly impressive. It speaks volumes about how successful the organization wants this event to be. It’s one thing for them to use the facilities and invite 5,000 women to have an inside look at the team, but it’s quite another to get the majority of the players involved for autographs, photographs, and interviews.
Let’s see…what else did we do?
We made some new friends. Not all of them had 3-dimensions, but that’s ok. (Actual players did have photo opps, but the lines were a little long and people were going bonkers. So that’s why we settled for cardboard Joe Flacco. Val said he talked about the same amount as real Joe Flacco did when they had an accounting class in college together.)
We also hung out with “The Posse,” a hardcore Ravens fan club with some sweet jackets and face paint. They gave us some autographed trading cards with their pictures, so clearly they don’t mess around.
Some general observations:
– You can tell they’ve been doing this for a few years. It was super-organized.
– There were enough activities to keep all of the attendees busy. We were given the advice not to try to do everything and we’re glad we listened because you didn’t necessarily have time to get to everything unless you wanted to rush through it all. (We didn’t participate in the BINGO or any football clinics on the field, but they are definitely things we would do if we attended again.) In a way, this is genius, because it’s easy to make a case for coming back annually.
– Everyone was really nice, especially the staff. You don’t always get that at sporting events. (Mind you, we didn’t go around announcing we were Pats fans. That would have just been stupid.)
– It was a pretty diverse group of women – age, race, and if we had to guess, income-level, as well.
– Utz crab chips are delicious. They were a freebie and all kinds of yummy.
– It was disappointing, but understandable, that you had to purchase the majority of your food at the concession stands.
– It was humid. That’s why our hair looks sub-par in most of the pics. Trust us, it looked good when we left the house.
Also, I’m not saying we’re like famous or anything, but we did make the Ravens online album of pics from the night. This is when we were sitting front and center at the Ref Q&A. The whole gallery is fun to flip through, so you should do that!
Thank you again to the Ravens for this fantastic opportunity! What a great night of football and totally worth a 6am flight back to Boston the following day!
– Michelle and Val