Howard County executive Ken Ulman is a Ravens fanatic; he owns four Ravens jerseys, flies a Ravens flag outside his Columbia home and is taking a trip to New Orleans for the Super Bowl. But his neighbor across the street has a Redskins helmet painted on his basement wall, and in a nod to his county’s split loyalties, Ulman bathed county buildings in both burgundy and purple lights this month.
“It really is nuanced,” Ulman said. “Look, Howard County is in the center of Maryland. We're the kind of place where if the wife works in Annapolis and the husband works in Bethesda, or the husband works in downtown Baltimore and the wife works at NASA Goddard [in Greenbelt], you pick a house in Howard County. We really are in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.”
(Gene Thorp/The Washington Post)
The Baltimore Ravens practiced Wednesday as they continue preparations to square off against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVIII in New Orleans. Baltimore will arrive in the Big Easy on Monday.
County demographers say that approximately a third of in-migrants to Howard County hail from the Baltimore region, while about 30 percent come from the District and its suburbs. (Most of the rest come from out of state.) And while the Ravens have pursued sports fans in the D.C. suburbs, their pitch is aimed mostly at younger undecideds and new arrivals rather than longtime Redskins fans.
The county “is growing rapidly; a lot of people have moved into the area since the Ravens arrived, and a lot of those people became Ravens fans,” Cass said. “We’re really not trying to take Redskins fans. That’s a lost cause. We’re just trying to market ourselves to people who are moving into the area and to the fans that we already have there.”
Back at the fault line
Reservoir High is filled with such people. About five miles to the south sits Paint Branch High in Montgomery County; Athletic Director Heather Podosek said a clear majority of her students are Redskins fans. About five miles north is Hammond High; AD Joe Russo estimated 70 percent of his students are Ravens fans.
But at Reservoir, no one can decide which team is ascendant. Three years ago, faculty and students said, the Ravens seemed to have the upper hand. Griffin’s arrival and Washington’s playoff push, they said, evened the playing field again. Several students said the Redskins-Ravens game this season was more discussed in the hallways than Ravens-Steelers or Redskins-Cowboys rivalries.
Hall, the school resource officer and Redskins fan, wore RGIII socks to Saturday’s basketball game. Brenda Hedgren, a parent and Ravens fan, wore a purple sweater and purple jacket. Junior Leo Brown, wearing a Washington Capitals sweatshirt, insisted that his school has more Redskins fans than Ravens. Four feet away, sophomore Michael Gunther was equally convinced that his school has more Ravens fans than Redskins.
“When you grew up a certain way, it’s kind of hard to let go,” said Reservoir parent Lamont Frazier, a Redskins fan from North Laurel. “But I root for the Ravens, too. They’re not in the same conference. I can root for them.”