One of the steepest challenges the Baltimore Ravens face as it relates to growing their fan base is geography. The walls surrounding them are daunting.
To the north are the Philadelphia Eagles; to the south, the Washington Redskins; to the west, the Pittsburgh Steelers; and to the east this ocean they call The Atlantic.
All three of those teams and of course that aquatic playground are far more established than the 17-year-old Ravens who for all intents and purposes are a relatively young expansion franchise.
Each of those clubs boxing in the Ravens have rich traditions spanning generations, the natural byproduct of which is a rather impressive audience of displaced fans that span the country.
Making the challenges of growing a fan base even more difficult for the Ravens is their identity. Whether accurate or not the Ravens reputation is that of a physical, sometimes brutal defensive juggernaut with thug-like qualities.
And this flies in the face of the modern day teams that fans embrace, most of which feature offense, star quarterbacks and desirable fantasy players. Therein lies the sexiness in football and we all know, sex sells!
But could this be changing for the Ravens?
There is a fan base in the Washington, DC area that has a developing affinity for owner Steve Bisciotti’s prized asset. Some, weary of the Redskins’ years of losing that parallels that of the Baltimore Orioles, look towards the Ravens as their own.
Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that there are some Redskins fans who have taken to calling the Ravens their second favorite team and even look upon the Ravens and the emerging Orioles as regional teams.
Would it be possible for a Baltimore area sports fan to wrap his or her mind around the notion of viewing the Redskins as a second favorite? Or might that chip on Baltimore’s collective shoulder, that jaded inferiority complex rear its ugly head and render such a concept dead on arrival?
Clearly that’s a debatable topic in and of itself but the point is that the Ravens are finally scaling those geographic walls and luring fans that once seemed unreachable.
And to this end, there are other things working in the Ravens favor.
Of course there is the extensive coverage and the media slobbering over the newly anointed Super Bowl Champions. That comes with the territory.
Popular TV talk shows are lining up to have members of the team as guests on their programs. The Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Kelly & Michael have already had Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Jacoby Jones and Ray Rice as guests. Is Saturday Night Live far behind?
And with each visit, not only have these team member represented well, they shown endearing, star qualities.
The end result is a team with a skyrocketing Q rating!
And then there’s the retirement of Ray Lewis.
Naturally we love Ray here in Baltimore. We get Ray. We see the wonderful qualities he possesses; his unique leadership skills; impeccable work ethic and his one-of-a-kind ability to inspire.
But outside of Baltimore, Ray is a villain. His seen as a disingenuous; a media whore and a spotlight hog looking to take credit when it isn’t his.
He is one of the most polarizing sports figures of all time.
And now he’s gone.
That hurts us all here in The Land of Pleasant Living but outside the area, the guard goes down and fans nationwide today may have a more open mind to accepting the Ravens.
The Ravens have the charming, good-looking head coach that the developing population of female football fans desire.
They have the cuddly little Pro Bowl running back who now stars in milk ads; the boy-next-door QB in Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco; the hysterical, cartoon-like character of Jacoby Jones; and the funny Defensive Player of the Year in Terrell Suggs who is willing to spar with the elitist QB Tom Brady and ESPN’s annoying jester Skip Bayless; a head coach who cares and is about the team to the core; a model front office and a classy owner.
Add it up and it’s a John Mellencamp song.
Those once daunting walls are crumbling down.
And Steve Bisciotti’s net worth is doing just the opposite.