Behind Enemy Lines

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 By Josh Axelrod > Freshman > Journalism > University of Maryland, College Park

This past weekend, football enthusiasts were able to watch perhaps the most heated rivals in the NFL, the Steelers and Ravens, face off in another great postseason battle.  Anyone who is a fan of physical, emotional football should enjoy watching these two AFC North teams slug it out on the gridiron twice a year.  This season, we were lucky enough to see it three times.  But whats happens off the field, between fans of each team, is just as much of a testament to the rivalry as what happens on the field.  Today, we bring you special insight into that rivalry from the perspective of a Steelers fan, courtesy of one of our sports writers, Josh Axelrod.



For a brief moment on December 5, 2010, Isaac Redman was my favorite player in football.
With third and goal in the waning minutes of the week 13 Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Ravens matchup, it seemed like the Steelers would continue to do what they had been doing all game: get in position to make something happen, but somehow fail. After beating Buffalo the previous week only because a certain high deity caused Steve Johnson to drop a game-winning touchdown catch in overtime, it seemed plausible that the Steelers’ luck had finally run out.
But like that miraculous drop, the next week would prove that a divine power somewhere is a Steelers fan. Big Ben threw a ball into Redman’s hands on about the 5-yard line, and the rookie broke at least two tackles on his way to what would be a game-winning touchdown. After Joe Flacco’s game-losing fourth-and-2 incompletion sealed a Steelers victory, I literally jumped for joy. I looked around for someone to high five or celebrate with, but then I remembered I was in a room full of Ravens fans.
You see, I am a freshman at the University of Maryland, situated right between Baltimore and Washington D.C. My first semester, whenever I introduced myself to someone and inevitably told them I’m from Pittsburgh, I got one of three reactions:
1.) “Eww…Steelers fan?”
2.) “Awesome! Go Steelers!”
3.) (My personal favorite) “I don’t know you, but I already don’t like you.”
Of course, those responses did not only come from Ravens fans. It seems like in the melting pot of football allegiances that is College Park, Maryland, almost everyone has one thing in common: hatred for Steelers nation.
I have to admit, besides the fact I felt like a representative of Pittsburgh (which is enough to make most people question my values), I brought some of the hatred on myself. Part of my thought process behind coming to UMD went something like this: “Messing with Ravens fans will be fun!” I may have amplified my obnoxiousness concerning all things Pittsburgh just because I could. On game days, I would always be clad in my Hines Ward Jersey and Steelers pajama bottoms with a terrible towel sticking out of my back pocket.  That towel got abused the few times I let my guard down unfortunately.  I was not the only obnoxious fan on campus after all.
The two main NFL fan bases found in College Park are those of the Ravens and the Washington Redskins. Despite my general disdain for those purple birds, I at least have a certain level of respect for their accomplishments over the last decade. That seemed to be the general way the Ravens fans I met dealt with me. Though they vehemently rooted against the Steelers, they could at least respect the fact they are a good team.
The same cannot be said for Redskins fans. That franchise has not seen much success this decade, which split their fans into two groups: those that do not expect much from their team, and those who demand perfection. I had no problems with members of the first group, but I had never seen anything like the perfection demanders. They seemed to believe that every other team in the NFL was inferior to the Redskins and this year was indeed their year, despite all the evidence to the contrary. As the season went on and the Redskins crashed and burned in epic fashion, it was quite amusing to watch those fans squirm and struggle to explain their team’s issues.
I also met opposition from fans of the Eagles (understandable), Patriots (whatever), Falcons (pure jealousy) and, worst of all, Jets. Considering that organization has proven itself to be a bunch of loudmouthed sexist pigs this season, Jets fans have no room to talk badly about any other franchise.
But back to the root of the problem: Ravens fans.
This infestation of purple bird lovers first became a nuisance when I opened my door once in early September. I was met with a purple and black banner saying, “What’s Our Name? Ravens!” I knew that I had a Patriots fan to my right and a Redskins fans diagonal from me, but apparently there was a diehard Ravens fans right across the hall from me. Thankfully, our rivalry actually helped us bond over football, and I spent many a Sunday in the room of the Ravens’ fan watching gridiron action.
Most Ravens fans and I came to an agreement: they could make jokes about Big Ben and his well-publicized women issues only if they admitted they had two “murderers” (Ray Lewis and Donte Stallworth) on their squad. Even if that deal was broken, either side could play the “nothing was ever proven card.” Well, except in the case of Donte Stallworth; it is pretty hard to argue for drunken vehicular manslaughter.
Next semester is going to present an entirely new challenge for my fandom: my roommate will be a Ravens fan.If the Steelers win the Super Bowl, I might have to sleep with one eye open for a while.



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