FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - When Patriots fans turned into Gillette Stadium they expected to receive the normal home team welcome. What they got was something much different.
Finding Ravens fans in the tailgating areas surrounding the home of the Patriots was easy. In some cases, it was like finding deer late at night on narrow country road. You don’t see them, but then one jumps into your path.
Ravens fans weren’t hiding. While many kept it civil, most had no problem going after Patriots fans and giving them an earful.
Tyler Biller and two of his friends took insult after insult in stride as they proudly waved a Ravens flag at the entrance to one of the main parking areas. It wasn’t part of their original plan, but they said once they noticed the opportunity, they pounced.
It was the first thing many regular Patriots tailgaters saw as they made their way to their spots.
“There have been people that have been nasty, but you expect it. It’s an AFC Championship game, so you know what it’s going to be. We’re not on our home turf, so we expect it,” Biller said.”
Biller expects the game to be close. He thinks it will come down to the turnover battle. His friends agreed, and they didn’t hold back as Patriots fans asked, “Are you here for the retirement party?”
“We got enough purple for everybody. We got extra jerseys if any of you want to change sides,” Al Brown of Baltimore shouted. “…We want to humiliate Tom Brady. We want to bust his butt in the first quarter. We want to rattle him in the second quarter. We want to make him throw interceptions in the third quarter and cry in the fourth quarter. “
“We got some Kleenex if you need them!”
Finding areas where trash talk among fans wasn’t taking place was difficult. North, south, east, west – in every direction were divided families evidenced by blue, red, black and purple.
Xander Erickson’s father said the 10-year-old may be walking home if the Ravens come away with the win. Though young, Xander is probably one of the most diehard Ravens fans you will meet. He had Ray Lewis’ number painted on his face; he was wearing a Flacco jersey; he even had a purple cast on his broken ankle.
The problem? He’s from Billerica, Massachusetts. His father is a Patriots fan and has been a Patriots fan since birth.
“He’s from New England, but he loves Baltimore,” Jason Erickson said of his son.
Xander said the love of the Ravens came after watching them play rival Pittsburgh a few years ago. He had a prediction for the AFC Championship. Ravens win, 32-14.
“Joe Flacco is going to throw a Hail Mary to Anquan Boldin,” Xander said that will be the final score of the game.
His father, of course, has a much different idea.
“He’s got that purple cast on, so maybe if the Ravens win, there will be some magic dust in the air, and he’ll be walking fine,” Jason Erickson said.
The Ericksons weren't the only family with visible divides Sunday.
Jen Morganstern of Anne Arundel County was outside Gillette Sunday. She was raised as a Patriots fan in Maine and is now torn. Her boyfriend, a Cockeysville native, has been doing a good job of converting her to the Ravens Nation. Though she wasn’t wearing it, she admitted, she has a Flacco jersey at home.
Her parents, who had no problems letting her know she was flirting with danger, basically said they can’t figure out where they went wrong.
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