From the moment Dave Jennings stepped off the front porch of his West York home, it was obvious he loved the Baltimore Ravens.
Wearing a leather jacket, watch, tunic, gloves and hat all bearing the logo of the Super Bowl champions, the 48-year-old York County employee said he was ready to cheer for his team from the sidelines of a Baltimore parade route on Tuesday morning.
Getting into the backseat of a car, he held in his hands a team flag and two newspaper pages that told of the Ravens victory over the San Francisco 49ers. A "52" he had shaved into the left side of his head had started to fade as gray hair grew in its place.
It was more visible in shorter hair on Saturday and Sunday, he said, but Ray Lewis' number 52 was still clearly represented by a banner that stretched across the front of his house.
Jennings didn't make the 50-minute trek to the victory parade in 2001 when his favorite players and team bested the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
"I didn't want to miss this one. This is like going to the Super Bowl for me," he said.
The closer he got to Baltimore, the more his excitement multiplied. As soon as the driver exited I-83 South into the city, Jennings readied his camera and memorabilia in the backseat.
"I hope someone can take a picture of me here with all my stuff," he said.
Before he left the parking garage, he met some other fans from York. Their faces were painted in the Ravens purple, black, gold and white. Purple beads hung from their necks and, like Jennings, they wore their team's logo as they walked toward M&T Bank Stadium.
But Jennings never made it all the way to the stadium. Instead, he found a good space near Camden Yards - home of the Baltimore Orioles - along the southern end of the parade route.
The Ravens arrived an hour late, causing a delay in the parade, and Jennings spent the two-hour wait visiting colorful characters, such as Howard Schultze.
A 70-year-old resident of Hampstead, Md., Schultze shuffled a bowl of red and white confetti that was explained by a sign covering the width of his chest: "TEARS OF 49ers FANS," it said.
Schultze smiled as parade-goers stopped to take photos with him.
"I'm here to support the Ravens. They're our hometown team," he said.
A few minutes later, Jennings spotted someone he knew. Melissa Smith, a 29-year-old West York resident and county employee, said she was excited to attend her first Ravens victory parade.
"How often do you get this kind of experience?" she said.
It was an experience that included crowded streets, the constant ringing of cowbells, loud airhorns and fans in costumes. Ravens devotees walked past in purple wigs, pimp costumes, glitter-filled mohawks and superhero gear.
"It's great to see all the fans," Jennings said.
The thousands of fans were a big part of what made it feel like his own personal Super Bowl, he said.
"But this time I don't have to worry who wins," Jennings said.
When it was time for the real winners to parade down the street with the silver Lombardi trophy, the crowd erupted in cheers and screams at the first sight of the team's police escort. Players, coaches, and team owners and management arrived on the backs of military vehicles operated by the Maryland National Guard.
Jennings choked up when he saw the Super Bowl champion Ravens as he worked to preserve a stiff upper lip. He waved his flag and newspapers while the players moved past him.
The loudest cheers heralded Lewis, who announced his retirement before the end of the season.
Because his favorite guy is retiring, Jennings said, "I guess I'll have to go over to (quarterback Joe) Flacco now. I like all the guys."
Other fans jumped police barricades and ran after both Flacco and Lewis, as Jennings squeezed through a dense crowd to get back to the car.
Despite a long wait, huge crowd and heavy traffic, he said it was all worth it.
"It was an emotional season. They played hard the last couple games, almost lost to Denver and could've lost the Super Bowl," he said.
Jennings said it was nice to finally see the team without worrying about a win.
"This year, it turned out good for us. Maybe next year they'll do it again. We'll see," he said.
- Reach Candy Woodall at firstname.lastname@example.org.