Rick Bowlus comes by his love of football honestly. But becoming a big-time Ravens fan — that wasn't so easy.
Bowlus, who goes by the name "Poetic Justice" on Ravens game days, grew up in Ohio a devoted Browns fan. And he maintained that allegiance even after moving to Maryland in 1970 and becoming a science teacher and assistant basketball coach at Bel Air High School.
Unlike the vast majority of his fellow Browns fans, whose allegiance didn't follow when the team headed to Baltimore, Bowlus became a proud Ravens fanatic. But not right away. "I was kind of like in limbo for a while," he stresses. But then, in 1998, he participated in a fantasy camp experience during the Ravens spring practices, got to know both Ravens (Larry Webster, Jermaine Lewis, Orlando Brown) and old Colts (Lenny Moore, Rick Volk, Bruce Laird) and began shifting his loyalties.
That, plus any team that can stick it to a certain squad from Pittsburgh is OK by him. "Oh, yeah," Bowlus says. "I can love any team except for the Squealers."
We caught up with Poetic Justice, now 64 and retired after 10 years as a teacher with the Harford County school system and 30 years as an environmental scientist at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, twice — once via email as the team prepared to go up against Kansas City last week, a second time over the phone not long after the Ravens had eked out their three-field-goals-to-two win over the Chiefs.
The fantasy camp experience that turned him into a Ravens fan: We lived Ravens football during the experience, from media interviews, team meetings, practice sessions and lining up with Ravens players. It was such a fantastic life experience. I learned the Raven Way and was totally overtaken on Purple Passion.
His game-day outfit: I wear a cowboy duster and hat, custom-painted pants (one pair with Haloti Ngata, another with Ed Reed's face hand-painted on one leg), custom-made Ravens jerseys with different player numbers on the front and back sleeves, black boots, wrist bands from a variety of charity organizations (Special Olympics, Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital, Soldiers' Angels) and face paint. My duster is decorated with hand-painted Ravens players in action, and each player has autographed it.
His fan name: As my outfit and persona took on the cowboy sheriff appearance, I wanted something with law and justice — thus "Justice" became part of the name. I always enjoyed poetry and embraced Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." I was friends with Ravens mascot Poe before he became Poe, so it was fitting I mesh respect of the mascot and poetry.
His pregame ritual: I hang with a core of super fans known as the Ravens Posse. We ride an old modified airport shuttle bus decked out with purple and black paint, custom jersey seats, memorabilia and huge Ravens logos on the side of bus. The Posse is known for their intimidating outfits — mainly cowboy hats and dusters [emblazoned] with a local artist's paintings of Ravens players. We take pride in hosting fans of all teams and putting on a spread of food and drink to feed all. On any given game day, we host over 100 fans and make sure we are in our parking spot four or five hours before game time.
That Chiefs game: Disappointing. But it was a win. Sometimes it has to be ugly.
Predictions for this season: Five-peat! Yes, the Ravens are headed for the playoffs for the fifth straight year, and with a greater goal. Start booking your hotel rooms in New Orleans!
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