In Baltimore, even Santa, it seems, is a Ravens fan. And vice versa.
At 60, Bo Fowler can pass for Santa, and the Owings Mills resident has begun dressing in a custom purple Ravens Santa suit and entertaining at players' charitable holiday events.
Fowler made his first appearance as Santa last year at a Petco store. After chatting with Ravens players at live radio broadcasts, he began receiving requests to appear at Ravens charity events.
"I'd take pictures of the players and bring them copies," said the self-styled "Purple Santa," who has become friendly with current and former players Derrick Mason, Ricky Williams and Lardarius Webb. "I don't hound them. I just treat them like people."
Fowler played Santa at Ray Rice's holiday gift-giving event in 2011 and donned his purple suit this year at Jameel McClain's Thanksgiving event and Terrence Cody's "Hope for the Holidays Party" at the Greene Turtle in Owings Mills.
"I enjoy doing it for the kids and the players," Fowler said. "Especially when I see the look on kids' faces when they see the players talking to Santa. The players feed off of it."
When he's not taking holiday requests, Fowler represents the Ravens in other ways.
"My dad wears a Ravens shirt every single day during football season and is always positive about the Ravens no matter if they win or lose," said his daughter, Erin Fowler.
Purple Santa shared some of his thoughts on fandom with The Baltimore Sun.
Where did you find the purple Ravens Santa suit?
A friend of mine is a tailor. When I started getting requests from players to play Santa, I asked my friend about doing purple. I drew up the design for it — with S. Claus and No. 25 on the back.
What makes you so passionate about these events?
The players get moved from their home to play in Baltimore. They start a charity for Maryland to help families. I live here, so why can't I give back?
Who was your favorite Ravens player to meet?
Did you learn anything about Ravens players off the field?
I was around in the Baltimore Colts days. Those players were great guys. But it's no comparison to how these Ravens players are. I think if you don't fit a certain mold and can't give back to the community, then owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome won't bring you in. I haven't met one player who hasn't done what they could to give back. I'm proud to be a fan just because I know how these guys are.
Are your daughter and wife big Ravens fans like you?
My daughter Erin is as big a fan as I am. My wife, Toni, usually works on Sundays. Toni had surgery a year ago, and Lardarius Webb and Brendon Ayanbadejo signed a T-shirt for her. She likes football a lot more now that she sees how the players are such great guys.