Fan stories

Why I’m a Raven: Mark Pankhurst

Mark Pankhurst first got into the NFL in the 1980s, before drifting away. When he got back into the sport, it was a couple of random bits of luck that brought him to the Ravens Flock. He explains what happened.

I am one of those drawn to the sport by the 80s Channel 4 coverage. In those days I kinda liked the Washington football club. That was the Riggins, Theismann and Monk era. I still have a vivid memory of Theismann’s slow-mo leg break.

In 1990, I took a road trip with my younger sister and her friends down the east coast of the US, from Boston to Florida, New Orleans and back to Annapolis, where my sister was working as a nanny during her year out. There, I heard for the first time about the pain and resentment felt by Maryland sports fans over the loss of the Colts. That sowed the first seed for later.

Through the 1990s I drifted away from the sport a little, only catching the occasional Super Bowl, but in the early 2000s, my brother moved to Hagerstown, Maryland, for work. He became an NFL fan and sent me a Ravens t-shirt for my birthday, sowing seed number two.

I took a casual interest in the Ravens’ results and number 52 but the real shift came in 2010 when I caught some NFL news on Sky and saw the sport was back on Channel 4. I got hooked again. When it came to a decision on who to support, I had no choice really. My Ravens obsession grew from there.

I knew I had become a true member of the Ravens Flock when I was having heart palpitations during the divisional loss to the Squeelers. I started following podcasts and draft coverage in the off-season. I had caught the sickness and the 2011 Championship game loss to the Patriots cemented my commitment.

My phone tells me that I listen to 10 Ravens-based podcasts these days – and at least 12 other American football ones. I follow everything I can on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’ve got Gamepass and Gridiron subscriptions – and I’ve added The Athletic for Jeff Zrebiec’s coverage. Of course, I watch and read everything on the Ravens app too.

Every Friday during the season is Purple Friday, so that means lucky purple and black socks and pants. Jacky, my wife, understands my obsession and is happy to have lots of things in purple. She even cooked crab cakes for Super Bowl 47!

We have been to a few Wembley games. In 2012, we got excited when the Pats went behind by 7 to the St Louis Rams, only to be destroyed by TB12 and Gronk. We went twice in 2013, including seeing the Squeelers lose to the Vikings. I was in my Ray 52 SB47 jersey but I missed Adrian Peterson’s breakaway TD because I was at the bar.

The 2017 blowout to the Jags was hard. We are Scottish traditional music fans (and agents) and we had loads of logistical issues getting to the game, including hiring cars in Edinburgh and flying in that morning from Inverness, then getting trains back up to Scotland. I still blame Trump for the blowout but have so much respect for Weddle who I could see signing stuff as he left the field. I want to see Scoop-and-Score-Moore breakout after his garbage time TD.

I would like to make the M&T pilgrimage soon but the only game I’ve seen across the pond was a 2013 CFL game featuring the BC Lions with my sister’s family in Vancouver. Every year I look for ideal trips. My top tip if you are going to Atlanta is that it is the SEC championship game on the Saturday. (Hopefully a win for Alabama)

Favourite players
There are so many – 52, 20, 9 and 5 (Jacky). If pushed, I’d pick Ball So Hard Suggs. He’s so good on the sideline.

Favourite memories
Again, so many – all better with the Gerry Sandusky calls. The 2011 Championship loss. (That would have been an Evans catch under the new rules!) The Ray Lewis episode of A Football Life gives a real insight into that season.

What can you say about Super Bowl 47? 12 should have been the MVP. I picked the Ravens and the 49ers in the preseason and I wish I’d put money on it.

Loads of others – the Mile High Miracle, Steve Smith’s stiff arm, Cheating Pats vs the Ravens, Ray Lewis’s last squirrel dance, Ngata’s hit on RG3 (I still think the Ravens signed Griffin to say sorry), being beaten by Charlie Batch, “Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle”, and missing out last year due to the Bungles loss

Meeting players and other fans
One of my best days was getting a high five from Steve Smith at the fan event in Edinburgh and him signing my black 89 Jersey. He predicted Ozzie would go get a defender in the 2017 draft so you have to love Marlon.

In 2013, I randomly bumped into Mark from Aberdeen – another Ravens fan, who I know only through Twitter – leaving Hampden Park after a Bruce Springsteen gig. And I met up with Jamie & Jennifer Muir after I had Facebooked a local Peatbog Faeries (look them up) gig and they asked if I was the same Mark from UK Ravens.

Oh, and last weekend I ended up watching Redzone on my phone in a pub in Talisker, on Skye, after the Ravens win, with some American 49ers fans who were sad after Jimmy G went down.

Photo: Keith Allison

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