For Essex's Vanessa "Purple" Payne, being a big-time Ravens fan is all about the good she can do for the community.
That, and making a lot of noise.
Much of the time, the 48-year-old Payne, a chef at Geresbeck's Food Market in Middle River, can be found fulfilling her self-described mission: "I like to see nobody go hungry." She organizes food drives, cooks and hands out lunches to hungry kids, even gets Ravens players to join in sometimes. Next Thursday, as she has for several years now, she'll be working at the annual Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving dinner.
"Me being a cook, I like to feed people," she says matter-of-factly.
But on game days, Payne enjoys going a little crazy. She can be found, purple hair and all, cheering wildly from her seat in Section 109 (her husband, Harry, bought the PSL for her in 2007), whistling for all she's worth. "I have a very loud whistle," she says with a laugh, "so I'm the person that whistles in our section. We have a lot of fun."
We caught up with Payne just a couple of days after the Ravens thrashed the Raiders, 55-20, in a record-setting performance at M&T Bank Stadium. She was still hoarse but happy.
Was there any one thing that turned you into a rabid Ravens fan?
Can I be honest? Purple's my favorite color.
But I love what the Ravens do around here, for the community. I really respect the Ravens organization. They do a lot for a lot of communities all over Baltimore. I respect how a lot of the players give up their time for free. …Things like that really stick into my heart.
What's special about you as a Ravens fan?
My dedication to the team, to football. I try to travel all over and watch them. I go to every home game. I like it so much my husband bought me my own PSL. I sit there by myself. Nobody has to go with me. I'm just content. I have one single PSL, and that makes me very happy.
You've also got a car and a hair color that sets you apart.
I have a raven on my car. The Raven bird starts from the front of my wheels, and it goes all the way back to the back wheels, both sides. It's also got "Purple Payne" on the wheels. I'm definitely a die-hard.
And I dye my hair purple. I don't just put spray it on or wear a wig, I go full-fledged purple. When I did it last year, it was there for seven months. It's permanent when I do it. I just had it done on the top about three months ago. I went out and got my hair cut yesterday, and the last of it was cut out. So I'm getting ready to do it again. It'll be all purple for the Steelers game.
Do you have a favorite Ravens memory?
Absolutely. Two years ago, in New England, when we beat the Patriots — the first time we had ever beaten them. I was up there, and Ray Lewis came walking by and put his hand up. I had a big flag up, and he was pointing to it. The Baltimore Sun snapped a picture, and when I got home … everybody was calling me, "You made it on the paper." I was like, "Yeah, OK, whatever." Then I came to find out that I really did. First time being on the paper, and winning in New England — that was the greatest thing.
You've been to a lot of Ravens away games. You have a favorite stadium outside of Baltimore? I would have to say my other favorite was Carolina, a very nice stadium. Carolina hosted a huge tailgate party and invited tons of Ravens fans over. It was phenomenal.
As far as the best experience outside of Baltimore, I'd have to say Tennessee. If you're talking about other fans, the way they treat us, you couldn't ask for a nicer group of people than in Tennessee. They're just fantastic.
When we beat them, they were wishing us luck in furthering ourselves. You don't get that from a lot of people. You've just beat them out of a playoff game, and they're saying, "You take it all the way." It was phenomenal, the experience we had in Tennessee.
How'd you like that Raiders game?
Oh, my gosh. Let me tell ya — I'm just getting my voice back today. It was phenomenal. It was great, just to be there. The stadium was shaking. You could just literally feel it shaking, with the people just so excited. It was absolutely great.
Of course, every Sunday is great that you're in your home seat.