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Baltimore Ravens prep to host NFL playoff game

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

It has been more than 50 years since an NFL conference championship was held in Baltimore. This Sunday, that will change as the Baltimore Ravens host the Kansas City Chiefs. Scott Maucione of member station WYPR reports on the buzz rippling across the city as it prepares to host the AFC Conference Championship.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Let's go Ravens.

SCOTT MAUCIONE, BYLINE: At the Ravens training facility, the Marching Ravens Band is practicing for the last time before they'll perform in their biggest home game since the Baltimore Colts beat the Oakland Raiders for the AFC Championship in January 1971.

JOHN ZIEMANN: So I'm the only one that's still active in professional football that was at that game.

MAUCIONE: John Ziemann's the Marching Ravens Band president and has been with the band since 1962. He says the Ravens hosting this year's championship is an important milestone for the area.

ZIEMANN: It does something great for the state, and it does something great for the city, the fans. It's something that brings everybody together. No matter who you are, you're rooting for your Baltimore Ravens.

DETROW: The Ravens won it all in 2013, but never hosted the AFC Championship Game during that run. Band director Dan Fake says band members will be forming imagery that celebrates Baltimore as they perform in Sunday's pregame show.

DAN FAKE: We got the logo. We've got the Super Bowl trophy in there. We've got our B logo that fans can resonate with. We're trying to make those connections to the team, to the brand and just say, this is Baltimore football.

MAUCIONE: It's not just the band that's hyped, though. Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Library downtown is lit with Ravens-colored purple lights. Meghan McCorkell's the library's communications director.

MEGHAN MCCORKELL: We have a lot of football memorabilia, football books that you can check out. So we are creating, in a bunch of our branches, lots of different collections and displays so that you can check out books. You can relive the last big Super Bowl win of the Ravens. So we're going to have a lot of collections that people can check out to kind of get in the spirit.

MAUCIONE: The library has even created a Taylor Swift section, since she's expected to attend the game to watch her boyfriend Travis Kelce, a star tight end for the Chiefs. Ashley Gardner teaches a class on Taylor Swift at Hood College in Frederick, Md., and says Swift's likely presence is bringing a whole new level of excitement to the game.

ASHLEY GARDNER: People that I'm friends with have really, seriously suggested I might buy parking lot tickets or be around the stadium just to see if I can catch a glimpse.

MAUCIONE: Of course, you can't forget the bars. Mother's in Federal Hill is expecting to sell a ton of Baltimore's signature drink, the Orange Crush. Crushes are a mixture of crushed ice, vodka, triple sec and fresh-squeezed juice. Sroy Sidibe is a bartender at Mother's.

SROY SIDIBE: It's not going to be like anything we have never seen before. We here. It's going to be very exciting. It's going to be a lot of people out. There's going to be a lot.

MAUCIONE: All that excitement is stemming from one thing - the fans. Sulmen Kibwana is a nurse originally from Kenya. She's been a Ravens supporter for 20 years.

SULMEN KIBWANA: Oh, it's going to be pop-O (ph). It's going to be crazy. So I already (ph) have my lucky socks that I wear for the Ravens, and we've always been the underdogs. The world is going to know that we are the best team in the NFL.

MAUCIONE: Marching Ravens president John Ziemann says it's fans like Kibwana that make the Ravens work.

ZIEMANN: We're all together. No matter who you are, where you live, what you do, you're sitting in that stands or you're outside the stadium. Baltimore is the fans. Ravens is the team. Put them together, and you got Baltimore Ravens.

MAUCIONE: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott has challenged Kansas City's mayor, wagering two dozen Maryland crabs on the big game. For NPR News, I'm Scott Maucione in Baltimore.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Maucione