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Purple PassionOn Sept. 10 when the Ravens kick off the season against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium, a diehard group of fans who call themselves the West Wing will be 2,700 miles away, cheering them on.

“The West Wing is one huge family of Baltimore transplants out on the West Coast,” says Daniela Pane, one of the group’s founders.

In 2007, Pane moved from Baltimore to Los Angeles, and began watching Ravens games out of nostalgia for her former city. While searching online for a place to cheer on the team, she came across a Facebook fan page created by another Baltimore expat, Pete Shaulis.

Pane, a hairstylist and model, invited Shaulis to watch the August 2010 Ravens/Steelers game with her and her fellow fans at an upscale sports bar called The Parlor Hollywood. At the game, Pane and Shaulis pledged to make the bar the headquarters for the Ravens diaspora in L.A. “I told one of the guys who opened it [The Parlor], ‘I’m going to turn this into a Ravens bar,’ and he said ‘Yeah, right,’” Pane remembers.

The duo named the group the West Wing and with the help of Kazy Brown, a transplanted Baltimorean who works in public relations for a record label, spread the word via social media as well as more old-fashioned methods— members passed West Wing business cards to interested folks and left them on cars with Maryland license plates. Now about 100 people regularly watch Ravens games at The Parlor and last winter, about 350 people showed up for the playoff games. “When we lost that playoff game last season everyone was tearing up and crying, but we were all so happy to be together,” Pane says.

On game days, owner Ike Pyun allows the West Wingers to give the bar a purple make-over, hanging Ravens banners and decorations and setting out Berger cookies and Utz potato chips. He once had to apologetically explain to a group of Browns fans looking for a bar where they could watch games that he just couldn’t let them in— he already had a group of rabid football fans on his hands.
In addition to watching Ravens games on the big screen, West Wingers attend local games in San Diego. “Last year was the first year we did it as The West Wing and it was a huge turnout,” says Pane. “There were hundreds of us [West Wingers], which turned into thousands of Ravens’ fans.”

Purple PassionWhen the West Wingers aren’t cheering on key plays, they participate in service activities, including Thanksgiving food and winter toy drives. “We try to be like the Ravens, which is an organization that does so many good things in Baltimore,” says Shaulis, who is a creative director at an apparel company.

Each year at a West Winger’s house during the off-season, the group holds Maryland Day, a celebration to which people bring an item that reminds them of home— National Bohemian, Old Bay and Utz chips are favorites. They also attend Orioles games in Anaheim. Last year, Shaulis and his wife arrived late to an O’s game and were stuck at the ticket counter during the opening ceremonies. When the national anthem played, they could hear the roar of “O’s!” even from outside the stadium.

Recently Shaulis joined up with Mike Duffy, a longtime writer for BaltimoreRavens.com who recently relocated to L.A., to create a West Wing podcast, which can be found on the group’s Facebook page. “The goal for the podcast is to reach out to other Ravens fans across the country,” says Shaulis. “We want to say, ‘We did it— you can do it, too.’” 

www.thewestwingla.com; http://www.facebook.com/thewestwingla

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