Amid all the excitement among Baltimore Ravens fans for Sunday's big game, there is undoubtedly a tinge of sorrow.
It is, after all, most likely the last time they will see linebacker Ray Lewis anchoring the defense. Lewis, who has been the face of the franchise for nearly two decades, announced that he would be retiring after these playoffs.
So to celebrate Lewis' career and to thank him for all that he has meant to the team and the city, a group of Ravens fans are planning a large march from their tailgate to the Superdome on Sunday. There is no lack of symbolism in the event: The march will be 17 blocks (one for each year of Lewis career) and it will start at exactly 2:52 p.m. CT. 2 o'clock represents for the number of times the Ravens have played in the Super Bowl, and 52 is Lewis' jersey number.
Nestor Aparicio, the owner and CEO of Baltimore radio station WNST, organized the tailgate and the march. He said the idea was born out of a necessity to get from the tailgate to the Superdome as well as a desire to honor the franchise's best player.
"It’s a big tailgate, from there everybody’s going to want to get to the dome and get to the game," Aparicio told ThePostGame. "And I’m just giving them a methodology to do it."
It hasn't been the smoothest week for Lewis, who was mentioned in a Sports Illustrated report as having a connection to the company Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (S.W.A.T.S). In the story, the authors note that Lewis may have gone to S.W.A.T.S., after his triceps injury earlier in the season in search of deer-antler velvet extract spray, a substance banned by the NFL.
Aparicio said neither he nor his fellow Ravens fans are too concerned with the report.
"No one in Baltimore cares for the deer antler story," Aparicio told ThePostGame. "The distraction is media-created, media-exaggerated and media-believed. I don't think it matters much to Ray Lewis. It certainly doesn't matter much to our fans either."
Aparicio, who is known among Baltimore fans for hosting parties in road cities for away games, has organized for 265 fans to bus the 17 hours from Baltimore to New Orleans for the game. Overall he said he expects thousands of purple-clad supporters to join in on the march.
For more information on the tailgate and the march, see Aparicio's Facebook page.