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The Naked Truth About Ravens Cheerleader 'Real Fan Dan'

October 16, 2017
If you've been to a Ravens game at M&T Bank Stadium during the last several years, you've likely seen the middle-aged man with a pot belly, bald head and goatee on the RavensVision video screens leading 70,000-plus fans in a chant of "R-A-V-E-N-S" by contorting his body to form the letters from up in Section 532.

Dan Granofsky, known as "Real Fan Dan," is proudly carrying on the Baltimore sports tradition of blue-collar cheerleaders such as "The Big Wheel" Len Burrier -- who led Colts cheers at Memorial Stadium in the 1970s and 1980s -- and the late "Wild Bill" Hagy -- who led Orioles cheers at the stadium in those same decades -- but with one significant difference: "The Big Wheel" and "Wild Bill" never went topless to encourage the crowd to cheer louder.

Granofsky, 57, began doing the cheer in 1998. Peeling off his No. 33 Ravens jersey -- he chose that number as a tribute to 33rd Street, where Memorial Stadium sat -- and enthusiastically waving it around has been a signature of his crowd-pleasing routine since the latter part of that season. 

"I needed them to get louder, so somebody yelled at me to rip my shirt off," said Granofsky, who said it was just fans in his section and nearby sections who initially participated in the cheers, which he does after Ravens scores. "It was spontaneous. I just ripped it off and waved it above my head and everybody laughed like hell and joined in [the cheer]. Then more people started joining in after that."

Whether the game is being played on a warm, early-September afternoon or a frigid, late-December evening, Granofsky bares his chest to fire up the fans. In fact, when the Ravens routed the Green Bay Packers, 48-3, on "Monday Night Football" Dec. 19, 2005, the game-time temperature was 29 degrees, but Granofsky saw it as the perfect time to show even more skin.

"I went into the restroom and took off my long johns so that when we scored the next time, I could kick my shoes off and drop my pants," he said.

Fortunately, he had Ravens basketball shorts on underneath his purple camouflage pants. 

"I'm standing there in my basketball shorts, and the cheer was unbelievably loud," Granofsky said. "A Green Bay fan came down and gave me a heat pack. He said, ‘You need this more than me.'"

Like his predecessors Burrier and Hagy, Granofsky has become something of a local celebrity, but he's quick to point out he didn't start leading Ravens cheers to gain fame.

"It's about the fans, it's not about me," said Granofsky, a Baltimore City native, Pasadena, Md., resident and Towson High alum who served 26 years in the Maryland National Guard, including 15 years as an active duty soldier. "It's just something to unify all of us."

Granofsky, who grew up a Baltimore Colts fan -- as well as a fan of Burrier -- became a Ravens season-ticket holder in 1997. When the team moved into its new stadium in 1998, Granofsky happened to be seated in a section filled with fans from Ravens Roost 18 of Glen Burnie, Md. 

Speaking with the Ravens Roost president during a game early in the 1998 season, Granofsky bemoaned that the team "didn't have any history, had no identity and wasn't playing well." Granofsky said something had to be done to unite the fans.

"[The Ravens Roost president] said, 'Get up, you dumbass, and do it,'" said Granofsky, who led two cheers that day and has been doing it at nearly every home game since. 

Knowing he would need a moniker, he dubbed himself "Real Fan Dan."

"I wanted to pick a name before somebody else did it for me and it turned out to be less than complimentary," he said with a hearty laugh.

During the years, the Granofsky-led audience participation grew from a few sections to what he estimated to be about 10,000 fans. It wasn't until the Dec. 14, 2014 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that the entire crowd became aware of "Real Fan Dan." That's the day he was first shown doing the cheer on the stadium's video screens.

"For the first time since [1995, Burrier's final season leading the cheers for the CFL's Baltimore Stallions at Memorial Stadium], the entire stadium, all of Baltimore fandom, stood up and chanted their team's name in support and joyous celebration of a touchdown," Granofsky said. "Man, it was great." 

Just prior to the start of the 2015 season, Granofsky left a message with Ravens vice president of broadcasting and game-day productions Jay O'Brien to ask if the production crew could "give us a break from the loud music" after Ravens touchdowns.

To Granofsky's surprise, O'Brien called him back the day before the home opener.

"He said, 'Dan, we all know who you are,'" Granofsky said. "He said, 'Tomorrow when you sit in your seat, look across the way, and you're going to see a camera between the concourse and the end zone. … After the band plays the fight song twice [following a Ravens touchdown], you just stand up, look right in the camera and do your thing. We'll fire this whole stadium up.'"

Not only has the Ravens' organization gotten on board with Granofsky, but none other than Burrier himself has endorsed him. Granofsky introduced himself to Burrier at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Colts Corrals (which subsequently became Ravens Roosts) at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie in 2007, and they quickly formed a friendship over their mutual love of Baltimore's professional football teams. 

Burrier symbolically passed the torch to Granofsky that day.

"He got up to speak and then he called me up there," Granofsky said. "He did the Colts cheer and I did the Ravens cheer, and then 400 people joined in and sang ‘The Baltimore Fight Song.' 

"It was beautiful, man."

Issue 238: October 2017