When you go to school to study Public Relations, one of the first things you are taught is that good news comes out on Monday morning and bad news on Friday afternoon. This allows the public to either take the entire week to talk about something exciting or forget about upsetting news over the weekend.
Today the Ravens made their most disappointing announcement in their 15 year history, their free and public training camp at McDaniel College is no more. I wasn’t alive when the Mayflower trucks rolled out of town to Indianapolis in 1984, so in my lifetime the Ravens moving their training camp from Westminster’s open fields to their press only complex in Owings Mills is the saddest thing that has ever happened to my favorite football team.
On Wednesday I told our readers that despite a spin by the Ravens PR team, who has won awards for being the best in the National Football League, the team’s move from McDaniel tells me that they no longer care about growing their fan base. Open training camps in Baltimore date back to the early Colts days in the 1950s and when Art Modell brought the Browns to the Charm City the team opted to grow their fan base through open practices in the summer heat. With the team’s success, over 100,000 fans ended up filling McDaniel’s campus every summer to get a glimpse of the Ravens up close.
My fondest memories of the Ravens aren’t in the upper deck of M&T Bank Stadium, they are standing out in the 99 degree heat in August hoping to get up close to Ray Lewis or congratulating Brian Billick on winning the Super Bowl as he walked off the field after the morning practice.
The Ravens know that many of their fans have shared similar memories, they are aware that training camp is the closest many fans will ever get to their favorite team, but they no longer care about what the fans want. We had a commenter on BSR say before today’s announcement that if the Ravens closed public training camp he would consider selling his PSLs. Unfortunately for Matt, thousands of fans are lined up behind him waiting to pay outrageous prices to see eight games a year live and the Ravens know that.
“Better preparation” was the excuse that General Manager Ozzie Newsome used when letting down the entire Ravens fan base. ”How teams conduct training camp today is vastly different,” he said. ”Our football needs and requirements are different.” Newsome’s thoughts make the decision seem as though a move is the only way for the Ravens to move forward. 100 percent of the Baltimore’s football championships came from teams coached in front of crowds at Westminster. We’ll see how much difference the move makes.
You shouldn’t be surprised by this news, in my opinion the Ravens knew this day was coming a long time ago and they have slowly let fans down to make today’s announcement hurt a little less. The team changed its autograph policy two years ago, banning adults from close contact with the players and citing “safety issues” as the reason for the new rules. Last August the Ravens pulled out of Westminster early into the NFL lockout and blamed the negotiations on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement for canceling public practices. After a year without training camp the Ravens finally made the decision they have been building up to and severed their ties with the community of Westminster and the training camp we’ve come to know and love for all these years. They have snuck in open practices at M&T Bank Stadium as a way to make the loss a little less painful and announced that at least three days will open to the general public in downtown Baltimore in 2012.
If you want to see just how much the Ravens rule this town, just keep your ears open this weekend. If you hear anything about the team’s move from Westminster to Owings Mills it will likely be a spin on how fans are okay with closing public practices because it will make the team better.
And that’s exactly what the organization is hoping you’ll think.
Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter @zamwi or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editors Note: Despite this story being days old by next Wednesday, Matt, Pat and I will debate the Ravens move from Westminster to Owings Mills on next week’s BSR Podcast.