To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Friends, Baltimoreans, countrymen–I come to praise the Orioles and Major League Baseball, not to bury them”.
Judging by what I’ve seen over social media the past few days, many others choose to not do the same. Unless you live under a rock, and that rock is in Baltimore, you should be well-versed in the latest “controversy” to envelop Baltimore sports fans. I feel like this is almost a weekly occurrence. We win the Super Bowl yet there is no “chill”. What I mean by this is have we as a fan base even had a chance to enjoy it?
We won the thing LAST month, but all the “virtual” tears I’ve seen shed over the past several weeks have not been of joy, but of sadness. Alas, that is a blog for another day. Thanks to the NFL, Baltimore sports fans found themselves embroiled this week in a Civil War-esque showdown. On par with the Hatfields vs the McCoys, I give you Ravens fans vs. Orioles fans.
It really shouldn’t be this way, you know. As a fan base, we really are all in this together. In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, ’til death do us part, we are inherently Orioles and Ravens fans. Yes, there’s the odd Redskins fan here or there, or Nats’ fan from Baltimore, but for the sake of this writing, I’m keeping it Baltimore and Baltimore only. There is zero reason to ever have to choose.
Two completely different sports played in two (for the most part) completely different times of year. But since Roger Goodell and the NFL decided to flex their muscle and show everybody who the bully in the schoolyard was, a lot of true colors were shown out over the last few days.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t show mine. I love the Ravens. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched every game they’ve ever played in some form or another since their inaugural season in 1996. But 12 years of my life there was no football in Baltimore, and for about 5 years prior to that, the football that was there was pretty poor.
The Orioles, or “The Only Game In Town”, as they were called when the Colts left, were exactly that. The Orioles simply hold a special place in my heart, a different place in my heart than the Ravens. So forgive me if I was a bit put off by Goodell and the NFL putting the Orioles in a no-win PR nightmare situation. We all know the particulars, so no need to rehash the actual facts. But, the Orioles were not solely responsible for the decision…FACT. Major League Baseball put this schedule out in September(!!) 2012…FACT.
The NFL has scheduled games on all kinds of religious holidays, including last year’s Rosh Hashanah…FACT. These are just a few of the big ones, but there are several more that just make the NFL look like idiots. None of that stuff matters though because it seems that the only thing many Ravens fans and local media saw was “ZOMG THE ORIOLES WON’T LET THE RAVENS OPEN THE SEASON AT HOME ON SEPT 5TH…BURN THEM AT THE STAKE!”.
You know what? I get it.
The Ravens are almost always in the playoffs, bringing home two Super Bowls in the process. They’re great in the community and the organization has built up a ton of goodwill with the denizens of Baltimore and with their fans all around the country. The O’s right now just can’t compete with that.
Prior to last season, they were punchlines to jokes, many of those jokes from people in Baltimore itself. With last year’s success, however, and with the promise of building on that this season, screwing around with your schedule during a potential pennant race in September just wasn’t gonna happen. From the many Nostradamus-es I follow or that have been re-tweeted onto my twitter timeline, “nobody in Baltimore is going to that Orioles game!” or, “there’s only going to be 10,000 people at that Orioles game!”.
Which is it? Nobody or 10,000?
I can tell you this much, Showalter nor his team will care if 1 person or 20,000 show up. They played and won in front of small crowds for most of last season; they’re professionals and their focus will be on the job at hand. I’ve seen reactions go so far as calling for a boycott of the Orioles game that night, or people saying the “prestige” of opening the season at home is something that can’t be passed up. To both camps, I say get a grip. Prestige? We won the Super Bowl. Our football team, that resides in the city of Baltimore, won the Super Bowl. If that doesn’t put you on the map, on the conscience of the average sports fan, I don’t know what will.
It was refreshing to see Coach John Harbaugh and a couple of the Ravens players come out and pretty much say “hey, no big deal…we’d rather play on the road that first game and get that half-bye week because it’ll do us better for the long haul”. That’s chess, people, not checkers. This is purely supposition (obviously), but I’ve wondered over the last couple days if, during the 14 years prior to last season the Orioles had sprinkled in several postseason appearances and maybe even threw in a world championship, the organization would’ve received the same vitriol I’ve read the past couple of days? I say no, but that’s purely speculation.
Living 3,000 miles away from your hometown and from the sports teams that you root for has both positives and negatives. The negative is obviously I don’t get to go to the games, don’t get to be with “my people” to celebrate the wins or suffer through the losses. The positive is that the distance allows me to stand back and survey. Maybe if I still lived in Baltimore, I’d get more caught up in the varying waves of emotion these made up controversies can cause.
Don’t get me wrong, if the O’s lose five in a row, I might be on the ledge ready to jump like everybody else back home, but at least I’ll think about it first.
Winston Rigsby is contributor to BaltimoreSportsReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter @W_R_R.