As I write this, we’re just about 15 hours from the expiration of the current NFL collective bargaining agreement, which means that a lockout is all but assured. How long that lockout will last – and consequently, how long America will be without football – nobody knows. There have been murmurings that the owners are prepared to let the entire 2011 season go by without any football at all (though the recent judgment against them in the TV contract case likely makes them think twice about that). I’ve been reading the same things you have about the NFL labor dispute, and I’ll freely admit that it’s well above my pay grade, and that I have no business venturing any guesses about how it will turn out.
What I’m thinking about today is this: What if there isn’t any football in Baltimore in 2011? Could a “perfect storm” be brewing that will push our city back in the direction of being the baseball town it once was?
There are some old timers who will still insist that Baltimore remains “a baseball town.” In fact, around the country, many still perceive us as a baseball town. I’m reminded of a Deadspin article about the Ravens a while back – this was an email to the author about why he hates the Ravens:
When I moved to Baltimore 5 years ago I was excited to be going to a city with such a rich baseball tradition. I was sorely disappointed when I arrived and realized that baseball had no place in this city. No, there was only room for one team and it was the God-awful Ravens. You’ve never seen so many retards wearing purple in your life. Not only that but it would seem that once you become a Ravens fan you are required to start speaking like the Macho Man Randy Savage, “Oooh yeah, the Ravens, they’re coming to git ya, ooh yeahhh, John Harbaugh, MIss Elizabeiiiith, ooh yeah”.
They have little clubs called Ravens Roosts, where apparently people get together and compare who is the fattest, most backwater, purple covered douchenozzle. I hate the Ravens, and their fans.
First off, F that guy in the face, obviously. But I remember reading it and thinking, “wow, people outside of Baltimore really still see us as a baseball-first town? Incredible.”
However, most of us in B’More – including just about everyone under the age of about 35 – have accepted that, at this point, the Ravens rule the city.
There are a myriad of reasons for this, from the fact that the O’s have been terrible since 1998 – all but two years out of the football team’s entire existence – while the Ravens have been consistently competitive for the last decade (including a Super Bowl win in 2000), to the Orioles’ constant missteps in public relations and marketing, and on and on. The fact is, for the youngest generation of Charm City fans, Baltimore has pretty much always been “Ravenstown.”
Could it be “Birdland” again soon though? And I mean Birdland for real, not the Birdland that those idiots at MASN make awful commercials about.
Every summer, fans in Baltimore eagerly anticipate the Ravens opening training camp, as the Orioles inevitably slog through another sub-.500 campaign on the diamond. The seats at Camden Yards are embarrassingly empty night after night, as one of the crown jewel stadiums of Major League Baseball hasn’t seen a meaningful baseball game played in it since 1997. By the time the actual NFL season rolls around, Birdland is a ghost town.
Here’s some photos I took at a game in September 2007, as evidence:
Could this year be different though?
Instead of the Ravens saving us from the Orioles, as they’ve annually done for years, could the Orioles save us from (no) football?
Buck Showalter is in town these days, and the Orioles changed for the better from the day he arrived last season. Hell, after the Buck Truck showed up in Baltimore, a team that had been on pace for 100+ losses actually had the second-best record in the entire American League over the season’s last 57 games. On top of that, 45 of those games were against teams that finished 2010 at .500 or better.
Excitement is buzzing around the Orioles this spring, and it seems much more warranted than just the usual “hope springs eternal” business. Buck is back, the team added veteran bats like Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero, added masher Mark Reynolds, and the young pitchers really turned it on at the end of last season.
Regardless of the situation in the NFL, people are talking about the O’s right now. The question is, will the situation in the NFL result in MORE people not only talking about the O’s, but spending their money on them?
With no football, there is going to be a lot of discretionary income that would usually go to the Ravens newly freed up in Charm City.
Only the most delusional of orange kool-aid drinker thinks the O’s have any real shot of getting to the postseason this year. However, a more competitive ball club than any we’ve seen around here in recent memory seems very much a possibility.
Could the combined effects of no Ravens football and a much-improved Orioles squad be exactly what it takes to make Baltimore – to a larger degree than it has been lately, anyway – a baseball town again?
As we contemplate slitting our collective wrists over the prospect of the purple and black not taking the field at all in 2011, it’s at least something to keep an eye on.
I know one thing, I’d better plan on getting a lot better at blogging about baseball here real quick (WTF IS UZR???). Or find someone who is.