Credit Where Credit’s Due: Peter Schmuck Got It Right

June 21, 2010 | Glenn Clark

Today on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST-we did a segment that you should probably be used to at this point. Our “Apologist of the Morning” segment has been part of the show since the Baltimore Orioles opened the season in Tampa Bay-and a group of orange Kool Aid drinkers began making excuses for a team that would go on to lose 50 of their first 69 games.

Truth be told, “Apologist of the Morning” is a goofy segment that doesn’t really mean much to us. We came up with it in part because we knew that having to talk about the O’s this season would be mind-numbing at times. Of course, we certainly didn’t expect it to be like THIS.

With “The Great Arbitrator” Drew Forrester out this morning, the segment was a bit different today. Instead of collecting multiple nominees and allowing Drew to choose the winner; Nestor Aparicio and I simply picked a winner.

And fortunately for us, our winner today was a bit of a runaway.

As many of you know-Jeff Barker and David Zurawik co-penned a story this weekend for the Baltimore Sun regarding improved attendance and improved ratings for the Birds. If you haven’t read this classic, go ahead and venture over to take a look. I’ll wait.

Captivating stuff, huh? Filled with gems of quotes from the likes of the team’s “Minister of Propaganda” Greg Bader, MASN’s John McGuinness and CBS Radio Baltimore (that’s where you’ll find 105.7-the flagship home of the Orioles) VP Bob Phillips, it really paints the picture that things are well in Birdland, despite the team’s 19-50 record.

The story points out that through 32 games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Orioles are averaging 23,720 fans per game; some 2,000 more than the 21,653 who attended the first 32 games a season ago. Moreover, it states that Orioles games have a 3.8 rating on MASN as compared to a 3.4 rating last season.

The story might lead some to believe that Charm City is dealing with a case of “Orange Fever.”

The most humorous part of the story is that online-it is accompanied by this Kenneth Lam photo of a “Friends and Family” night at OPACY…

(Photo courtesy of The Sun)

Of course, at no point in the story was it mentioned that the two smallest crowds in OPACY history were announced this season, but we’ll leave that alone-at least for now.

In naming Zurawik and Barker our co-Apologist(s) of the Morning, I don’t actually believe either men to be true “Apologists” for the team. In fact, I have no idea how either feels about the team. My assumption is that the Orioles and MASN were sending over these numbers; and as an official media partner for the team-the Sun felt the need to write this type of story. Barker is a staff writer for the sports department who takes on other assignments while the Maryland Terrapins are on summer hiatus. Zurawik is the TV writer on staff; so they are a logical combo to write the piece.

The piece itself is an almost beautiful representation of apology. They simply ran the facts, dismissed the fact that the facts don’t really make a whole lot of sense, and then grabbed quotes to tie the thing up. It isn’t really JOURNALISM, it’s just work. Those guys were told to write a story, and write a story they did.

I don’t blame either guy one bit for such apology. They really just did their jobs.

This is where I direct attention to the hero of the weekend.

In response to the story, multiple AOTM winner Peter Schmuck posted an interesting blog over at his “The Schmuck Stops Here” area at The Sun’s website.

And as we should expect when a good journalist is allowed to BE a journalist, Peter absolutely KILLED it. His post “O’s attendance: Disraeli was right” handled the topic perfectly. Once again, I’ll wait if you want to go take a look.

Schmuck accurately pointed out a fact that was introduced but quickly dismissed in the story written by Zurawik and Barker. He pointed out that the team has played 15 of their 32 home games against the New York Yankees, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox-all of whom bring thousands of fans with them to Baltimore for every series. Through 32 home games a season, the team had played just 6 games against that trio-all of which were against the Yankees.

Schmuck went on to do the math regarding attendance in games NOT against those teams. He subtracted Opening Day from both this season and last (as Opening Day is usually well-attended no matter who the opponent is) and figured out that the team has averaged 19,679 fans per game-down from 19,831 a season ago.

Spare me the “we know there aren’t that many fans at the games” comments. Everyone knows that teams/venues/concert events announce tickets sold, not bodies in seats. If an announced crowd is 6,000 fans larger than the number of fans actually in attendance because the team “sold” 5,000 tickets to a 2nd party broker like StubHub; they still sold the tickets. That’s REALLY all that matters to them.

But the honest to God FACT is that while the Orioles have sold MORE tickets this season; it ISN’T because Orioles fans are going back to their roots, or showing a new level of support for the team. It is simply because Baltimore remains an attractive location for out of town fans to come support their teams.

Had Barker and Zurawik written that, no one would have even blinked.

Unfortunately, they didn’t.

Thank God Peter Schmuck was there to cover for him.

He won’t get too many fist bumps or pats on the back when he heads out to The Yard this week. In fact, he’ll probably get some evil eyes; and he’s probably already received a few angry emails.

That’s why I want to make sure I give credit to him, as he’s earned it.

Peter did a GREAT job this weekend, handling the relevant facts instead of repeating propaganda.

It’s important that journalists are able to actually practice journalism. Peter Schmuck did that.

He deserves at least one “atta boy” this week. I’m glad I can give it to him.