A funny thing happened in Birdland

February 05, 2011 | Paul Hoke

I was sitting at my computer last Sunday morning, browsing through my usual sites.  My wife and 16 year old son were at church while my 10 year old was out marking his territory or something with the neighborhood kids.  I was scrolling through YouTube when I came across some videos dedicated to the Baltimore Orioles.

Now, as I have stated many, many times on this site, I have bled orange and black for almost 30 years.  And while I still love the Orioles, there’s been a change in the way I feel, not just about them, but about the game of baseball in general.  It happens as we get older, I suppose, but the fact that this organization has stunk for the better part of 13 years has certainly dampened what was once a fire that burned deep.  As my father would tell you, there was a time that I ate, slept, and drank baseball, specifically the Orioles.  During the years without football, when the Orioles were the only game in town, my day started and ended with what the Orioles had done the night before, and ended with how they were fairing with their game that night.

Now, to be fair to the Orioles, it isn’t just the past 13 seasons that have been tough for the Orioles.  Since the “high point” of my Oriole fandom, the 1983 World Series, the O’s have had only 7 winning seasons over the 28 seasons since that magical ’83 season.  Seven.  As hard as it has been to watch this team since their “wire to wire” season of 1997, the fact of the matter is, that for the better part of my life, this team hasn’t done a whole lot of winning.  The glory days of the Orioles were coming to an end as I was reaching the pinnacle of my fanhood.  My dad got to enjoy the Orioles of the 1960’s and 1970’s, when year in and year out they were always in the hunt for the pennant in August and September.  Now a days, we’re lucky if they’re still within shouting distance by June.  My point being, that even when I was living, eating, and sleeping Orioles baseball, in the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s, it wasn’t like they were winning 90 games a season.  The difference, however, is how the organization was run.  Because even in the years following the 1983 title, and through the move to Camden Yards, as a fan, you always felt as though the organization was at the very least trying to put the best 25 players out there.  You felt as though this team, for all it’s faults, was still playing to the want of the fans.  That was the difference between the also ran Orioles of my youth, and the debacle that we have seen the past 13 seasons.  Hmmmm, I wonder what the primary difference between those two eras might be…..?

His name rhymes with Peter Angelos.

Hell, this is a team that lost 21 games in a row to start the 1988 season, and upon returning home after getting their first victory of the year in Chicago, was greeted by 54,000 fans at BWI.  They can’t even get 54,000 fans at OPACY for a weekend series against Tampa Bay.  And there is the difference.  After the fluky 1989 “Why Not” season, that final series in Toronto still haunts me, they fell on their faces in the final two years at precious Memorial Stadium.  Yet, 2.5 million fans still came out to the Grand Old Lady each of those final two years.  Have I mentioned how much I miss that stadium?

Anyway, as I stated at the outset of this blog, I was sitting at my computer when I came upon a YouTube video/song about the Orioles.  It’s title was “How Bout Dem O’s” and it was very catchy.  The kind of toe-tapping song that made me go back to my old standby Bird’s song, “A World of Orioles Baseball.”  For a brief time last Sunday, I was 12 again, and the Orioles mattered.  Hasn’t happened a whole lot over the past 13 seasons.  But as I have followed the off season moves the O’s have made, and listened to these catchy little songs, I have to say that for the first time in a long time, I’m actually looking forward to the start of the baseball season.

Maybe a part of this was born out of the way the Ravens’ season ended.  Maybe with their loss, as a fan, I’m trying to grab onto something similar to what we go through during a successful football season.  Especially when it comes to a premature end in rotten, stinking Pittsburgh.

But for a brief period last Sunday, I was a huge Orioles fan again.  Wanting Opening Day to get here as fast as I had when I was a kid.  Looking over the 2011 Baltimore Orioles, seeing the improvements, and going into a season with actual, living, breathing hope.

And that hasn’t happened a lot in Birdland recently.  But maybe this year.

Just maybe.  And then we land Vlad…but more on that later.
GO CAPS!!!!!