A Tale of Two Franchise

June 12, 2007 |

So I’m driving home from the Bowman Restaurant last night following the Ravens rookie show, and it dawns on me: since I’ve been at WNST for the past two months, I’ve met current Ravens’ coaches, former players such as Spencer Folau, and now, the newest members of the franchise (who, for the record, were all friendly, well-spoken and gracious last night).  In that same time span, here’s the number of players, coaches and front office executives from the baseball team that I’ve met:

Zero.

Now why is that?  After all, on a Monday night in June, I should be thinking about baseball first and foremost, right?  Yet as I drove home, all I could think about was Monday night, September 10, in Cincy, and the start of a season of hope.  Because after a decade of baseball frustration, there’s really no hope for that franchise as currently constructed.  And the worst part about the baseball franchise is that they don’t care.  They don’t care that they’ve alienated me, or you, or any of the tens of thousands like us who are making our voices heard by NOT going to ballgames.  Remember while you watch this week: each vacant green seat at OPACY represents another frustrated fan who’s voting with his/her wallet against the administration.

It never used to be like this.  When I was a kid, I met Brooks, Jim Palmer, Ken Singleton, Elrod (of course) and even Grant Jackson.  The Orioles were always accessible, community oriented and fan-friendly.  And this was at a time when the team actually WON!  If they had been so inclined, they could have completely ignored their fans, because people were going to follow them and cheer for them and live and die each and every day because the team was competitive.  But the team was savvy enough to realize that for the community to fully embrace them, it was essential to have players be available to meet fans, to smile and sign autographs, to actually represent the franchise in a positive manner.

Here in 2007, the roles have been completely reversed.

While the Orioles refuse to grant access to any media outlet that doesn’t pay them cold hard cash, the Ravens graciously allow six of their newest additions to come out on a Monday night in June to meet fans and be welcomed into our wonderful community.  While I’ve never seen or heard about any public appearances this season by any Orioles, the Ravens willingly offer players for community appearances.  While I’ve never seen the inside of the Warehouse (and don’t believe I’ll ever be invited), the Ravens have given me a guided tour of their state-of-the-art facility in Owings Mills.  The contrasts between the two organizations are evident everywhere, from fan appreciation to media access to success on the field.

The saddest part of the entire situation is this: the Orioles would actually blame me for "not being a fan" and losing interest over the last ten years!  It’s not their fault, it’s not their responsibility to fix things, it’s not necessary for them to make players available to the public.  It’s my fault for losing faith, patience and hope.  If I want to meet the players, then I should buy a ticket and go down to the field level during pre-game to do that.  And forget about any public appearances for any station that doesn’t pay them.  After all, nobody listens to THOSE guys!

Call it a lesson from Public Relations 101.  Give the Ravens an A, not just for last night, but for all their work since 1995.  As for the Orioles, I’d give them an I, for Incomplete.  Or Incompetent.  Or Insecure.  Or Indifferent.

The older I get, the harder it is for me to remember what it felt like to be an Orioles fan. 

One thing I’m certain of is this, though: I’m a Ravens fan forever, as are my three sons.

Not that the Orioles would be interested in a new generation of baseball fans.  After all, it’s not their fault.  It’s mine.

Thoughts, comments and opinions are always welcome at mark@wnst.net.

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