Free The Birds: Sorry, Nestor, not this time

April 19, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Back in 2006, the Orioles weren’t very good and the franchise was stumbling and bumbling along without much direction.

About 2,000 people were so pissed off — and cared so much — that they took a half-day from work and gathered at Camden Yards for a meaningless Thursday afternoon game against Detroit.

Two hours into the game, we stood en masse and walked out.

It was dubbed “Free The Birds”.

It made national news.

It was a major proclamation from the faithful in town:  ”Enough is enough.  Either fix this thing, sell it to someone who will, or we won’t come to the games anymore.”

And to the Orioles credit – and specifically, Peter Angelos – they listened and observed the events that transpired on September 21, 2006 and changes were made.  The following June, Andy MacPhail was hired and a promise of improvement was made by Angelos and his organization.

33 months later, not much has improved.  Or, at the very least, the two things that matter most – winning and attendance – haven’t improved. And that’s not a low blow…it’s a fact.

Fast forward to April, 2010: Based off of the team’s horrid 2-11 start and a meager gathering of fans for 3 of the team’s first 6 home games, Nestor is now in the formative stages of launching Free The Birds, The Reunion.

Save your energy, Nes.

The people in this town don’t care enough to protest the team again.

You’ll see.

Post all the Facebook sign-ups you want, but the majority of folks in Baltimore who WOULD protest aren’t going to do it this time.

They’d rather stay home and cut their lawn.

I applaud the energy and the mere thought of once again getting together to enjoy a game at Camden Yards with a bunch of other fans who have similar levels of frustration with the way the team is being run.

What the hell, I’ll go if a few of you want to do it.

I can cut the lawn tomorrow.

But this concept of Free The Birds, The Reunion isn’t going to work this time around.

The people don’t care enough anymore.

If they cared, they’d be going to the games right now.

Instead of having 5,612 folks there last Monday night when Tampa Bay came to town, 15,000 would have made their way downtown on a PERFECT night for spring baseball at OPACY.

(By the way, 5,612 isn’t just a number I pulled out of thin air.  But that’s a story for another day.)

Maybe, just maybe, if the franchise wasn’t employing a silly day-of-game ticket surcharge, more baseball lovers would make the trek downtown for a weeknight game with a family-and-friends gathering — you know, the kind they had last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday vs. Tampa Bay.

Oh, that’s right, according to the O’s, it was mainly about these factors:  April, early in the season, home opening weekend, Tampa Bay not a good draw and a “bad start to the season”.

In other words, every excuse in the book was used except the one the O’s manufactured themselves:  Their dumb ass additional-ticket-charge-if-you-decide-on-a-whim-to-come-to-one-of-our-games.

But back to the topic at hand: Free The Birds, The Reunion.

If I’m wrong, I’ll say so, but I don’t think it’s gonna fly this time around.  Too many people have packed it in.  Too many people don’t care anymore. Too many people have said, “F**k it, I’ll just stay home and mow my lawn.”

I still have a lot of energy, personally, for urging the team to fix their problems.  I always have energy to fight a just cause.  That’s why I ruined my relationship with the team over the “Baltimore on the road jersey” battle that I finally won in 2009.  I was ALWAYS right about putting Baltimore back on the road jersey, so I never gave up or lost my energy for that fight.

And I still have a lot of energy for trying to get the Orioles to do the right thing, like waiving that idiotic ticket-price surcharge.  If the cause is reasonable, I’ll put my energy into it, even if the Orioles don’t like it.

I’m still here, despite their best wishes.  And I bought 28 tickets to opening day, a sure sign that I’ve either, A) completely lost my mind, or, B) done my part as a fan by continuing to support the team despite the fact they haven’t delivered on their end of the bargain in, oh, about 12 years or so.

Hell, they have Mr. Oriole himself begging for a front office job and they can’t even find a desk and a computer to give to Cal Ripken, Jr.  What does that say about the state of the franchise in 2010?  That would be akin to Ray Lewis telling the Ravens, “I think I’ll move here permanently when my career is over…do you think you can find me a position in the front office?” and the Ravens saying, “Well, we’ll have to see about that Ray.  We have a lot of talented people here, you know.”

When Cal Ripken wants to grace you with his presence, you get him an office with a view, a pretty secretary, a team-issued credit card and a premier parking spot.

I’m not sure exactly WHAT Cal wants to do, but whatever it is, I’m just happy he hasn’t given up on the franchise.

As for the fans who are bellyaching and barking about the team’s woeful 2010 start and how “nothing changes, this team still stinks”, let’s see how many of you put your money where your mouth is when it’s time for Free The Birds, The Reunion.

I’m betting most of them are more talk than action.

This town has given up on the team.

There are still a few thousand die-hards left (I’m either embarrassed or proud to admit, I’m still one of them…I’ve watched every game except the one they didn’t show so far this season) and they’ll be the ones jumping for joy when the team puts together a 5-game winning streak at some point in 2010.

But the bulk of Baltimore’s sports fans have officially filed for divorce from the Orioles.

It’s over.

A fact you’ll see on full display when Nestor tries to revive Free The Birds, The Reunion.

It’s a great thought and a noble cause, Nestor.

But the fan base is out of energy.

Until it comes to cutting the lawn, that is.

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