Purple madness leads to orange sadness as we ring in 2007

December 29, 2006 | Nestor Aparicio

I’m kinda taking in all of this Festivus and Super Bowl mania one day at a time.

As much as I’m trying to have fun with all of the hype, excitement and wishful visions of palm trees and purple parties in South Florida in five weeks, I’m also try to temper my own pure, unadulterated joy in what the Ravens are doing to this city.

I just want to slow these days down and savor every one because I know that either way it’s all going to be over very soon and very abruptly.

And, I know you don’t want to hear it right now — and I can’t blame you, but I’m gonna lay it on you anyway because you NEED to hear it and I NEED to say it — this is how this city used to be not too long ago when it came to a certain orange bird and a magical three-generation love affair with our baseball team, which seemed to die a tragic civic death about a decade ago.

For you youngsters out there — the ones who really don’t remember 1979 or 1983 — do you want some more proof about what Oriole Magic was all about? All you need to do is look at the purple lights hanging all over the city and listen to the sounds of a winning team and a community filled to the brim with anticipation, laughter, joy and hope.

The only difference between this current wave of purple enthusiasm and Oriole Magic was that the Orioles played every day — you didn’t have to wait until Sunday or get through a bye week to get your mojo going! You were always just a few hours away from the next game!

Baltimore is now and will be until the final gun of the Super Bowl or until such time as the Ravens cease to be alive in the NFL Playoffs, a purple city! The whole freaking CITY is purple every night! I just ordered 10 strands of purple rope lights to put in my windows!

I’m officially drinking the grape Kool Aid!

So, just when those warm memories of 2000 started to yellow and fade a bit into the distance — sometimes it feels like that night in Tampa was a lifetime ago, sometimes it feels like it was last week — this 2006 team and resilient franchise has brought back some magic dust of its own.

Will Ray Lewis and Jon Ogden be able to accomplish what Cal Ripken never did, that elusive late-career title, which No. 8 fell short of in 1996 and 1997?

Will Steve McNair punctuate his Hall of Fame-type credentials with a Super Bowl title, ala Jim Palmer at the end?

Can Brian Billick fully rally from his much maligned existence and accomplish what many coaches see as a Canton-esque punctuation — a second Lombardi Trophy?

We’re planning rallies and involving players and coaches and doing events and buying purple twinkle lights online and we want to make this as much fun for everyone as it is for us at this crazy little radio station.

And as for the magical feeling we’re all feeling right now — and I know it’s not the most opportune time but at least while I have your attention — it’s time to talk Free The Birds some more.

Baseball used to give us this feeling — this hope and anticipation and excitement! People are calling me for tickets (I don’t have any!) and planning parties and wanting to reach out and touch some of the magic.

I’m anticipating that Sunday will be one of the greatest Baltimore sports days in recent memory if the Ravens win to ring in 2007!

It reminds me of 10 years ago when the Orioles were in the postseason against the Yankees and Indians and Mariners at Camden Yards.

If the Orioles ever DO win again, do you think it would ever be like this and feel like this?

So, it’s just another New Year’s Eve, now 9 1/2 years since the orange birds have played a meaningful inning of baseball let alone be involved in any pennant race, but is there really any hope for the future of the Orioles and capturing this feeling we all have about the Ravens right now if we don’t continue to fight and rally and protest in 2007?

Since the Free The Birds rally on Sept. 21, I’ve been keeping score and, obviously, it’s not pretty.

Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette have been to two sets of off-season trading conventions and spent plenty of time TALKING about signing All Stars while only finding pricey and fledgling middle relievers who will take their Confederate money.

The biggest story of the orange hot-stove was Peter Angelos’ nixing of a major trade with the Atlanta Braves at the 11th hour, again overruling the very people he employs to run the franchise. It would be comedy if this stuff happened to the Yankees or the Steelers but here it feels like Greek tragedy.

In October, the franchise totally dissed its own heritage and the legendary 1966 World Champions by forcing them throw their reunion and anniversary party at Morgan State instead of inside the actual ballpark where the “current” Orioles play.

The orange marketing department completely screwed up their only winter event, Fan Fest, by booking it on Jan. 14, a day when the Ravens could very well be playing across the street for a chance to go to the AFC Championship Game.

The biggest ongoing dramedy of the off-season has been Angelos’ petulant and silly lawsuit against the Maryland Stadium Authority about a giant centerfield television no one will be in the stadium to watch.

Companies are not buying their suites or their tickets or their advertising.

Season ticket holders receive almost laughable order forms to buy tickets “ahead of the general public.”

It appears that they are about to sever ties with their 50,000-watt radio “superpartner” to jump into the sack with a corporate monolith that was basically fired for incompetence by the Ravens last year.

Their “white horse” television network, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, features Hawaiian League baseball games, incredibly bad sports talk and ads for an Orioles swag store in York, Pa.

They’ve recently posted a job on careerbuilder.com for a “Chief Marketing Officer.”

(Since I’ve been responsible for the two biggest group sales in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, maybe I should send my resume over! I can’t wait to meet the fool who actually takes this career-killing assignment!)

Ten days from now, Cal Ripken will be go back onto the front of every sports section in this country after being crowned a first-ballot Hall of Famer, surely ripping the scabs off the wounds of this decade of disgrace once again. Let the bleeding begin!

The Orioles won 70 games in 2006. The AL wild card team, the once lowly Detroit Tigers, won 95.

If anyone honestly believes that Chad Bradford, Scott Williamson, Jaret Wright, Jay Payton and Danys Baez are worth 25 games of improvement, I’d like to sell them some unused 1984 Baltimore Colts season ticket strips.

And while the Ravens are painting the town purple every single day and night — in spirit and in action with players dotting the beltway night after night signing autographs, doing radio shows and charitable work — the Orioles’ manager, owner and all of their players have run for the hills once again, entirely invisible for yet another offseason.

So, just where do these two franchises passing in the night intersect?

Perhaps five weeks from Tuesday morning when 53 purple tanks cruise past the windows of the baseball Warehouse with the Lombardi Trophy in tow and a half a million people waiting on Pratt Street to touch the magic, throw confetti and tickertape and share the love.

I’m still wondering if Mr. Angelos would even gesture toward the Ravens and Steve Bisciotti to throw out the first pitch on April 9th if they win the big one in Miami.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to find out!

Happy New Year, Peter!

I hope you enjoy the din of the purple lights in your rearview mirror as you drive out of the city tonight.

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