The two main coaches in Baltimore right now are Buck Showalter of the Orioles and John Harbaugh of the Ravens. Both are with their respective teams for various reasons, both have different backgrounds and levels of experience, and both are at different stages of their lives. However they have one thing in common, and that’s Baltimore. To expound on that a bit, they’ve both inherited a rich tradition and lineage in that there’s greatness behind them. While the Orioles have been in a state of malaise for thirteen years, we all know the history and traditions that are associated with them. Showalter inherits the legacy of Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, and Cal Ripken Jr. In the case of the Ravens, there’s a twelve-year span of time where there was no football in Baltimore, which stands in stark similarity to the most recent stretch of Orioles baseball. However Harbaugh is now taxed with stroking the legacy of Don Shula, Johnny Unitas, Alan Ameche, Raymond Berry, and Ray Lewis (who of course is still on the team).
Again, the common link between these two men is Baltimore, and thus the Baltimore fans. One of the reasons that I love Baltimore so much is because of it’s legacy as a survivor. Let us not forget that Baltimore was attacked by Brittish forces in August of 1814 (during the war of 1812). The resulting Battle of Ft. McHenry gave us our beloved Star-Spangled Banner, which essentially celebrates the fact that the city of Baltimore never fell to the Brittish forces that night. The city (and thus the nation) “survived.” How does that translate to the O’s and Ravens? Baltimore’s rich football legacy was hijacked in 1984 Robert Irsay and the Mayflower moving vans. However for twelve years the fans kept the legacy of Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts burning in their hearts, in hopes that one day the NFL might see fit to return to one of the places that helped to make it so great. Eventually those efforts paid off when in 1995 Art Modell announced that his Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore to become the Ravens.
The Orioles last contended in 1997 under the leadership of Davey Johnson, one of Earl Weaver’s former players. Since Johnson rode out of town on the heels of going wire-to-wire in first place and winning manager of the year, it’s been lean times in Birdland. Seemingly everything that this franchise has done has been wrong. We all remember the Albert Belle debacle, which might rank up there with the Glenn Davis trade as one of the worst moves in team history. Speaking for myself I’ll never forget the year that they lost Rafael Palmeiro and BJ Surhoff to free agency and/or trades, and then tried to market Delino DeShields as their big free-agent pickup the next year. They even tried bringing Palmeiro (who was always a fan favorite) back, however that blew up in their faces when he tested positive for steroids. Ultimately, a long series of poor management decisions by Peter Angelos and the people around him have led to these thirteen losing seasons, marred by embarassments and NY/Boston fans taking over our beloved stadium.
While some people would argue that Angelos is still mismanaging the team, I would tend to believe that through the hiring of Andy MacPhail and Buck Showalter, this team is on the right track once again. In the past few seasons they’ve drafted well and made some good pickups (although they should have gotten a big bat this past off season, as has been admitted by Andy MacPhail). I suppose my point is that through all of that, the Baltimore fans still stand by the team. Some would laughingly say that drawing 9100+ on a weeknight is hardly having people stand by you. However anyone that’s attended a game since Showalter’s shown up in August knows what I mean. The fans are into and behind this team. When people think of suffering fans, those of cities such as Cleveland, Boston, and Philly come to mind. However not having football for so long combined with the Orioles’ rocky thirteen years has put Baltimore fans in a similar category. Yet they’re still there, as resiliant as ever. So Buck Showalter and John Harbaugh are tasked with taking the traditions and memories of the past, and turning them into the future. I suppose that I’m reminded of the closing scene of Back to the Future III; as he lifted off in his new time machine, the Doc told Marty and Jennifer:
Your future isn’t written yet. Nobody’s is! So make it a good one…both of you.