The Foundation Of A Baltimore Sports Fan …. Part I

August 19, 2009 |

On rare occasions, a truly compelling blog topic hits me. I’m talking about stuff that leads me to reach out to friends and family and ask for their input. You cannot predict when one of these moments occurs.

Sometimes, I’m hit with bunches of heart-entrenched subjects, and there are also stretches of weeks or MONTHS without an opportunity to “reinvent the wheel.” I just take ‘em as they come.

Needless to say, I’ve been struck with one of these special moments. It’s a two-part blog, with the second portion appearing tomorrow. I hope you enjoy ……

A few days ago, my nephew, Robert, came to visit. He’s 11 years old and on the brink of starting 7th grade. He lives on the Eastern Shore and loves sports. He excels at baseball, soccer and wrestling. And, he loves being a Ravens and Orioles fan.

Robert’s visit is really revolving around the Ravens and Orioles, in a few capacities. And, while I’m providing Robert’s exposure and opportunities, it’s dawned on me ….. “I’m witnessing the development of a Baltimore sports fan.”

This is a youthful age when a sports fan really cuts their teeth on the passion known as LOVING YOUR TEAM, right? I think so. Robert’s experiences have been very special and I want to share them with YOU. It’s been pretty sobering …..

Our time together started with a trip to Ravens Training Camp, on Monday morning. Robert joined the throngs of young Ravens fans, and their families, who embark on Westminster, for a sight of “real” football players.

When attending a morning or afternoon session, I usually see the obvious – a few kids who couldn’t care less about Justin Harper’s emergence, a few middle-aged men who are bent on peddling every autograph they garner, and families who really love the experience.

I would certainly put Robert in the last group. This kid loves sports.

As an uncle, I appreciated seeing my little guy’s eyes widen when practice ended and players became available for fans, who surrounded the entire playing field. Granted, the name nearly every kid screamed was “FLACCO.”

And, Joe didn’t disappoint – for the fans standing in the worst strategic position. It was a great gesture.

Meanwhile, Robert, was in a more prime spot – for watching practice, as well as shagging players. He’s no fool …..

As you’ll see from the photos, Ravens players were good to ALL fans. They posed for photos, shared laughs and conversation, and signed autographs. It was a special experience. Each day at Ravens Camp is a special experience.

As I watched Robert and other children enjoying their day at Ravens Camp, it dawned on me ….. PARENTS WOULD PAY FOR THIS EXPERIENCE. Yet, it’s free. When a team does not charge a fee for interactive fan/player experiences, I’m obliged to say “Thank You.”

I have never had the disappointment of a bad experience, in Westminster. The entire organization seems truly committed to making “Ravenstown” a very comfortable and enjoyable place for fans. It’s Organized Fun.

Are football players the most approachable athletes? I think they rank pretty high. Of course, NASCAR drivers are in their company – since they’re really walking billboards for marketing purposes.

And, please don’t take this opportunity to question the athletic element of piloting a racecar. These guys compete hard, fight fatigue and risk their lives. And, like the Ravens at Training Camp, they’re generally very nice to people.

My nephew had an amazing time, while brushing up against the likes of …..

Willis McGahee
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Ladarius Webb
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Jared Gaither
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Jarrett Johnson
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Frank Walker
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Tom Zbikowski
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Please don’t misunderstand the spirit of this blog; a child’s development is not rooted in exposure to sports celebrities and figures. I don’t believe athletes are the role models our kids should be revering. Overwhelming chances indicate they’ll follow in our footsteps rather than in the path of their sports heroes.

However, the world of sports touches so many children. And, as with any other influence, I think it’s paramount to ensure their experiences are positive and fortifying of life’s better diversions.

Besides, as the title claims, this is a vital stage in the life of a sports fan. Your childhood memories are etched in your memory, right? This is a time tested tradition for families and the hometown sports franchises are usually household staples for generations.

In my mind and heart, the RAVENS get an A+ for embracing the community and treating people decently. The football players will not influence my nephew’s development. But, they will have an impact on how he spends his personal time and devotion to enjoyment.

And, that’s all we can ever ask.

Thanks for reading. Tomorrow – Part 2 – our visit to Camden Yards …..