What a long, strange trip it’s been…

August 16, 2007 | Drew Forrester

I’ve never been a fan of The Grateful Dead – in fact, I’ve NEVER owned, borrowed or otherwise possessed one of their albums/CD’s.

But you don’t have to be a fan of “The Dead” to know one of their great album titles — “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

That sums up – to me at least – the baseball season in Baltimore in 2007.

It has been, indeed, a long, strange trip.

I think it’s about time we pull in the driveway, unload the car and put an end to this 4-month journey.

If not, we’re all going to go nuts.

I took most of the afternoon to think about EVERYTHING that has transpired since April 3rd.  Some of the issues are personal to those of us at WNST…some of the issues are relevant to the fan base…and some of the issues involve not only the rocky relationship between the O’s and THEIR fans, but between WNST and the O’s supporters who believe we’re responsible for creating this band of negativity that permeates throughout the city.

I’m not going to re-hash the professional/personal battles that have transpired this spring/summer between the Orioles and staff members at WNST.  There’s no sense in doing that.  There have been unthinkable, unprofessional incidents that have been made public and, frankly, some that I’ve even kept private.  But I’m not going there today.  And I’m not going to outline the numerous occasions this year when the club failed to honor the spirit of the fans who are responsible for EVERYONE’S salary that works at The Warehouse.

Rather, the long strange trip of baseball 2007 has been just as much about the battle between WNST and the legions of people out there who think we’re all “out to get” the team.  First, let me say this.  I absolutely acknowledge that I am the most critical of all the current on-air hosts at WNST Radio when it comes to observing, critiquing and reporting on the Orioles marketing, PR and communications efforts.  My professional background in the soccer business – from 1981 through 1998 – was largely formed off of my work in the public relations/community relations area of the organization.  Later, when I ran the club, I continued to at least keep my finger on the team’s PR efforts because that’s what I knew best.

We all have differing “hot points” at WNST as it relates to the Orioles.  Like I noted above, I tend to fall back on my days as a fan (having attended over 300 games at Memorial Stadium from 1975 through, probably, 1989 or so) and combine those memories with my marketing/PR sense…Bob Haynie is a full-blown Baltimore sports junkie – he FORGOT more about the Colts and Orioles history than I’ve ever known.  And Rob Long – as a college basketball coach – offers everyone a unique perspective on what goes on between the lines because ON THE FIELD is what matters most to him – and it should, because that’s how ALL coaches operate.  Michael Popovec is the fresh-faced kid of the group – he’s a Baltimore guy who, if you listen, shares our passion for the local teams as well.  And the same can be said for the weekend lineup.  EVERYONE wants the Baltimore teams to succeed.  Period.

The last few months have made for some very interesting radio at WNST.  While there are certainly a great number of listeners out there who feel disconnected with the Orioles – and they make their voices heard on the air and via e-mail – we’ve also experienced a group of listeners who feel disconnected with US…because we’re perceived by many to be “too negative” or “out to get” the team.  All we do at WNST is watch what the team does and report on it — we do precisely what you do every day…with one exception.  You all watch, observe and study what the Orioles do every day – and so do we.  The difference?  We have a microphone.  It doesn’t make us better than you, more observant than you and it definitely doesn’t make us more important than you when it comes to being a paying customer.  It just makes us – at WNST – “different” than you, that’s all.  With that difference, though, comes an obligation to report on everything we see.  We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t report on the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And that goes for the Ravens too.  No one in town was harder on Jamal Lewis a few years back than me when he was involved in that drug-phone-conspiracy-thing.  I came to know Jamal and found him to be a likeable, engaging guy.  But I couldn’t overlook his role in that drug case when the Atlanta police came down on him.  The same for B.J. Sams last year.  Nice fellow and all…but two drunk driving charges (thrown out of court or not) are things I refuse to just “gloss over” because I’m a fan of the team.  So it is with the Orioles as well.  We’re obligated to report on everything we see.  A lot of you appreciate that.  Some of you don’t.

Some of our listeners take to the various team/media message boards in town and rake us over the coals because we’re not willing to blindly follow the O’s 9-year path of losing, diminished attendance and mysterious marketing/PR decisions that serve to further remove the team from the minds and hearts of the people in Baltimore.  Those message boards and internet fodder – including e-mails sent to us – can get pretty nasty, very personal and, frankly, a little scary at times.  If you ever want to truly see what kind of reaction some of us get, reach out to me and I’ll bring Rob Long out and we’ll meet somewhere for a glass of red wine (and a Coors Light for Rob) and we’ll show you the e-mails, the threats, the mean, the angry, and, the scary.

A lot of the fan/listener angst tends to come from this notion that the station – Nestor, me, Haynie, Rob, etc. – is filled with “self promoters”.  Does Pepsi “self-promote”?  McDonald’s?  Coca-Cola?  Budweiser?  Everytime I look on TV, one of those companies is doing a pretty damn good job of promoting themselves.  I doubt Coca-Cola is going to promote Pepsi.  So Pepsi has to do it for themselves.  Some of our antagonists paint the picture that being a self-promoter is a bad thing.  Really?  Tell that to Tony Robbins.

I bring all of this up today because it strikes me that yesterday’s signing of Matt Wieters and today’s follow-up talk show content might be a good way for us – or at least ME, anyway – to put the brakes on the 2007 baseball season.  Let’s end this thing on a good note.  The Wieters signing, to me, is one of the highlights of the season.  I’ll start focusing more on football now – as will about 85% of the sports fans in Baltimore – and the Orioles can continue to improve over the last 6 weeks of the baseball season without the daily review of their efforts both on the field and off the field.  I won’t completely forget about them, of course.  But starting next week, with the Ravens now knee-deep in their preparations for what could be a championship-contending season, it’s time to put them in full focus and move the baseball team to the backburner.  For most of the summer, even since training camp started in late July, it’s been the other way around.  And, frankly, I liked it that way, because the Orioles HAVE improved on the field and, at the same time, they’ve given me and everyone else in town plenty to talk about this year off the field.

It’s been a long, strange trip.  And it’s time to get back home.  Anyone know the spread of the Ravens/Bengals season opener?