So, here’s where we call a spade a spade and separate the “righteous” from the wretched in the media. With all of the drama unfolding this week between the fans and the NFL teams in every city as the witching hour looms and there’s no labor deal and only haphazard snippets of alternating optimism and doom and gloom, I’ve remained pretty unfazed.
Let’s also call a spade a spade here and say that very few businesses in Baltimore would be greater impacted by a lost NFL season than the one I own at WNST.net. If the Ravens don’t play in 2011 the impact on my life and the lives of my employees will be devastating. It would be a virtual tsunami to my company and many others who are directly related to the NFL and fall sports in America.
So, I’m not some loud-mouthed outsider or a disgruntled fan simply throwing out an opinion, here. I’m the “affected” in this dispute between rich players and wealthy owners. And that’s before I start to discuss that I’m also a customer who buys PSL’s, all kinds of NFL purple swag and spends gobs of my hard-earned money chasing the Ravens around the country. Sports is oxygen to me — personally and professionally — has been since I was born, really. My entire body clock and the calendar of my life revolve around sports.
The last three weeks have been very difficult on the Ravens. Unlike the baseball team, the people in Owings Mills actually care what the fans think. And they actually walk amongst the great unwashed and pump gas at the gas station and buy groceries in the supermarket and go out on the town for dinner. They hear the public sentiment above and beyond what you write on Facebook and Twitter.
The Ravens front office staff – many who’ve either had their pay cut or the threat of a pay cut over the past six months due to the labor unrest — are far more jumpy and reactionary to any news out of this maelstrom of a lockout that is now filtering down to the reality of lost money and opportunities across the board.
We’re all waiting this week for some good news but last week’s news really hit home for the tens of thousands of Baltimore football fans who make the trip up 795 and 140 a “summer rite of passage.”
The loss of training camp in Westminster is a tragedy – no doubt about it. The lost wages, income, fun, vibe, etc. is palpable. We fans feel like we’re being “punished” by the parents not being able to get along. And we watch lawyers file suits and we watch suits file press releases and we see media people reporting and Tweeting whatever birdseed the attorneys and the league honchos feel will help their cause.
It’s been a strange week. We’ve seen the Ravens fill their stadium to the brim with U2 fans and earn the city a local financial windfall in Baltimore deemed “a great Saturday night” on a Wednesday. It was Christmas in June for downtown commerce. And on Friday night, the Orioles managed a “sellout” for an inter-league game with the Reds that was won in the final stroke – a walk-off home run by Derrek Lee that set off fireworks over Camden Yards for another last-place and seemingly hopeless cause. The Orioles even had nice crowds on Saturday and Sunday and I even saw a George Foster throwback jersey at the Inner Harbor. I went through the harbor last night for a jog and saw a dozen St. Louis Cardinals caps and shirts — but sadly not one piece of Orioles swag.
I can’t help but see the city unusually filled to the brim because I live here and I love Baltimore and when it’s filled and happy, I’m filled and happy.
The Westminster situation is awful – a few weeks of commerce gone.
But before you criticize what’s clearly begging to be criticized, stop and think about what’s happened to downtown Baltimore over the last 14 years as Peter Angelos has systematically destroyed the franchise and urinated upon its history and intrinsic value to the community.
Think about the 65 nights a year downtown is virtually empty – with less than 10,000 people coming to most Orioles games. Ask the downtown bar owners and hotels and industry about the damage that’s been done here – damage that seems like it’ll never end.
When will the “traditional” (re: bought off) media examine that and write columns and tear-jerkers about what damage the Orioles have done to Baltimore?
I see it in my web traffic every June when the Orioles assume their rightful position in the cellar of the American League East and people stop calling, reading, caring. I feel it in the interest of the Orioles and baseball in general as I walk the streets from Bel Air to Severna Park, from Columbia to Towson.
So before you righteously throw Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens and the NFL under the bus for this filthy, wretched deed – and feel free to do so because what’s happened in 2011 to the NFL is awful – just remember to cry a little for the black and orange and the pain and agony of the last 5,000 days (yes, we looked it up) of empty city streets in Baltimore while Angelos sits in his ivory tower counting the hundreds of millions of dollars of profit he’s made while owning the Orioles and destroying them all at the same time.
Sure, we can pity Westminster this August.
But we must also pray for downtown Baltimore over the next decade.