The Baltimore Inferiority Complex

June 28, 2012 | Mark Brown

Baltimore is the scrawny middle child sandwiched between its older and more accomplished East Coast sibling Philadelphia and its younger, richer sibling Washington, DC. If you grow up around here and feel yourself attached to the place, you internalize this even if you never really think about it. This is the notorious Baltimore inferiority complex, a term which people who aren’t from here sling around as if it’s an insult. Baltimoreans know better: that’s just the way it is.

Do you exhibit signs of the Baltimore inferiority complex? If you ever find yourself wondering why national weather reports that mention Washington and Philadelphia never mention Baltimore, then yes. If at any point this year you had someone from out of town ask you about crime in Baltimore and you replied seriously, “Hey, there were fewer than 200 murders last year!” then, yes, you, too have the complex.

Baltimore has a tendency to be noticed only when it screws something up, and seldom if ever when it does something right. This is an insult to the many, many people in this area who live here and whose greatest crime might be getting caught going 62 in that never-ending construction zone at the Liberty Road interchange on the Beltway. Knowing there is only one Beltway is another sign of the complex.

No surprise that this attitude bleeds over into fans of our local sports teams. The Orioles and the Ravens are institutions in this city as much as anything else might be. When they are doing well – rare enough as that’s been in the Orioles’ case – that’s one great thing in Baltimore that the outside world cannot deny. For many of my early years it was just the Orioles in town. Speaking of which, if you still hold a grudge against then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue for his comments during the 1993 expansion that Baltimore should just build a museum, then, yes: complex.

Amongst sports fans outside of the northeast corridor, there’s a frequent lament of an East Coast bias. Being as we are an East Coast city, Baltimoreans might love if there was such a bias. Perhaps there is, but it certainly doesn’t showcase our teams. East Coast bias means Jeter and A-Rod, Papi and Pedroia, and now Strasburg and Harper. It means Tom Brady’s calling his own penalties, Eli Manning face, the Dream Team in Philadelphia that wasn’t, and all the latest Dan Snyder drama with suing his own season ticket holders.

The Ravens have changed the calculus a little bit in recent years. A strong, well-run organization with a string of playoff appearances will do that. The Ravens get national TV time. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are continually recognized as having Hall of Fame careers. Haloti Ngata gets credit for being the beast he has been, and a nation of football fans knows the name Ray Rice. The debates on the national football shows about the potential of Joe Flacco to be the Ravens’ answer at quarterback probably mirror the ones that take place on Baltimore’s sports radio airwaves, blog comment sections, and in office water cooler chatter.

Which is not to say that anyone in Baltimore believes Flacco to be the perfect quarterback. You’d better be from here if you want to say anything bad about him, though. It’s a lot like having a sibling in that way. You can say whatever you want about your relation, because he’s family, but heaven help the person from outside the family who has something bad to say. Then it’s go time. Same deal with Flacco, especially when what people want to say about him involves Steelers fans laughing at his goofy unibrow.