It was the rarest of occasions in Baltimore sports history: the two kingpins and decision-makers of the prime downtown, big-league franchises coming together for a P.R. event to promote tourism in our city via the good folks at Visit Baltimore, who power the area of the Inner Harbor in zip code 21202 where I currently reside and pay (exorbitant) taxes.
The Orioles and the Ravens have co-existed in Baltimore since 1996. I live three blocks from both stadia, which my generation along with our parents and grandparents built with state tax dollars and Baltimore civic pride to bring our community together and stimulate business and industry throughout the region – but primarily downtown, which relies on tourism and local people and businesses participating.
The “leaders” of the two financially spoiled rotten sports franchises in Baltimore have never, ever shared a stage of any kind.
Just think about how awful that relationship must really be for that to not happen over a quarter of a century until last week?
Art Modell and Peter Angelos never shared the same oxygen after an early insult. Steve Bisciotti has attended many Orioles games over the years but has never shared a dais in any public setting with any Angelos to even discuss crab cakes or the parking lot between them.
I have covered sports for 35 years in Baltimore. I spent almost a decade trying to bring together the Orioles and the Ravens for an event called the “Nice Guy Awards” back in the 1990s. Every year, Art Modell or David Modell or Brian Billick or Ray Lewis or Jon Ogden would come from the Ravens. And every year, the Orioles would send Elrod Hendricks, who would be the last person standing at Michael’s 8th Avenue.
When Elrod died, the event died.
So the fact that John Angelos walked into a room full of non-payroll people from Baltimore representing the Orioles after 108 losses is a massive step up from his father. But I have no illusions about that media pass “olive branch” coming because he answered a legitimate question he was forced to answer under duress and would’ve never wanted to be asked publicly.
John Angelos only answered my very reasonable question because he had to in front of 500 people. He has no history with accountability.
And let’s be honest, there hasn’t been an Angelos found in a public role of accountability since the old man was booed off the field at the Cal Ripken 2131 game in September 1995.
These visitor center public backrubs take place all over the country, as do “forum” setting panel discussions with civic and sports business leaders attempting to share expertise, wisdom and provide some public accountability for the money that the citizens fork over as an investment in the city.
Despite the unique nature of this event with the Orioles and Ravens and their respective poohbahs seated 10-feet apart, the real backdrop for this luncheon was to promote the CIAA Tournament coming to Baltimore in February 2021 for three years of (hopefully) filling some hotel rooms and bringing some sports energy to downtown as well as tourist hoops dollars.
But the real local sports journalism story is that we are now at the part of this quarter-of-a-century old Orioles family movie where John Angelos feels the need to front his “out of the picture” father’s franchise to local hoteliers and tourism businesses while seated next to Dick Cass (who really does work 15 hours a day, virtually every day running the Ravens as legitimate team president), who was showing off his shiny privately-renovated purple stadium and having a panel discussion with CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams, moderated by legendary USA Today columnist and venerable journalist Christine Brennan.
He didn’t show up at the event thinking anyone with a microphone would be asking about the future of the Orioles.
Let’s start with this: if anyone less professional than Brennan was moderating the panel, I wouldn’t have been allowed a question to John Angelos, let alone the one I did, to which his hollow answer has made him a local hero among the few people left who somehow still truly believe he’s going to be a competent part of resurrecting the franchise from the depths of hell brought on by his father’s mismanagement of emotional intelligence and public trust for 25 years.
I found it rich with irony that as a citizen who lives downtown, I believe the Orioles are truly the No. 1 villain in the story of how the city of Baltimore has emptied TWO MILLION people out of downtown every summer since Angelos took over the franchise and began using Camden Yards as a personal ATM in 1993.
Now, somehow, with no real actions or deeds and rumors floating about the future of the franchise because there are two years left on the lease plus 108 more losses and many more empty Camden Yards nights ahead, the son of the owner is suddenly John Angelos Key – dropper of word bombs bursting in the air o’er the land of the free!
And without my banned media status and my bird (watching) dog efforts to ask him a simple question, John Angelos would not have won his empty sales off season with his empty