Is Baltimore A Football Or Baseball Town?
There are two professional sports teams here in Charm City. They battle passive-aggressively for our attention like a couple of teenage girls. Some folks think Baltimore is only big enough to truly support one team. The question........is Baltimore a football town or a baseball town?
(Editor's note: I know Baltimore is a city and not a town. Shut up.)
The Orioles arrived in Baltimore back in 1954. They have a rich history that's embedded into our city's culture. If you grew up here more than likely your family has been cheering for the O's for generations. They have three World Series titles sitting in the trophy case in the Warehouse but here's the problem.....the most recent was when I was only a year old (1983). I spent most of my adult life watching the Orioles disappoint year after year. Fourteen straight to be exact. Despite their struggles it was hard to stay away from Camden Yards in the summer. We're drawn to it like mosquitos to a backyard bug zapper. My friends and I still make it our usual meeting point on a Friday night before we venture into the sweaty, beer soaked bars in Federal Hill. I remember riding my bike to the light rail and buying center field seats with my buddy Steve Lazor in the summer before 9th grade. I remember. Most importantly I remember the feeling of being inside Camden Yards for Game 1 of the ALDS and watching playoff baseball in Baltimore for the first time in my life. Hopefully Mr. Angelos continues to loosen the purse strings and make it happen. Lord knows this city deserves it.
The Ravens, on the other hand, arrived in 1996. Previously the Cleveland Browns, the team quickly became one of the model franchises in the NFL and has won two Lombardi trophies in a relatively short span of time. I worked for the Ravens right after college and the organization from top to bottom is full of genuine, hard working folks that are passionate about what they do. They love their fans and they are committed to doing whatever is takes to win. If someone asked to describe how Baltimore "feels" I would take them outside M&T Bank Stadium to some tailgating before a Ravens home game. Talk about dedication. Folks plan their entire week around Sundays during football season. They equip school buses and ambulances for the sole purpose of showing off their allegiance to the Ravens. I've walked around tailgates and people are always willing to offer food and drinks to strangers....as long as those strangers are wearing purple of course. The sense of community in a smaller city like Baltimore really comes through when you see the investment of time and money people put into being Ravens fans. They know, given the team's track record for success, that their investment will be rewarded. According to a friend that still works in the Ravens ticket office, the estimated wait for season tickets is 30-40 years.
There's no denying the recent bad blood between the two teams (or my bias toward football over baseball and their sabermetric nerd fanbase). However, when the Orioles are in contention late in the summer (like they were during that magical 2012 campaign) there is NOTHING like the atmosphere at Camden Yards during an Orioles game. Nobody cares that it's 9 o'clock at night and still humid or that buying a round of beers costs a small fortune.
I think Baltimore can and will be a baseball town again when the Orioles can prove to be consistent winners. When the Orioles are competitive like they were in 2012 there is no comparison.