Exploring what makes Baltimore a great baseball town, and the O's a "loveable loser."
By Matthew Taylor
Those who know me best would hesitate to call me an optimist, especially when it comes to sports. I've gotten better over the years, but watching an O's game with me can still be a torturous affair.
A leadoff walk is more than a reason for worry; it's the reason that the Orioles have been terrible for so long and the reason they'll never be good again. If that leadoff walk happens to occur during a Yankee game things get worse by bibilical proportions. It means that God hates me. That he's testing me. Like I'm some kind of modern day Job with nosebleed seats and the box scores. Inevitably I fail His test and declare, "To Hell with it, I refuse to love my pinstriped neighbor as myself!"
Is there a Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of baseball fans?
Despite an occasional gloomy nature, my being an O's fan does reflect some inherent level of optimism. Or at least blind loyalty masquerading as optimism. Why, after all, do we cheer for the Birds? It's clear they're not going to the playoffs this year, just as they haven't every stinking year since 1997. They may not even have a winning record for a ninth straight season. That's almost a decade of futility!
Aaron Koos has identified the .500 mark as a worthy goal for this season, which alone should've driven his ultra-scientific CAP average to at least Ted Williams territory. And I'll admit, I too get excited about the prospect of finally finishing the season at sea level. At least it would suggest that our ship hasn't yet sunk. Do they make T-shirts for this sort of thing? Can you merchandize mediocrity?
The point is that deep down in our feathered souls we must have some belief that things will get better, that they must get better. So on a grand relative level, we're all optimists, even if our behavior in front of the television, next to the radio, or in the stands at Camden doesn't suggest as much. Baltimore fans may be underdogs, but there's something to be said for our ability to endure the stormy weather. We're approaching a 10-year rain delay in the standings, yet we still check the forecast and pack the sun tan lotion. Creedence Clearwater Revival may as well have been describing the condition of being an Orioles fan when they wondered, still they wondered, "Who'll Stop the Rain?"
Having established that we, as O's fans, must deep down be optimists, it's time to consider other options for our fanbase that extend beyond overall record, games behind, and winning streaks. So I pose this question: "What would it take for the Orioles to become a lovable loser?"
As long as we're mired in mediocrity we may as well consider the factors that could make the O's the Cubs of the American League and allow us the same treatment as Chicago's National League fans who, when sporting their home team's cap, are so often greeted with the words, "Go Cubbies!"
The Red Sox broke their curse, and now they're just another rich franchise seeking to dominate this free agent era of disparity. So there's a vacancy in the AL for a lovable loser. It's time to log on to our own sports version of Match.com and wink at baseball fans leaguewide. We'll identify our own curse, examine Baltimore's quirky traditions, and figure out just what it is beyond on-field performance that makes it great to be an O's fan.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll examine these factors and more in greater depth. Consider this my baseball thesis. Working title: "The Lovable Loser: Why It's Great to Be an Orioles Fan."
I'm not beating up on the Birds. Quite the opposite. I want to make the case that among baseball towns Baltimore is more Chicago than Milwaukee, more peanuts and Cracker Jacks than Microbrews and $7 Buds.
So join me on this journey, and add your insight along the way. Or you can just put up your umbrella and stubbornly keep singing our unofficial theme song . . .
"Long as I remember the rain been comin down. Clouds of mystry pourin confusion on the ground. Good men through the ages, tryin to find the sun; And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?"