Matthew Taylor: Charm City fantasy has become a reality

Two years ago, with Buck Showalter new in town and leading a late-season Orioles resurgence that saw the team go 34-23 in its final 57 games, then-Baltimore Sun writer Kevin Van Valkenburg outlined what he termed "a Charm City fantasy" - two winning professional sports teams playing in Baltimore in September.

"The Orioles' late-season stretch of stellar baseball has been such a welcome surprise that it has allowed fans to fantasize about a scenario that hasn't occurred in more than three decades," Van Valkenburg wrote Sept. 25, 2010. "A good Major League Baseball team and a good NFL team? In Baltimore? There are thousands of fans eager -- OK, some are desperate -- to see it happen."

Fast forward to 2012. It's September, and it's happening.

Among the questions Van Valkenburg posed in the article was whether the Orioles could regain credibility with local fans if they were suddenly to contend again. After a more than decade-long love affair with the Ravens that coincided with a miserable period in the city's baseball history, during which the Orioles became an afterthought for many, would fans be willing to divide their attention as well as their loyalties once football season started?

If you've tuned into or attended any Ravens games this season, you know the answer is a resounding yes.

There's the thundering "O" that rockets into the Baltimore atmosphere during the national anthem at M&T Bank Park; the "Let's Go O's" cheers that arise when Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds and other Orioles players past and present attend Ravens games and are introduced to the crowd or shown on the video boards; and, of course, the "Yankees Suck" cheer that was audible on Thursday night's NFL Network broadcast after the final score of New York's game with Toronto - a Blue Jays win - was displayed at the stadium.

A sports house divided against itself cannot stand. Given the opportunity, Baltimore's packed sports houses are making it clear just where they stand.

Even better, it's not just the fans. Ravens players are behind the Orioles, too.

Anquan Boldin wears an O's hat during his player introduction for nationally broadcast NFL games (to be fair, he was doing that before the Birds were winning). Meanwhile, Ed Reed Tweets during O's games like any other local baseball fan. Here's one of his updates from Tuesday's game against Toronto: "Ok let's get these bats going O's rally caps on."

This baseball season started with the assumption that it would be another losing season in Baltimore and, come fall, football would rescue the city's passionate fan base from its collective sports frustration. The Ravens ended up apologizing for posting a Facebook photo of M&T Bank Stadium on opening day in April with a caption that read, "Raise your hand if you'd rather be cheering in THIS stadium than a baseball stadium today!"

This fall, fans of Baltimore's pro franchises are thinking about both teams regardless of which stadium they're in. The Charm City fantasy has become a reality.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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