If you attended either last night's game against the Yankees, or Saturday night's game, you probably didn't see any noticeable difference between that game and any other run-of-the-mill Orioles game. However, to anyone that watched either or both of those games on television, the difference was more than palpable. On Saturday night, the Orioles were televised nationally by FOX, and last night they were televised nationally on "ESPN Sunday Night Baseball."
We're obsessed with the concept of national television in America, especially with sports. I suppose this trend began with "Monday Night Football" in 1970. NFL games are generally played on Sunday afternoons, however there's always one game that's featured on Monday night, which is what makes it special. The concept is the same for "Sunday Night Baseball." Major League games are generally during the 1 p.m. local time hour on Sundays, but there's one game of the week featured on Sunday night. And this past week, ESPN picked the Orioles. I watch "Sunday Night Baseball" every week, regardless of who's playing, so it was kind of surreal to have it be the Orioles this week.
Going back to Saturday's game, FOX sent their A team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to Camden Yards to cover the Orioles against New York. That means that any TV market that did not have a local team playing on FOX that night saw the O's, thus making it the national game. After the game, Tom Davis and Dave Johnson mentioned two things about the FOX telecast on WBAL Radio's "Wall to Wall Baseball" show. One was that Buck and McCarver were incredibly complimentary of the Orioles, and everything that they were doing. The second was that FOX seemed to go to great lengths to showcase Camden Yards and the city of Baltimore throughout the telecast.
The same was true of the ESPN crew last night, and I feel that this is an incredibly important part of these types of games. Viewers saw a playoff atmosphere at the yard both nights. Everyone heard that "Seven Nation Army" chant, which I for one think is a great new tradition on the part of the Baltimore fans. How often has Baltimore been painted in a positive light in regards to the Orioles in recent memory? As late as this year, there have been people who swore up and down that everything the franchise accomplished in 2012 was sheer luck. Perhaps a national television audience's worth of baseball fans has spent an entire weekend watching Orioles baseball, and has had the opportunity to see what the Orioles are all about.
They also had the chance to see recognized and respected national announcers paying great compliments to the Orioles - and against a team like the Yankees, at that. One can only imagine your run-of-the-mill New York fan sitting at home watching these games seething at the way their opponent is being marketed. Turnabout can, in fact, sometimes be fair play, right? Let's not forget that the Orioles have one of the prouder histories of teams in the league.
So perhaps in watching the games this weekend fans across the country were reminded of how great Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Eddie Murray and of course Cal Ripken Jr. were They were reminded of that when they saw Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, et al. They saw Buck Showalter and they saw a manager that really had his act together, much in the tradition of Earl Weaver. And ultimately they saw a team that didn't quit and played the game the right way, much in the tradition of the old Oriole Way.
This weekend was huge for Baltimore, as it's now a two-sport town again. The Ravens have performed at a high level for quite a few years, and now the Orioles have joined them and reclaimed their rightful place in baseball lore. This may be an overly dramatic way of saying that they got some well-deserved national exposure, but many people would agree that a very small part of why teams like Boston and New York were at such a high level for so long was due to the national exposure they received.
Ultimately, I think that the best shirt I saw at the yard this weekend was one with the Orioles script writing that simply said: Our Turn.
Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.