Neal Shaffer: A resolution to embrace city’s sports success

It’s September again. And Baltimore, let’s agree, is a great autumn city. It’s harsh in the depths of summer and winter, but fall is our reward for enduring both. This is a place for when things get just cold enough for a sweater at night. That’s when we’re at our best.

In terms of sports, “at our best” in fall also meant, for many years, “the Ravens are back.” But we’re in year two now of the September experiment, when the Orioles remain relevant even as the NFL settles in to reroute our lives through February.

What I said last week remains true - I think this is a “close but not quite” year for the Orioles. But there’s enough wiggle room in that opinion to keep things exciting. Up until last year, the O’s were out of it at this point. Today, they’re still in the thick of the wild card race and well on track to finish above .500.

We should, if the pattern holds, be in the infant stages of a fresh era. One in which the Orioles and Ravens are both, consistently, solid teams. And should that pattern hold, we’ll be confronted with a question: what kind of sports city are we, anyway?

As hard as it may be to believe, we actually have to go back to 1977 to find a year when the Baltimore football team (then the Colts, of course) and the Orioles both had winning records. We’re talking about different worlds. Any cultural conclusions one might draw from how things worked 36 years ago would barely translate, if at all, to today.

No, we’re in uncharted territory. This city skipped two generations of winning. That had to take a toll.

The city I would like Baltimore to be is one that revels in the success of both teams. I’d like to think that we are capable of recognizing a bounty when we see it. But I don’t know if we can.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think it still means something to be a big league town. And, in that regard, we’re actually behind. Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Cleveland are all smaller than Baltimore (as measured by population) and yet they have not only Major League Baseball and the NFL but also (variably) the NHL and NBA.

Why don’t we have more? You could cite a hundred possible reasons but clearly one of them would have to be that the broader sports marketplace doubts we could support it. And they’re not wrong.

Look, we lost the Colts. Then we abandoned the Orioles en masse for a decade or more. And we complain a lot (at least from my experience) about the Grand Prix. We are generally - and I’m sorry if this stings - not very good at holding out through tough times.

Does it have to be this way? Not at all. So let’s change it. Let’s resolve to embrace the fact that the Orioles and Ravens are now both successful organizations, and let’s support them both. And while we’re at it let’s support the local businesses that do well when the teams do well.

Maybe if we start there we can create a new paradigm. And maybe if we create, and live, that new paradigm then things won’t seem so desperate the next time a temporary downturn drifts our way. Do that and then we’re on to something.

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of’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 but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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