It’s hard to argue that there has ever been a better time to be a sports fan from New England.
The Red Sox are World Champs, having successfully supplanted the dreaded Yankees as the beast of the East.
The Patriots are rolling toward an undefeated season, with a QB poised to take over a host of single-season records.
The Celtics have actually lived up to the hype, and are as good, if not better, than everyone expected them to be.
As fans from Maine to Connecticut bathe in an even-increasing glory, I can’t help but want to spit in their clam chowder. I’m from Baltimore. I love my hometown, I embrace its flaws and celebrate Charm City, even as outsiders claim the charm has all but rubbed off.
But I can’t help thinking that right now, there is no worse place to be a sports fan than Baltimore.
There is little as sacred to born and bred Baltimoreans than their beloved Orioles. A team with a rich history, a smattering of classy Hall of Famers, a stadium that could be the eighth wonder of the world—and of course, Boog’s BBQ.
Sadly, that’s about all the good you can say about the current team. Though Andy McPhail has sparked a little hope, the Orioles are rebuilding, and fans can dream for nothing more than finishing at or just over .500. How’s that for a low-level goal?
While Toronto, New York, and Boston continue to post winning seasons, the Orioles are shopping around the few players that actually mean something to this team. Though there is no love lost in the Miguel Tejada trade, he was supposed to end the losing ways, so losing him certainly hurts.
And O’s fans know that in order to accumulate any respectable young talent we must part with Erik Bedard and likely Brian Roberts, the two home grown stars of whom we are the proudest, save Mr. Markakis.
Despite 19 current and former O’s being named in the Mitchell Report—more than any other team—our players weren’t even so generous as to have their performances enhanced while on HGH.
With Peter Angelos likely to pass the franchise on to his sons, O’s fans continue to live in the past, watching the DVD of Cal Ripken’s record-breaking season until it breaks. After a decade of losing, with no reprieve in sight, industry experts predict that Tampa Bay is on the rise (where fans can at least celebrate the Bucs success), and no free agents want to touch the team with a ten foot pole.
Even current Orioles trash Baltimore: Aubrey Huff referred to it as a horses*** town, and fan favorite Kevin "Mascot" Millar went north to bond with his former mates in Beantown as they won another ring.
Former Orioles, both new and old, from Curt Schilling to John Maine, succeed on other teams, leaving Camden Yards in clouds of dust created by Orioles fans running from "Yankee Stadium South."
Meanwhile we collect everyone else's trash—Benson, Wright, Payton, Zambrano—only to learn that the dump is in fact where such refuse belongs.
But hey, at least we have the Ravens. Or that’s what we said after Steve McNair led the team to 13-3 last season. Who could beat us in the AFC North, we reasoned?
The answer? Apparently everyone.
With one game left against a division rival, the Ravens are poised to go 0-6 against the Browns, Steelers, and Bengals. As the Ravens complete their transformation into a staggering disappointment, fans are still dealing with Super Bowl victories by the Colts and Steelers—the two teams Ravens fans hate the most. And now we can’t even rub our success in the faces of Browns fans, as they vie for a playoff spot with a former Raven at the helm.
Week after week, head coach Brian Billick informs us that Kyle Boller "gives us the best chance to win," but even when he did in Week 14, idiotic time-outs and defensive ineptitude ruined the best chance that any team had to upend the Pats.
Then, after getting demolished by the Colts, the team that walked out on our city and broke our hearts, we lose to the only team we are sure we can beat. The Dolphins celebrate their first win of the season as the Ravens' franchise-record eight consecutive losses leave them at the bottom of a division many predicted they could win.
All the while we’re looking to next year—until we realize that Billick will be back, and that Heisman winner Troy Smith, who has been surprisingly good in late, unwinnable games, is likely to be Boller’s backup yet again, thanks to the one year extension we gave him.
As we watch our beloved birds fly south, fans in Baltimore are left with no one else to root for, except in lacrosse. We have no NBA team, no NHL team and the closest top rated college program is in College Park, a full 40 minutes south of the jewel of the Chesapeake.
The Orioles, once the team that united the mid-Atlantic, now watch generations of fans who grew up in Memorial Stadium toss the orange and black for red, white and blue and a team with no history. These are the same fans that root for the Wizards, a team that also used to call Baltimore home.
Certainly there are other cities that have it rough right now, but idiot owners and failures such as the Colts, the Stallions, the Blast, and the Bandits have tainted our history, leaving us little faith that things will ever get better.
We still get ‘Unitas’ tattoos, waiting for a QB to renew our hope in the position. We still wear #8 jerseys, because we have yet to be convinced that anyone will ever care about our town and our team the way Ripken did. We wear throwback Bullets jerseys, because hey—at least no one can make fun of you for liking a team that no longer exists.
We channel surf, watching one disappointing season melt into another, and the only salvation we have is that there's one more new season of "The Wire."