Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oh no, he's being reflective! Skip it!

I have a substantive post (read: long and boring) in the hopper, and maybe I'll get to it tonight. It's really storming out, thus negating a trip to the local driving range to brush up on my five iron---which, believe you me, really needs the work these days.

Instead, for the moment, I'm going to take time out for a personal observation (read: self-serving and boring). You can skip it if you wish. But Luis Ayala's shoulder won't become more ragged if you read on, so fear not that.

I believe that a person's sports fandom is no less susceptible to the ebbs and flows of life as any other realm. Well, maybe I speak too broadly; let's focus on me. As I've noted before, I grew up with the Philadelphia Phillies as my first baseball love. And if they were my No. 1---and they were---then the Baltimore Orioles were my No. 1-A. This is demonstrated very easily:

---> Favorite player ever: Mike Schmidt.
---> Next favorite player: Cal Ripken, Jr.

I don't really know why I loved the Phillies foremost (I had no connection to Philadelphia), but I do know why I rooted for the Orioles as well (Richmond is in the shadow of the Baltimore/Washington region). Thus, it makes simple but sad sense that I would lose my affinity for the Phillies phirst . . . and I did. I hit a certain age when mystifying questions required rational answers, and "Why do I love the Phillies?"---while perhaps not representing the most demanding question I faced---was one that defied rational explanation.

I gave it a few lukewarm years trying to rekindle it, but Mark Whiten, Tony Longmire, and Tyler Green---among other lesser-lights---couldn't capture what Michael Jack and my favorite stringbean, Von Hayes, impressed upon me. Not even a 2001 run at the Braves did much to affect me.

Now, the Orioles---that made sense. I grew up watching the team on local and cable television. The newspaper here in town would devote some space to them---as they would with Atlanta in the National League; speaking of which, why I never developed an interest in the Braves, despite developing an interest in their Triple-A players at Richmond, completely escapes me.

It made too much sense to follow the Orioles, and I naturally did. Rightly or wrongly (and the answer is "wrongly," if you're scoring at home), everywhere I've lived---for as long as I've lived----they've been the only big league game anywhere close to town.

This spring, as those familiar with this blog back then might recall, I disavowed a rooting interest in the O's indefinitely---maybe forever, but indefinitely until Peter Angelos sold the team to a non-Angelosian. (I'm thinking of Red's line in The Shawshank Redemption: "Oh, no. You have to be human first.")

I've been rethinking that disavowal recently---not really on the merits, though I'll get to that in a second. It was an emotional reaction, and I can't stand those things. The best that can be said for them is that they're sincere; the worst, however, is that they're usually hastily developed and ill-conceived. The truth is that they're usually sincere reactions that are hastily developed and ill-conceived.

This was one of the money paragraphs of the entry:

Did I love the Orioles? No, I never did, in retrospect. By definition (see below), I did not. I rooted for them, and there have been O's teams that I did thoroughly, completely enjoy. The best example would be the '89 team. Man, was that a fun team to follow, especially for a naive, unsophisticated thirteen year-old who memorized every fact, watched every play he could, followed them even when he spent six weeks visiting relatives in California. But did I throw my unending loyalty to them, like my first friend cited above did to his cause? In the end, no.

Golly, what's the problem with that paragraph? It's as clear as day to me, in retrospect: I'm 29 years old, and I still have fond memories of following the Orioles as a 13 year old from 3,000 miles away. I can moan and groan and take back the night for what I perceive (rightly, I believe) as injustices on the Nationals by Angelos, but if I take that too far, I am denying something true to myself.

I review that post, and I see that I'm equating Peter Angelos with the (Baltimore) Orioles. In retrospect, I don't think it works that way, not to me. For me, the Orioles are Cal and Eddie and Boddicker and Scotty McGregor going soft in the middle of his career and Don Aase saving a pointless 30+ games one year, and Larry Sheets having a fluke 1987 and 21 straight losses and Devereaux's phantom homer that nearly made Doug Rader have a stroke and Home Team Sports and Proctor and Lowenstein and the Fruit Loops and Jeff Ballard winning 18 games and Ben McDonald wrestling aligators and stuffing six baseballs in his hand and Glenn Davis royally sucking and Randy Milligan drawing tons of walks and Brady Anderson (maybe) juicing and Craig Worthington falling off a cliff and Leo Gomez never living to his potential and Sid Fernandez flopping and the Moose's knuckle-curve and Jeff Manto having a fluke half-season and Davey Johnson and Jon Miller and Jeffrey F. Maier and Fernandez's homer off Benitez and the Pointless Veterans of '98 and the Even More Pointless Veterans of '99 and trades in mid-2000 and Ryan Kohlmeier and Chris Richard having their one shining moments and Ed Rogers turning into a big nothing and Grover's ugly looking windbreakers and the collapse of '02 and Brian Roberts hitting grand slams before he ever became a power threat and the team sitting at 25-25 last year but then stumbling.

That stuff all means something to me; collectively, they mean more than one man, however much I may despise him.

Now, do I "love" the Orioles? No, not as Chris so aptly put it. There's no "Eureka" moment; if there was, it was when I was 13---and that probably went the way of the Phillies, if you take my meaning.

But there's something there, and I can't deny it. I've rooted with too many great people to deny it; they'd demonstrate it otherwise.

At the time of my disavowal, I knew that I had made some really great O's-related contacts and relationships on the internet, as I referred to in that post. I didn't want to become a disruption to places where O's fans came together on the web---one place in particular, actually---and just sort of stopped posting. That was probably a good decision at the time, though I owed the fellow posters an explanation, and I provided none.

Wouldn't you know it, but one O's fan has sort of brought me back from the depths, so to speak. At the time, I was clear to disclaim that my decision wasn't personal. Well, I was wrong: it is personal. That's what being a fan of a team is, and that's what bond together fans of that team. I lost sight that it is personal. It's personal to this fan (who I've never met, like all of you out there), and it's personal to me.

So, at the risk of looking like a hypocrite---a risk I do not suffer lightly in real life---I'm on the road to revising my previous sentinents. They were sincere, but they were hastily developed and ill-conceived.

And, more to the point, they weren't correct. This season has born that out. I don't enjoy that the Orioles are struggling right now. I want to see them win. Things have changed since the Nats have arrived---which I knew they would---and if the two teams played, well, I'm not going to lie: I'd root for the Nationals every time. They are my No. 1 now and, hopefully, forever.

But the Orioles are my No. 1-A. And there is no shame in that. There wasn't in 1983, when my Nos. 1 and 1-A played . . . for everything. This does not have to be any different.

Perhaps I'm a middler, a fence-straddler, an equivocator, and a bad fan at heart; you can debate that on your own time. To many or perhaps most Nats' fans, the (Baltimore) Orioles are somewhere between irrelevant or the spawn of Satan. I can see how one could feel that way, but that's not my perspective; it never has been, and any attempt to present it that way would be forced. They do mean more than that to me, and to deny it would be as equally forced---and has been.

This post, like the last one, is sincere; this time, though, it is not hastily developed and it is not ill-conceived.

1) I totally believe you can have a 1 and 1a if they are in different divisions. I do.

2) Von Hayes was great! The Roid House Gang of the early 90's lost me though.

3) Actually I take back comment #1. You're not a bad fan. (a middler, a fence-straddler, an equivocator...maybe) A bad fan is someone who dictates to others how they are supposed to act as fans.* Root for Orioles all you want

(Of course I never hated them and don't live in the DC. Root against the Redskins for all I care...)

*this doesn't count telling people they can't do the Wave though
I doubt that you really could have brought yourself to hate the Orioles/truly root for the Nationals if Angelos hadn't royally upset you, so you should at least be grateful to him for that. :) Of course, you successfully transitioned from the Phillies to the Orioles - so perhaps i'm mistaken. Although, I imagine that sort of thing is easier at a younger age. So yeah, it would be nice if I could make a definitive statement.
I got the flipside of the Richmond upbringing -- latched onto the Braves early, but never could care a bit about the Orioles outside of general respect for Cal Ripken Jr. Then again, I'm four years younger than you, and Atlanta's surge coincided with when I started to seriously follow baseball (which, in turn, was a couple years after my dad had started taking me to R-Braves games, so I began to recognize more Atlanta players then too).

In college as I started identifying more with DC/Northern Virginia (lots of friends from here, trying to move here after graduation), I started actively despising the O's. And then I moved here in November, boom, we got a team, and the Orioles people I knew were FLIPPING OUT.
Rem, I think it is easier to do at a younger age. Or, for me, it was easier to do once I got a little older and my world broadened a bit.
this doesn't count telling people they can't do the Wave though

Never understood the Bozian level of animosity for the Wave, actually. I think it's stupid and an annoyance, but I don't think it's sacrilege or anything.

I liked the '93 Phillies, by the way. Probably the last team I really lived-and-died by until this year. I suffered through some very lean years for the O's in '98-present, but I can't say that their losses (other than the 4-32 fade in '02) really hurt like, say, yesterday's did.
In college as I started identifying more with DC/Northern Virginia (lots of friends from here, trying to move here after graduation), I started actively despising the O's.

I fought this a lot from other people, and I wonder if I just got burned out of it during the TV rights fiasco. I think I just got tired of defending "the Orioles" and at some point figured there became nothing to defend.

Anyway, that's interesting about the A-Braves and the R-Braves. I tried to get into the first pennant run ('91) and found myself rooting for some of the individual players (like Steve Avery, and . . . well, almost the entire pitching staff) but I've always found the team itself boring. They were more fun to watch in the mid-late 80s, when they stunk.

To each his own, though!
For me, the Wave is like talking at the movies. In either case you go to watch the spectacle and end up entertaining yourself and taking away from my enjoyment (I don't like missing pitches because I'm being exhorted to stand up or worse becuase the wave was timed prefectly so I couldn't see the field).

You can talk over movies at home and you can do the Wave at home.
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