BegFest '92 was entertaining, and also weird

Dan Rodricks

August 28, 1992|By Dan Rodricks

At least they didn't ask us to get on our knees. At least we DTC were allowed to grovel from our seats.

All we had to do was shake the Glazer Family's pompons for the TV cameras.

There was no human sacrifice. No one had to fast.

As a matter of fact, there was plenty of food, plenty of drink; at the turnstiles, we received buy-one-get-one-free coupons for Jolly Rancher candy.

It was that kind of a special night.

The only thing missing was the team of 34 sky-diving Elvises.

BegFest '92 at Memorial Stadium was a scream. It was wholly remarkable, and entertaining, and weird. And hot and steamy and beery and loud.

Just like the good old days. Or just like . . . something.

The person who actually enjoys football in August deserves the discount deal on in-patient therapy at Sheppard-Pratt.

This made last night's adventure all the more impressive. They trucked in the addle-headed by the bus load.

One fellow squeezed his head sideways through the window of a yellow school bus from somewhere in Harford County. "Gimme a beer," he beseeched the young men tramping along the sidewalk on the north side of 33rd Street. "I haven't had a beer for three hours!"

Ah, the sacrifices we make.

Way up in Section 32, along the edge of upper reserve seating, 20 young men from Carroll County stripped off their shirts, and each man painted on his chest a letter from the expression "Give Baltimore The Ball!"

Now, that's commitment!

Baltimore sports fans -- read that white males, between 25 and 55 years of age -- turned out en masse last night for a few hours of communal pleading for a new professional football franchise.

They rooted for two teams that had nothing to do with Baltimore in a stadium that has everything to do with Baltimore.

The game was a sellout. There's no way to tell immediately how effective this display of football fervor was. Were the National Football League owners even watching?

L That was the second most commonly asked question last night.

The most commonly asked question was:

Who's playin'?

Big Wheel was there. "Him I recognized," the fellow seated next to me said. "He's the only thing that looks like it's in the right place."

The Wheel pulled off his orange windbreaker, revealing a blue-and-white Colts jersey. The crowd in Section 32, upper reserve, howled when they realized what was happening.

Then The Wheel whipped the windbreaker around his head like a cowboy with a lasso. And then he dropped the jacket and spelled C-O-L-T-S with his Fred Flintstone body. And it was beautiful. A guy could get all touchy-feely at the sight.

Old Baltimore boys felt the same way when they saw Unitas and Mackey and all the rest.

I even got a little choked up when I heard young men in red bandannas yelling profanities about Bob Irsay. It was that kind of a sentimental evening.

And it was Baltimore in August -- steamy-hot and humid, the kind of night in which T-shirts stick to skin and young men inclined to be beery become beery twice as fast as usual.

There was lots of traffic, cars parked bumper-to-bumper and lots of black exhaust from buses. Haze veiled the Goodyear blimp.

There were young men in T-shirts and old men in T-shirts. There were women in tank tops and halter tops and T-shirts.

There was Boogie Weinglass, purveyor of T-shirts, walking through the stands and shaking hands, Barry Levinson at his elbow.

What can we say?

It was a show. Baltimore needed a way to scream out loud for a football team -- and for the shaft Bob Irsay inserted into its heart eight years ago.

I don't know where The Most Hated Man No Longer In Baltimore was last night, but I imagine him in an air-conditioned den, deep in a vinyl recliner, refreshment in his hand, scowling madly at the glowing TV screen full of Baltimoreans shaking the Glazer Family pompons.

I imagine his head exploding.

If anything, BegFest '92 left us with a feeling that a terrible wrong might actually be corrected one day. This town did not deserve what Bob Irsay wrought. The NFL owners are partly responsible for his irresponsibility and piracy. They owe us a football team.

Does it matter if we get one?

We can probably get by without one. We've done so since 1984.

But the game is afoot, momentum is building, so we might as well keep pushing.

A new football team in a new football stadium would complement our baseball team in its new baseball stadium. It would complete the crusade to restore Baltimore to the big leagues.

Last night was special -- and not just because we all walked away with a $10-off coupon on any $50 purchase at Boogie Weinglass' Merry-Go-Round stores. It was special because we had ourselves a good, long communal scream.

Felt good.

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