Idea, logo are perfect to the letter

June 06, 1996|By Ken Rosenthal

It's a B!

Forget the fierce-looking birds, the goofy uniform numbers or the six zillion forms of merchandise now available at an NFL Properties outlet near you.

The B at the center of the Ravens' logo is the single most striking feature of the team's new look, the one stirring the passions of hometown fans.

The B is for Baltimore.

And it's an especially meaningful gesture, considering that the other major professional sports team in town doesn't identify itself as being from Baltimore, lest it offend any of its Washington-area supporters.

That's right, the team that has been here 42 years won't admit to it, while the team that just got here included not only the "B" in its logo, but also the crest of the Maryland state flag.

It's the least the Ravens could do, considering the sweetheart deal they're getting from the state. Then again, in an age when even right things are done for the wrong reasons, it's the thought that counts.

This isn't some nutty Baltimore issue, the sporting equivalent of who is buried in John Wilkes Booth's tomb. This is a city that lost NFL and NBA teams, and could have lost its baseball team if not for the construction of Camden Yards.

The Baltimore ID matters.

Tuesday night offered vivid proof that the Orioles no longer own this town -- the Ravens took over after the baseball game ended, displaying their new logo on five huge banners draped from buildings near Camden Yards.

Yesterday, the team unveiled its new uniforms and merchandise in a fashion show at the Gallery at Harborplace, with the large and enthusiastic crowd greeting coach Ted Marchibroda as if he were Paulina Porizkova.

Think the Orioles don't notice?

Faced with the prospect of a carpetbagging team stealing the hearts of the hometown fans, they might revisit the issue of putting Baltimore on their uniforms.

"Everything is open for reconsideration," said Joe Foss, the club's vice president of business operations. "I don't know if it would be on the road jersey. It could be on the jacket. It could be a sleeve patch.

"It's an issue that has some emotion tied to it. I definitely don't consider it to be an insignificant request. It's not silly. We're in a society with ever-changing situations. I wouldn't rule anything out in the future."

The arrival of the Ravens certainly represents an "ever-changing situation." The difference is, Art Modell and Co. aren't trying to sell tickets in Washington, where there already is an NFL team.

One with the most offensive logo in sports, by the way.

Whatever, the Orioles are now a full-blown regional franchise, drawing an estimated 30 percent of their fans from the D.C. area, and a smaller but significant percentage from Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Owner Peter Angelos doesn't need to demonstrate his commitment to Baltimore -- he did it when he bought the franchise for a record price, and he does it every off-season when he spends millions on free agents.

But really, what's the big deal?

The Orioles dropped the city's name from their road jerseys in the mid-1970s. They could have restored it last season in the first uniform redesign under Angelos, but went in the other direction, and deleted it from their logo.

"It was our conclusion that everyone knows us as the Baltimore Orioles, and it wasn't necessary to make an additional statement to that effect," Foss said.

Fair enough, but you can make the same argument in reverse: Everyone knows the Orioles are a regional franchise, so it isn't necessary to play to the out-of-town crowd any longer.

The Washingtonians are easy enough to spot at Camden Yards -- they're the people leading the wave with the score tied in the ninth inning. But the sad truth is, they helped transform the Orioles into the free-spending Goliath we know and love.

All that might change if Northern Virginia ever gets a team, and the Orioles suddenly face competition in the D.C. area. That's why it's not unreasonable for the club to proceed with caution, and protect its out-of-town investment.

Still, does anyone seriously believe that a fan in D.C. or Virginia would stop coming to Camden Yards if the Orioles had something on their uniforms representing Baltimore?

It's too late for next season -- Foss said all proposed uniform changes must be submitted to major-league baseball by March. But the Orioles could -- and should -- make this concession to their core supporters by 1998.

Ravens vice president David Modell said NFL Properties presented the team with dozens of logos featuring either "B" or "R." The Ravens then tested the possibilities in focus groups, and the response was staggering.

"Early on, our logo team said, 'It's gotta be the B, it's very important, this means something to this community,' " said Modell, the son of the owner.

Did they proceed knowing the Orioles' uniforms made no mention of Baltimore?

"It never came up," said vice president of marketing David Cope, one of several former Orioles employees now working for the Ravens.

"I honestly was not aware of that," Modell said. "There is absolutely, positively no statement we're making about the Orioles."

Still, Modell said he heard the buzz walking around downtown Monday night, the excitement over a simple letter.

It's a B!

B for Baltimore.

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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