Call for fans to organize, protest PSINet

January 27, 1999|By GREGORY KANE

WE CAN MAKE IT A community thing that crosses racial and ethnic boundaries. Folks in Highlandtown can bring the tar. A contingent representing Sandtown-Winchester can bring the feathers. Folks from Hampden, Little Italy, Murphy Homes and Park Heights can bring the rails.

All will meet in front of The Sun building at high noon and march to various locations, in order to tar, feather and run out of town on a rail all those responsible for naming our new stadium PSINet Stadium.

It's official. PSINet paid $105.5 million to have the stadium named for the company. PSINet provides services on the Internet, that ever-reliable source of information that claimed science fiction writer Octavia Butler hadn't written a book in 10 years even as her newest book, "Parable of the Talents," was sitting on bookshelves throughout the area.

Yeah. That Internet. Yeah. That PSINet. Anybody surprised?

Somebody has to pay for this insult to Baltimore's football fans. Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell and officials at PSINet are as good a bunch of somebodies as any. The American tradition of tarring and feathering was started for a reason. It's considered primitive and atavistic by some, but maybe now's the time to revive it.

For those with more progressive and civilized instincts, here's a counterproposal: boycott. Just don't go to an edifice with a name as atrocious as PSINet Stadium. Refuse to place your butt on a seat therein. Send Modell letters saying you won't attend a Ravens game until the stadium gets a decent name.

Let's not just boycott. Let's organize. The bitter dispute between National Basketball Association owners and the NBA Players' Association over how to split up $2 billion was recently resolved. Absent from any discussion were the folks who make that $2 billion windfall possible: the fans.

Professional athletes have their unions. Professional sports team owners have their good-old-boy network going. What do fans have? Nothing. There is no national Sports Fans Union, but it's high time we started one.

A fans' union could organize boycotts, demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns and exert pressure on sports moguls to let them know what we will and will not tolerate. The name PSINet Stadium clearly crosses the line. So let's start an unofficial Sports Fans Union as of today, Jan. 27, 1999. We can begin by bombarding Ravens' offices with calls and missives suggesting our name for the stadium along with suggestions that we might boycott football games until sanity prevails.

Here's a preliminary list of alternative names:

John Unitas Stadium. This one was suggested by Michael Olesker in his column yesterday.

The 28th of December Stadium. Loyal Baltimore football fans will immediately recognize the date and its significance: the day in 1958 that the Colts defeated the New York Giants in overtime to win the National Football League championship. The game put pro football on the map.

Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. Stadium. This would honor the mayor who brought both pro football and major league baseball to the city.

Earl Banks Stadium. To honor the late Morgan State University football coach who perennially fielded outstanding teams at the Northeast Baltimore school. Several of the players went on to successful pro careers.

Thurgood Marshall Stadium. To honor Baltimore's late Supreme Court associate justice.

Frederick Douglass Stadium. To honor the abolitionist, editor and orator who worked in Baltimore several years, caulked ships here and escaped slavery from here.

Christian Fleetwood Stadium. To honor Baltimore's Civil War Medal of Honor winner.

Roger Brooke Taney Stadium. Yes, that's right. I would rather honor Maryland's Supreme Court chief justice -- who wrote in his Dred Scott opinion that "black men have no rights white men are bound to respect" -- than see a stadium named for a corporation that paid for the privilege.

The dollars of Maryland taxpayers provided the bulk of the money used to build the stadium that PSINet will arrogantly and with unseemly audacity call its own. That is chutzpah worthy indeed of a nice tarring and feathering. But let's hurt PSINet and Modell where they live: in their pocketbooks.

Pub Date: 1/27/99

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