It's clear that `woes' rhymes with O's

Losing: It's painful to watch the Birds when they are in the zone -- the disaster zone, that is.

May 24, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

Let's examine your sad, empty life for a moment, shall we?

You, you poor sap, are an Orioles fan.

For you, their constant losing has taken on a numbing repetitiveness. It's become like that screwball Bill Murray film "Groundhog Day" -- every day somehow eerily exactly like the day before.

Before every game, you watch the Orioles take the field with a bounce in their step and promise in their eyes.

Then you sit back and wait.

Wait for the inevitable collapse.

You wait for the O's bullpen gate to swing open and for a young man with chiseled features to stride to the mound, and what that young man invariably does to the score is the equivalent of taking gasoline and a Bic lighter to dry brush.

Or else you wait for a base-running blunder, or a defensive lapse, or a strikeout with the winning run in scoring position, that costs your team another game.

Game after game, you wait for disaster to strike.

And game after game, it does.

Game after game, what you get is baseball's version of the Los Alamos inferno.

So this is what you have now, Mr. or Ms. Oriole Fan: a team with a 17-25 record, a team that had lost 15 of 17 going into last night's game against Seattle.

What you have is a team dropping in the standings like a washing machine pushed from the roof of a high-rise.

All around town, the same theme is echoed in conversations around the breakfast table, at the coffee machine at work, at the corner bar in the evening: What's wrong with the O's?

And the consensus seems to be: Hey, what isn't?

Some popular theories:

They're too old. This one is repeated so often you expect to see the O's in the dugout with shawls around their shoulders.

They're too slow.

Their pitching stinks. In fact, with a staff ERA of 5.99, the league's worst -- and a collective bullpen ERA of 7.01 -- there is evidence to suggest Oriole pitchers have been throwing underhand for the past month.

They're a bunch of rich, pampered underachievers -- OK, fine, all but the sainted Cal Ripken (and here we pause to genuflect) -- who don't give a spit about The Fans, The Game, The Proud Orioles Franchise, blah, blah, blah.

To feel the full wrath of the fans, it's helpful to visit the gritty venue traditionally associated with Joe Sixpack: sports talk radio.

Every night, their voices crackle from somewhere out in the ether: Stan from Pikesville, Marty from Severna Park, Loretta from Bel Air, Kenny from Essex.

"Steve, this team is an embarrassment."

"Greg, why didn't Hargrove bunt the runner over to third in the last inning? Will you please explain this to me?"

In anguished tones, they perform the autopsy on the Orioles' latest loss.

They rail at the team, at the manager, at the owner, asbestos-case king Peter Angelos.

Oh, they have had it up to here with the owner.

They call Angelos an incompetent, a meddler, a meddling incompetent, the worst owner since Steinbrenner, the worst scourge to visit the shores of the Chesapeake since Pfiesteria.

Sit with the radio glowing on the back deck at night, with a glass of iced tea perched on the railing, and the frustration in their voices comes through louder than the crickets.

The sports columnists, the baseball writers for Sports Illustrated, the smirking ESPN anchors late at night -- everybody takes shots at the Orioles these days.

But it's too easy, isn't it? After a while, it's like hunting cows: There's no sport to it.

Besides, none of this helps you, the Orioles fan.

None of this eases the dull pain in your heart.

None of this lessens the sense of frustration you feel as you hurl the remote across the room in disgust, or file quietly into the parking lot at Camden Yards after another loss.

Everybody's asking a lot of questions about the Orioles.

But you don't have any answers, either.

All you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is this: Right now, your team stinks.

And if things don't change in a hurry, you're looking at a long, hot summer.

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