At No. 5 on Forbes' NFL list, Ravens a real charity case

This Just In...

August 23, 2002|By DAN RODRICKS

I NOW UNDERSTAND why those generous men of the Baltimore County Council voted to give up county parkland in Owings Mills so the Baltimore Ravens could build a new training facility and corporate headquarters: The team is only the fifth most valuable in the National Football League, according to Forbes magazine.

You can't expect the fifth most valuable team - estimated value of $607 million, based on Forbes' analysis of the team's television contracts, attendance, ticket pricing, sponsorship revenue and concessions - to actually go out and acquire land when it could have a big freebie from the county that might have been just a nice park or maybe a municipal golf course.

If the Ravens were first or second on Forbes' list, then I could see leaving the franchise to fend for itself. But at fifth the Ravens are obviously struggling. Yeah, the County Council obviously did the right thing, giving millionaires parkland acquired with funds from Program Open Space.

What a bunch of chumps.

Campaign confusion

In Howard County, there is considerable confusion over the rules governing the placement and size of campaign posters and placards. There are state laws, county laws and Columbia village bylaws, all regarding the technical aspects of signs. But it's the content that needs improving, from my view. For instance, a firm declaration of the party affiliation of the candidate advertised would be swell - something simple, such as "Democrat" or "Republican."

What I see in my travels around the Greater Patapsco Drainage Basin is a lack of such declaration, as if candidates for various state and local public office are ashamed of their affiliation. Of course, this might be evidence of something greater - the increasingly fuzzy line between a Democrat and a Republican, especially in terms of each party's indebtedness to the big-money special interests who fund their campaigns. There isn't so much a two-party system in this nation as one large political class.

Pining for `Charm' life

A well-traveled journalist named Chet Dembeck calls himself "A Man Without A Baltimore" these days, and he explains himself in a letter from his new home in West Virginia:

"A few years ago, I had the opportunity to move to another state for work-related reasons. When I lived in Baltimore, like so many other Baltimoreans, I complained about the high crime, the humidity and the seemingly corrupt political system. When I left, I told all who would listen that I was glad to leave and wouldn't miss all the hassles of Baltimore living. I didn't care if I ever heard the name of Charm City again, and I became The Man Without A Baltimore.

"More than two years have passed, and I have to tell you that all the other cities I have visited and lived in cannot compare with my hometown. My travels have taken me to San Diego, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Ontario, Boston, Columbus, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Lexington. None of these cities can compare to Baltimore. They're not bad. I just find Baltimore better than any place I have lived in or visited. There's a certain vitality that can't be equaled - the accents of the people, the down-to-earth nature of many of the waitresses and other folks you come in contact with. `Hon' still exists. This is not so in many other places where there is no familiarity or an unsaid feeling that, `I'm just 'nother human being and so are you, so hon, what can I get yah?' Baltimore is real. It still hasn't adopted the false veneer of fancy new cities.

"Until I left Baltimore, I never realized what a unique, homey, beautiful bastion of ethnicity and originality it is. When I lived (in Baltimore), I made the great mistake of only concentrating on the negatives. My loss, I assure you.

"Recently, I became so homesick I decided to rent a room in the Hyatt Regency near the Inner Harbor and spend a weekend. Saturday night when my wife and I crossed the street to the Inner Harbor, we felt like two kids going to a carnival. It was fantastic. There was a free concert of first-rate musicians, the fragrance of seawater mixed with steamed crabs. I felt like the prodigal son, who had come home after being forced to swim in the mud of other less worthy metropolises."

Chet, it's OK. You can go home again.

"Recently," he added in a second e-mail, "I looked at rowhomes in Canton and Federal Hill, but found the prices were out of my range."

Yeah, but there are some good buys in Hampden, hon.

Lapse in local lingo

The phrase "down at the ocean" appeared in this column Wednesday. Of course, no one in or around Baltimore says "down at the ocean," except maybe the British consul, and we haven't got one. The correct phrase should have been "down the ocean." This columnist regrets the choice of good grammar over authentic regional idiom.

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