Let's try to be good sports about Baltimore's very bad sports

October 13, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE that this is a tough time to be a sports fan in this town, and that thumbing through the sports section is like driving a nail into your forehead on most days.

Let's look at recent events around here, shall we?

The Ravens are 1-3 and coming off a startling breakdown in civilized behavior that looks like something out of Lord of the Flies.

The Orioles just finished their eighth straight losing season and are now officially so dysfunctional the state should step in and take the players away from Peter Angelos and put them in a good orphanage, where they can start putting some of the horrible memories behind them and begin to thrive as baseball players again.

And horse-racing has gone so far down the tubes here that to get more than a few dozen fans to come out to the track, you need to build a gleaming new slots palace where the suckers can happily pump buckets of silver dollars down the rathole after they lose their shirts at the betting windows.

Yep, to the rest of the country, we're now Loserville, USA.

We're the place where championships go to die.

We're where Hope takes a two-by-four to the back of the head and collapses on the sidewalk.

Naturally, all this has been hard for Baltimore sports fans to accept, and it's led to a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth on sports radio and letters to the editor in the local fishwrap.

But here's a thought: Instead of fighting our image as a sports gulag, why not embrace it?

Why not try to make it work for us?

You remember those old commercials where the star quarterback trotted off the field after the big game, and a voice off-camera intoned: "Tom Brady, you just won the Super Bowl! What are you going to do now?"

And the quarterback smiled and answered: "I'm going to Disney World!"

OK, well, why can't the reverse of that work for us?

Why can't we become a haven for sports underachievers, a vacation destination for all those who finish closer to the bottom of the standings than the top?

Why can't we become the place to go when you fail?

Hey Coach, your team just got blown out, 45-7, after which you and your entire staff were fired! What are you going to do now?

I'm going to Baltimore!

OK, we're obviously being facetious here.

But other teams - and other towns - have capitalized on the image of lovable losers and woven it into their civic identities.

Look at the Boston Red Sox.

Until their team won the World Series last season, Red Sox fans wallowed in the organization's futility for years, accepting dubious explanations (the Curse of the Bambino) for their suffering and reveling in their role as spiritually wounded pilgrims destined to never see the Promised Land of a championship again.

In fact, winning it all last year seemed to throw Red Sox fans off their game, as the days of brooding and tortured self-reflection - two favorite New England pastimes - suddenly came to an end.

And Chicago Cubs fans will flat out tell you they will never, ever, see a winner and delight in recounting that the Cubs' last World Series win occurred in 1908, which is why they gather in the bars of Wrigleyville before and after games to drown their sorrows, bemoan their own Billy Goat Curse and proclaim themselves the most loyal, masochistic fans in the whole world.

Look, people from out of town go to Cubs games for the express purpose of watching losers and hanging out with loser fans afterward.

What would they do if the Cubs ever turned into - God forbid - winners?

But the lovable losers thing is going to be tough to pull off here, mainly because our losers don't seem so lovable.

Let's face it, the Ravens have this national image as a collection of thugs who would crash your daughter's Sweet 16 party, set up Cristal Champagne bars and bong stations at both ends of the driveway and start fistfights with the other guests.

And the Orioles were engulfed in a full-blown steroids scandal, not to mention the fact that their top pitcher turned out to be a head case and serial DUI offender.

So maybe nothing can be done to ease the pain of this horrible time in Baltimore sports history.

Maybe sports fans in this town will just have to grin and bear it, and pray for better days ahead.

Right now, it looks as if it'll take a whole lot of praying.

I hope we have an army of priests on stand-by.

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