Why do fans here always see the glass half-empty?

October 19, 2006|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

You have to live in this town for a while to understand how incredibly neurotic and paranoid its sports fans are.

Whether they root for the Orioles or Ravens or the University of Maryland teams, Baltimore fans wake up every morning with two thoughts running through their heads.

The first thought is this: What horrible thing will happen to our team today?

And the second thought is: Why is our team always getting ripped off?

To a Baltimore fan, no disaster scenario is too improbable, no conspiracy theory is too far-fetched, that it can't be brooded upon.

There's a rich history of this kind of thinking around here, too.

In 1966, before the Orioles met the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, the consensus in this town was that the O's had no shot against L.A.'s pitching. The O's swept the mighty Dodgers in four straight.

In 1969, after the heavily favored Colts lost to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, Baltimore's great defensive lineman, Bubba Smith, wondered aloud if the game had been fixed.

So it's this proud tradition of unrelenting gloom and irrational suspicion that continues to be passed down from one generation to the next.

Which brings us to the Baltimore Ravens.

As you may know, the Ravens have a 4-2 record to start the season. Now, 4-2 would sound terrific to NFL fans in a lot of other towns.

Go to Cleveland, go to Detroit, go to Oakland and ask their fans: "Hey, 4 and 2. Would you be OK with that?"

Are you kidding? They'd be spraying champagne and throwing confetti before you left the room. In Detroit, they'd be so happy they'd start setting cars on fire.

But, naturally, here in Baltimore, few fans seem to be enjoying the Ravens' 4-2 start.

Instead a 4-2 start - ohmigod, with two losses in a row! - is playing like the Titanic going down.

From the moaning of Ravens fans on Internet chat sites, from the whining on sports-talk radio, from the endless dissection of the team's "problems" by the media - the firing of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel was played out in "N. Korea Explodes Nuke!" hysteria - you'd think it was the worst thing that ever happened.

Me, I don't get it.

I don't understand why Ravens fans don't think: Hey, 4-2, that's pretty good. Maybe, instead of moping around, we should be savoring this.

But they're not savoring it at all.

Instead, all you hear from Ravens fans is gloom and doom: The offense stinks, this team's lucky to win four games, we won't make the playoffs, blah, blah, blah.

Here's another thing I don't get: the crazy statement uttered by Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason the other day, a day after the team's narrow 23-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Did you see this quote?

"Football isn't fun right now," he told reporters.

This was one of the most astonishing sentences I have ever heard from the mouth of a professional athlete.

Those reporters who cover the Ravens, they've been around the NFL for a lot of years and heard players say a lot of nutty things.

But they must have practically dropped their notebooks and tape recorders when they heard Mason deliver that line.

In the first place, do you know how much money Derrick Mason makes to play football?

According to the NFL Players Association, he makes a cool $3 million a year. Do you think football would be fun for you if you made $3 mil playing it?

Look, for me, working on the back of a garbage truck would be fun if I made $3 mil.

But it's not fun for Derrick Mason right now. That's what he said. I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for him.

The other thing that makes Mason's quote so astonishing is that we're only six games into the NFL season.

Six games!

If football is no fun for you after just six games, playing a full 16 games must feel like breaking rocks in the hot sun.

Actually, if you're getting turned off by football after just six games, it might be time to think about a career change.

Although there aren't too many other careers where they pay you $3 million for working just five months a year.

And fly you all over the country on plush private charters. And put you up in the best hotels on the road. And feed you the best food. Yep, I think we could probably find a few people who'd be willing to trade jobs with Derrick Mason.

And a few fans in other towns who'd be willing to trade places with our fans.

And not hang themselves over a 4-2 start.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/Cowherd.

What is there to be unhappy about?

Are Baltimore sports fans any more neurotic than fans in other cities?

Go to baltimoresun.com/fanpoll and vote for the fans most in need of an analyst's couch:

Baltimore:

Fans stage walkout after nine straight losing seasons for the Orioles. Just two Ravens losses in a row for Ravens makes them Team Turmoil.

Philadelphia:

Fans known for booing Santa Claus. Football stadium has a jail to hold all the drunks.

Chicago:

Who's more depressed than Cubs fans? Last World Series appearance? 1945. Last Series win? 1908. Fan touches foul ball and costs them a shot in 2003. No wonder Tommy Lasorda has to talk Cubbies fan out of tree in new Fox-TV promos.

Boston:

Famous "Curse of the Bambino" lifted after Red Sox World Championship in 2004. Fans in New England convinced a new curse afflicting their team is just a matter of time.

New York:

Yankees' George Steinbrenner considered the tyrannical owner against whom all other tyrannical owners are measured. Fueling fans' sense of entitlement: Both Yankees and Mets consider team payroll below $180 million to be shoeshine money.

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