Bad news all around for city's pro teams

December 09, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

Baltimore, your name is mud among sports fans around the country. How does that feel this morning?

What a lucky break that this city has only two major professional teams, because both of them shamed themselves this week. Imagine if Baltimore was represented in every sport; the embarrassment would be multiplied.

So, maybe we should be thankful that we only have the Orioles and Ravens disgracing our reputation nationwide.

Still, we do have to live with the sights and sounds that outsiders currently associate with the town that they once associated with "Johnny U" and Lenny Moore, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson, Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson:

The Ravens players melting down in the final minutes Monday night and in the locker room after the loss to the New England Patriots - accusing officials of stealing the game from them, alleging that the NFL was conspiring against them and for the Patriots, calling out an official they said insulted them (but forgetting to mention that they had started the round of insults themselves).

The Orioles' Jay Gibbons posing, for a day, as the face of baseball's performance-enhancing drug problem. He was one of two players nailed by baseball but the only one who brazenly had denied his involvement and jabbed a figurative finger at a teammate for being caught.

Whiners, liars, sore losers, back stabbers, cheaters. All while carrying the banner of Baltimore.

This isn't even just a perception thing. The involved parties have been recognized officially by their respective sports for their bad acts. Gibbons got the 15-day punchout from baseball for violating baseball's rules on performance enhancers. Four Ravens players have been docked a total of $70,000 for, basically, not just taking their heartbreaking last-minute defeat by the Patriots like grown-ups.

And neither team has produced anything good lately to counteract the negative news.

The Orioles, for instance, are in the middle of a news vacuum. No activity at the winter meetings last week, which isn't a bad thing, considering the activity they've generated before. They certainly don't need to be making moves just for the sake of making them, or to pacify the masses. Fans aren't buying that anymore.

On the other hand, there needs to be something positive to talk about in the winter than the slugger who spent all of last season slumping and injured, whose contract seemed more bloated by the at-bat, getting busted for ordering and receiving human growth hormone. And there needs to be more about the team in the papers than lists of all the double-talk he had spewed in past years about how the game needed to be cleaned up, about how the game didn't deserve to be tarred with the same brush - and about who was and wasn't telling the truth.

Of course, there has been other news about the Orioles this offseason. There was Aubrey Huff. There also was Kevin Millar - but in hindsight, can you blame him anymore for wanting to associate with another, more respectable franchise?

Gibbons and Huff likely will be on the big league roster come Opening Day. The odds might be better for them to be on it than for Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard. Still counting the days until pitchers and catchers report?

Then there are the Ravens, the team that squandered more national goodwill in a shorter time - literally minutes - than any group of athletes in memory. They even managed to make a referee who blatantly crossed the line of proper behavior by dropping slurs on players look sympathetic.

America was ready to embrace the Ravens, no matter how much of it generally detests them. Monday's game was the highest-rated show ever on cable, and the audience was largely rooting for the upset, for history. Had the Ravens merely lost - 3 yards short of the end zone, yet - they likely would have been respected, maybe even admired, for their bitter but honorable defeat.

That fantasy ended within seconds of the post-game locker room doors opening.

Tonight, when another national audience looks in on Baltimore, it will again see a Ravens team it reviles. As for the Orioles, who knows when will be the next time anyone else thinks about them?

All we know is what America sees and thinks when our teams appear on their radar. It's not good.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Listen to David Steele Tuesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST-AM.

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