Days of whine and cold noses

December 19, 2007|By KEVIN COWHERD

Wondering what to get the Baltimore sports fan on your holiday gift list? How about doing him a favor and pushing him off a cliff?

Wow, is this the worst December for sports you can remember around here?

Let's recap a few of the lowlights and brood about them together, shall we?

We have the Ravens, in the midst of a nightmare season, losing their eighth straight game, this one to the previously winless Miami Dolphins, which is like losing to McDaniel College, judging by the way it played on SportsCenter and every sports-roundup show in the country.

We have the Orioles, after 10 straight losing seasons, trading their best player for five guys so anonymous they could be waiting tables at Applebee's.

The next day, the O's get slammed again by having 19 current and former players linked to steroid use in the Mitchell Report.

And they react to that by issuing a weasel response to the steroids report cautioning fans to "resist the temptation to accept collective judgments based on unsubstantiated allegations."

Then they go and - you can't make this stuff up - raise ticket prices!

Is that beautiful or what?

You know those Southwest Airlines commercials that ask: "Want to Get Away?"

Is there a Baltimore sports fan who wouldn't want to book a flight to anywhere else right now?

(OK, before we go any further, don't e-mail or write to say that the Blast is 5-5 and that's something we can be, um, sort of proud of. Look, there are only about 22 people who care about the Blast, and these are mostly the players and their immediate families.

(Indoor soccer is not a major sport, period. Now if you don't mind, let's get back to wallowing in our collective misery.)

So it's the holidays and we have most of the country either laughing at us or wondering what the hell they're putting in the water around here.

Maybe the top reason out-of-towners are chortling is that the Orioles, who have absolutely stunk for so long, had so many players linked to the steroid scandal.

It's a good thing the TV writers are on strike, or Letterman and Leno and Jon Stewart would be having a field day with the O's. They'd be whacking them like a rented mule.

Some weeks ago in this space, I asked the question: Aren't steroids supposed to make you better?

Isn't the whole point that taking them gives you an unfair competitive advantage?

Then what's the deal with the Orioles?

How come they have guys gobbling steroids like they're breath mints and they still stink?

Well, guess what? Now sports commentators all over the country are asking the same tongue-in-cheek question.

And the answer seems to be: The Orioles are so bad they can't even cheat the right way.

But this is not exactly a great time to be a Ravens fan, either, since the face of Ravens fandom now is a guy camped out on the roof of a Canton bar, freezing his butt off, who vows not to come down until the Ravens win a game, which may be never.

Maybe you read about this guy in Jill Rosen's story in The Sun last week. His name is Ron Stack. One day, he swore undying allegiance to the Ravens and made some crazy pledge. And now look where he is.

I went to see him yesterday. He's been interviewed by every TV and radio station in town and his story has been picked up nationally by the networks, which has made him semi-famous, at least among the sports-lunatic fringe.

People drive past the Canton Station bar at the corner of O'Donnell and S. Conkling streets and honk their horns in support, and others take up food and send up Irish coffees to the little tent he's living in.

It's been a lot of fun, he said. But after seven days outside, he seemed tired of it, too.

"My birthday is Christmas Eve," Stack said, shivering in the 30-degree temperature. "I'll be 41. That's why I gotta get out of here."

"What, and leave all this?" I said, pointing at the cramped tent and the rusty space heater and wind- swept tar roof, which he's decorated with a tiny purple disco ball and a plastic Raven bird.

Stack thought he had a shot at coming in from the cold last Sunday when the Ravens played the horrible Dolphins. But that dream died in the humid Miami air. Now he's praying the Ravens beat Seattle this Sunday.

"Hey, check this out," he says to a visitor. "Look what I have all ready if we win."

He hits a switch, which turns on a blower, which slowly blows up an inflatable Ravens figure, its arms raised in triumph.

One outstretched hand grips a football. Three plastic fingers and the thumb of the other hand are taped down. One finger - I'll let you guess which one - is raised aloft, delivering a salute to all who would turn their backs on this team.

It's Christmas in Baltimore, hon. But for sports fans, the peace and joy are on hold.

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