Sum of fears hangs by wire

City's image doesn't help in selling job

On The Ravens

January 17, 2008|By PETER SCHMUCK

The Ravens will have no trouble persuading someone to become their next head coach, but Monday's marathon huddle with Jason and Brill Garrett might have shown that the search committee carries an extra burden when competing for the top industry candidates.

Steve Bisciotti and company don't just have to sell the prospective coach on the Ravens' organization. They also have to sell the family on Baltimore.

That probably doesn't sound like much of a problem to you, because you live here and know it's not what you see on The Wire, but imagine coming here with all the common out-of-town misconceptions. Heck, it's tough enough with all the out-of-town conceptions that aren't amiss.

What are you supposed to think when the definitive network drama set in Baltimore was called Homicide and one of the top shows on cable right now is largely about Charm City's thriving drug trade?

The negative media image doesn't stop there, and it isn't restricted to the mean streets. One of the biggest movies ever set here was called The Sum of All Fears, and it revolved around a terrorist plot to set off a nuclear bomb inside the football stadium.

Now, I'll admit the concept is a little far-fetched, but if you're thinking of moving here, it might be bad enough that there's a chance of running into Ben Affleck if they ever film a sequel.

Of course, we all know better. The Inner Harbor is great fun, and there's way more to do around here than there is in Texas, unless you're a high school football player and his 30-year-old girlfriend. (That might seem a little creepy, but if you watch Friday Night Lights, at least it doesn't make you fear for your safety.)

It isn't fair. The biggest network show set in Chicago is ER and features heroic doctors and their 30-year-old high school football player girlfriends. The big network show set in Boston is Boston Legal, a witty lawyer show featuring the former Captain Kirk as a witty lawyer. We get portrayed on HBO as a city made up largely of drug dealers and - in Season 5 - journalists. If that were all I knew about Baltmore, I wouldn't move here.

The only town that gets a worse rap on cable is Deadwood.

The city paid a half-million bucks to an advertising firm a couple of years ago to come up with a new slogan, and ended up with "Get in on it." To which, anyone outside of town familiar with Charm City's television image would naturally ask, "Get in what, the trunk?"

Obviously, there are real problems here. The murder rate is way too high. The city school system always seems to be facing some kind of crisis. There's too much Clemson coverage on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

But these are problems common to pretty much every large urban center (though I doubt they carry The Tommy Bowden Show in Boston). They just get magnified in the negative spotlight that Hollywood usually shines on Baltimore.

I'm sure Brill Garrett got to see some of the nicest suburbs in Maryland during her tour of the area Monday, but every city has great suburbs if your husband makes $2.5 million per year, which is about what he'll make whether he comes here, goes to Atlanta or stays in Dallas.

The Ravens shouldn't have any trouble convincing Jason that the best football job available is in Baltimore, but the team also has to convince the two of them of the great quality of life that comes with it.

That might be hard to do in one afternoon of neighborhood shopping, but it's almost all good. You can take that from someone who doesn't make $2.5 million per year and chose the Baltimore area over the beach life outside L.A.

I know one thing, if the next man up is Eagles coach John Harbaugh, we won't have this problem. My favorite network series set in Philadelphia was thirtysomething, which basically confirmed my long-held suspicion that everybody in Philly who isn't a semi-psychotic sports fan is a whiny yuppie.

Shouldn't have any problem persuading his family to move here.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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