A standing O

Our view : Confounding predictions, Orioles making city proud

July 03, 2008

Midway through 2008, there are a few things Baltimore can reasonably be pleased about. Homicides are down. The troubled school system just finished its first year with an energetic, ambitious new CEO. The city's cultural scene is vibrant. This time of the year is also the midpoint of the baseball season, and here, too, there's reason for a bit of civic pride.

After 10 consecutive losing seasons, the Orioles exchanged their two best players for a crop of young, promising but untested talent - seemingly committing themselves to a long and difficult rebuilding. Many predicted they would be baseball's worst team this year.

In defiance of those expectations, the O's have so far won more games than they've lost. And more often than not, they have come from behind to win, often in surprising ways, on a team lacking superstars. You never know who's going to get the big hit. That makes watching them unpredictable and fun. Who cares if first baseman Kevin Millar dyes his hair bright yellow, if he keeps driving in runs? And closer George Sherrill's odd, flat-billed cap draws chuckles - but no one's laughing about his save record, second best in the major leagues.

Sports teams are a city's public face. Fandom brings diverse groups together in a way that few other activities do. And when the local team is doing well, people feel good.

These Orioles, like their hometown, aren't very glamorous. But they're playing with grit and good humor - qualities Baltimore appreciates more than flash and dash. In a city where problems run deep, it's always nice to have one more reason to cheer.

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