Monday, July 26, 2004

I'm Not Bothering with a "Friend" Joke

My shot at ESPN yesterday was perhaps premature, because they really deserve it today.  Check out this piece o' jackassery from Tom Friend of ESPN the Magazine (like SI, but with more "Boo-yas!").

I yield to very few in the loathing Peter Angelos category.  I think at one point I called him a "rat-creature," in fact.  But Friend, in damning the man trying to keep the Expos from their proper home, manages to insult an entire city.

When I was growing up in Washington, D.C. during the late '60s-early '70s, my folks would drive us through Baltimore on our way to New York City.

And I'd hold my nose.

I don't know if it was the factories or the smoke stacks or the Chesapeake Bay, but Baltimore literally smelled back then. And, based on what I'm hearing now, it still smells.

I've been to Baltimore many a time, and the only smell I've ever noticed is that of Old Bay, which they put on everything.  Seriously, this is just childish.

Any time now, Major League Baseball will announce the fate of the Montreal Expos, and more and more it looks like they'll be coming to my hometown ... unless Baltimore throws a hissy fit.
He's quite right here, except that he misses one vital distinction.  Baltimore is not trying to keep out the Expos.  Angelos is.  Hell, the mayor of Baltimore came out in favor of a DC team, for which he was personally insulted by Angelos.

Friend goes on to snipe about powerhouse O's teams of the 70s not drawing well, the Bullets leaving, and the Colts sneaking out.  All of this is completely irrelevant and shamefully inflammatory.

Baltimore can't support one team.
Trust me, Baltimore is not a great sports town, never has been.
This is obviously nonsense.A quick breeze through Baseball Reference's yearly league summaries shows that Baltimore is, in fact, an absolutely first-class baseball town.  From 1995 to 1998, the Orioles led the American League in attendance each year.  In '95, they came in third in their division with an uninspiring 71-73 record, but still drew over 3 million fans.  In fact, in those four years, they came in first place only once but still outdrew all competition.

1998 was the first of the Orioles' six (and counting) fourth-place finishes, yet the O's managed to sell over 3.6 million tickets.  The next two years featured crappy teams and in excess of 3 million through the turnstiles, good for second in the AL both years.  It wasn't until 2002 that attendance dipped below 3 million, but the Orioles since 1995 have never been worse than fifth in a league of 14 teams.  Considering the kind of teams they've been fielding in that time, this is a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the enthusiam and loyalty of Baltimore baseball fans.

There is nothing to be gained from insulting Baltimore and her inhabitants, and I'm not just saying that because I'm something less than a year from becoming a Baltimorean-in-law.  The fine people of Charm City hate Angelos just as much as we do, so why is Friend going out of his way to make enemies?  This column is emblematic of an aspect of sports journalism I find particularly distasteful: controversy generates interest, so above all generate controversy. I'm sure Friend knows full well that the O's are a well-supported team, but that didn't fit his insulting thesis, so he chose to focus on the 1970s.  This makes him no better than the lowest message board troll, and ESPN should be ashamed of itself for running this piece of brainless vitriol.

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