It's not easy to love a city like Baltimore. Crime rate steadily rising, more sexually transmitted diseases than even Detroit, a football team that will break your heart, and a baseball team that hasn't been above .500 since I was in high school. Yet I'll stand by this city and its teams no matter what, and experience has taught me this is often not a popular position to take.
Two weeks ago I went down to Camden Yards to renew my season ticket package. The season ticket rep took me into the stadium so I could sit in my new seats before I bought them to make sure I liked them. Great seats, field level, right behind 1st base - couldn't be happier. We got to chatting, and he was curious to know whether my students were O's fans, and if not, who did they cheer for. I relayed the news that, alas, the most common team preferences I see at work are for the Yankees or Red Sox, not Orioles, despite the fact that most of these young men have never even been to NY or Boston. The lack of home team pride is shocking to me, but my season ticket rep was not surprised. "I hear it all the time," he says. "Look in a sporting goods store in Baltimore - you'll see more Red Sox gear than O's. It's a shame," he continued. I agree. A real shame.
Yet despite the disappointing presence of front-running fairweather fans among the 13 and 14 year olds I teach, today was a day of great pride. I wore a Marlins jersey into school today to support a lesson on symbolism. The nature of the lesson isn't so important for the purposes of this blog, but was important was the sheer number of kids who said things like, "Marlins? Why not the Orioles?" or "I thought you were from Baltimore?" even the same kids who made fun of me for standing by a team that loses 30-3 were shocked by my Florida apparel. It was a victory, albeit a small one, for a guy like me who believes that you should root, root, root for the home team, no matter what, because those kids seemed almost genuinely offended by my out-of-town-outfit. Maybe there's time left after all to lure them back from the A-Rod army.
p.s. don't worry - it was a Jeff Conine jersey. they just don't make Conine O's jerseys, or I promise I would have one of them!