If you haven’t already heard about it today, you’ll probably hear about it as the afternoon wears on and we get closer to this evening’s NFL season kickoff between the Ravens and Denver Broncos: this game should be in Baltimore. This was covered ad hoc in the national media, as well as on Birds Watcher, back during the off season. The Super Bowl champion “traditionally” gets to host the Thursday night opener the following season, however in this case the game was forced out of town due to the Baltimore Orioles having to play the ChiSox tonight at Camden Yards.
I just want to reiterate how exactly this works; first off, the Ravens generally submit two Sunday dates to the Orioles each year whereby they would prefer the Orioles not schedule Sunday games. (This is not uncommon, and for the most part MLB and the NFL work well together.) In this case they submitted September 15th and 22nd as dates they would in theory schedule home games. Obviously they didn’t know that they would win the Super Bowl, however the Orioles accomodated this request. So when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, it was immediately obvious that there would be a conflict with them wanting the season-opening game to be played pm September 5th.
On a personal note, for the most part I don’t think that it’s the responsibility of of one sport to accomodate another, however with regards to something like this I think that an exception should be made. A city doesn’t win the Super Bowl every year, and that’s something that should be recognized. However, with the PR stunts the NFL pulled, I see no reason why the Orioles or MLB should have to bend over backwards. (It’s important to note that the NFL tried to muscle the O’s here, NOT the Ravens.) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell basically put this at the feet of the Orioles and said move your game. He had to do this knowing that he’d be waging a PR war against an unpopular owner in Peter Angelos, and that he couldn’t help but come out on top in people’s minds. The Orioles and MLB proceeded to say that perhaps the NFL could open on Wednesday night as opposed to Thursday, which they did in 2012. However this was unacceptable to them, as NBC (who carries the game) wanted the game on Thursday (better ratings), and there was a Jewish Holiday on Wednesday. With all due respect, the NFL has played on Rosh Hashanah in the past, as they have Christmas Day previously. So this was a tactful PR stunt on the part of the NFL to make the Orioles either look bad or feel pressured to move the game.
On top of all of that, for a game time to be moved (in this case to the afternoon) by more than 30 minutes, both teams and the MLBPA have to agree to it. I’m not sure what the ChiSox said about the matter, however the MLBPA didn’t want it’s members playing a day game after a night game (especially just to accomodate the NFL). So in fairness, this was not a decision that was in the Orioles’ hands. With all of that said there will still be people in Baltimore and around the country that will hold the Orioles and owner Peter Angelos accountable for Baltimore not hosting this event, even though this was a decision upon which they really had no bearing. Furthermore, the Ravens were offered the opportunity to host a week one game on Sunday Night or Monday Night; they opted for Thursday Night on the road.
Had it been cut-and-dry and ultimately the Orioles’ decision, I might have agreed that the Birds should host their game in the afternoon. However after the NFL tried to bully them into it, I can’t say I would have blamed them for not making the change. That’s bad business on the NFL’s part, not on that of the Orioles or Oriole ownership. Again, there will still be people that will blame the O’s, and I suppose they’re entitled to their opinions. I would submit that it would be nice to see the two sides work together for the good of the city’s sports fans, however again I can’t stress enough that this was not the Orioles’ decision.