Baltimore Orioles: Losing a generation of fans?


I hear a lot of people referring to the Orioles “losing a generation of fans” with regard to the 14 years of losing. I suppose my question is whether or not this is really true. First off, we might want to define what the term losing a fan means. To me, it signifies that a person who previously rooted for that team has ceased to do so. However I suppose in this sense it could also mean someone who would have been rooting for that team but doesn’t. Do I have you scratching your head yet? 

From 1972-2005 the Orioles were the only team in the mid-Atlantic region. The O’s even took Baltimore off of the road jerseys for what was an unspecified reason, but presumably to help to make them into a regional team.  For quite some time the Orioles drew well from both cities. However when the Nationals came to the area in 2005, one would assume that it would have been natural for many people in the DC area to switch their allegiances. While this has been true, there’s also a huge amount of support for the Orioles in the southern Maryland suburbs, and even into Northern VA. This is evidenced by the amount of black and orange in the stands when the two teams play at Nationals Park each year. (Incidentally, this is not the case in reverse when they play in Baltimore.) Regardless of that, I suppose that the Orioles have lost fans in the DC region due to the fact that a team now exists there.

However when I hear this term (“losing a generation of fans”) thrown around, it’s often not in relation to Washington or the Nationals per se. I think that a lot of fed-up people are actually using it with regard to Baltimore fans. So translated, the real question is whether or not Baltimore fans are turning on the Orioles. Since time immemorial there have always been people in every area that have rejected the home team for varying reasons (they’re called contrarians). So in itself, this may not be a recent phenomenon. However are there people that used to be Oriole fans that are now dumping the O’s and rooting for someone else?

That’s the big question. There are plenty of people who have stopped coming to games, buying merchandise, or perhaps aren’t coming as often as they used to. However fair-weather fans and lost fans are two different things. The fair-weather fans are just that; presumably they’ll come back when the Orioles show improvement. (And that’s another story for another day.) Lost fans are fans that in essence picked another team at some point along the way. And there’s a certain ripple effect down the line when this happens. It begins with them picking another team, then they buy merchandise from that team, and at some point down the line they show up at Camden Yards rooting for that team against the Orioles when they come to town. However it doesn’t end there; they get married and have kids, and raise their kids as loyal Boston Red Sox fans, St. Louis Cardinals fans, etc. So…is this a problem?

I suppose you’d have to do a poll of sorts of the Baltimore community. My bet would still be that there are very few true blue Baltimore fans that would turn on the Orioles in the manner I described above. (And I’m talking people with no ties to another place in the sense that their Dad was from NY or something like that.) To go back to the Washington Nationals for a moment, a lot of people are afraid that if the Nationals turn into a contender before the Orioles we’ll start to see this more and more. I can’t predict the future; however I would still be willing to bet that you wouldn’t see Baltimore fans rooting against the Orioles. I can’t see a day where “Joe from Dundalk” would go to Camden Yards dressed in his Washington Nationals’ regalia as they get set to play the Orioles. (And you can insert any other team into that sentence; my goal here is not to single out the Nationals or anyone else as a potential threat.)This is not to say that people in Baltimore might not keep an eye on a team like the Nats moreso than they otherwise would have, but I think that the chances of them rooting against the O’s forever and ever are slim.

For the record, I have ties in both DC and Baltimore. Having said that, I believe in the Baltimore fans when it comes to loyalty. I don’t think for one moment that they would ever turn on their home team. The same can be said for people in other places as well. However my advice to the Orioles would be not to run the risk. The moxie that they would get from winning would be much greater than it would be if they just assumed that the fans will always be on their side and keep the status quo. In fact, winning would cure the need for me to pen a column like this! Is it possible that the Orioles could lose a generation of fans? Sure, anything’s possible. However as I said, I believe in the fans of Baltimore, so don’t bet on it.

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