Say what you want about Peter Angelos, but he’s always made good on his promise to never move the Baltimore Orioles. In an age when it’s almost fashionable for teams to move if they don’t get a stadium, Angelos and his partners seem to understand that a team is a public trust. Yes it’s his team, but it really belongs to the fans.
Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
So when I heard this story yesterday about the San Diego Chargers of the NFL moving to Los Angeles, I felt very badly for the people of San Diego. And all Orioles fans I hope would feel the same – not just because those people are now on notice that they could lose their team, but because Baltimore’s been through this. For the record, my old man still has his Baltimore Colts aluminum garbage can in his basement.
First off, I’ve always thought that the Chargers had great fans. And I agree with ESPN’s Chris Berman in that their powder blue jerseys are pretty sweet. But again, this is about the fans in my mind. It’s easy enough to argue that the people of San Diego can still support the Chargers given the distance between the two cities. But is it really the same? I would say not.
Speaking for myself now, I’m all about how I grew up and for whom I grew up rooting. When it comes to football, it’s the Washington Redskins for me. Without getting into any sort of political discussion for the purposes of this column, I would cease rooting for the franchise if they ever changed the name. I grew up as a Washington Redskins fan, not a fan of the Washington Warriors or anything else. If they cease to be what I’ve always known, they aren’t my team anymore.
And that’s a similar attitude that Colts fans took. My Dad and my Uncles always said that they wanted the Colts to lose every game for the rest of time. In that case I suspect it was especially frustrating because the team still had the same name and the same uniforms. So you’d still see the Colts on TV and they’d look exactly the same – just that they now belonged to someone else. The only difference (besides the city) was the fact that the Colt band no longer played during the games; they of course managed to stay behind and remain the Baltimore Colts Marching Band. And quite frankly they should be lauded because they’re the reason we have the Ravens today.
On the other hand, when the Raiders went to L.A. the fans looked at it from the opposite perspective. Many of them remained season ticket holders and went to southern California to support the Raiders each week. Different strokes, I guess. But at the end of the day I’m not a fan of relocations. Many people will point out that if not for that process Baltimore wouldn’t have the Ravens. That’s true – but they’d also still have the Colts.
It’s the fans who suffer when things like this happen. What are you supposed to tell your kids, who you raised as Chargers fans, that they no longer will have a team at some point? That’s where the real tragedy lies. In twenty years or so maybe there’ll be a movement to get a team back in San Diego. But why even have a movement – if the team never leaves you don’t have to miss them!
With all of this said, Orioles fans are a lucky bunch if you think about it. There was a time where it wasn’t gauranteed that the team would stay here. In fact, the funding for Oriole Park at Camden Yards was in the same package as the funding that was used for the eventual construction of M & T Bank Stadium. And that was all secured with the help of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, as detailed in The Band That Wouldn’t Die.
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If not for that funding, no new ballpark is ever constructed, and there’s a strong possibility that the team would have moved. We can’t say for sure, but my personal opinion is that it would have been on the table. At the time Washington didn’t have a team, but Charlotte and Las Vegas were always possibilities also. Angelos has made mistakes as an owner, but he’s never broken that promise he made to always keep the team here. Given how fickle franchises and cities can be, that should mean something. At the end of the day, it’s the fans who lose when these things happen.