Baltimore’s sports-yack outlet WNST is organizing an en masse walkout of tomorrow’s Tigers/Orioles game. Though I fail to understand why anyone who professes to care about baseball would a) put money in the pocket of the same owner they’re trying to run out of town or b) blow off a game that might play a part in deciding the AL Central, the Baltimore Sun’s Rick Maesse applauds the movement.
No sane person expects Angelos to watch thousands of people flee his park in the early innings of tomorrow’s Tigers-Orioles makeup game and then take out a classified ad in the next day’s Sun putting the team on the market. Not going to happen.
In all likelihood, Angelos is already aware of public sentiment; he just interprets it differently than you might. The words you say might be “Angelos must sell,” but he hears “Give us a winner.” That isn’t altogether wrong and it isn’t altogether right.
But that’s what makes the rallying cry of tomorrow’s protest different from anything that has been voiced around here before. The message is very pointed. The protesters – which I’m guessing will number 4,000 to 5,000 – aren’t saying the Orioles need to chase after Barry Zito. They aren’t demanding a big trade or lower ticket prices or better nacho cheese sauce at the concessions stand. The protest is solely about the owner, whose missteps – real and imagined – are well-documented by now.
That’s why it’s not fair to point to attendance numbers and suggest that fans have been protesting all season. Sure, they’ve stayed away (with only four home games remaining, paid attendance is down 5,500 fans a game from one season ago), but what message has that delivered? It has told Orioles management that its fans are sick of losing, which is the same sentiment any losing team’s fan base would send.
I’m not sure that fully captures the feelings I hear around town. Just the other day, I was eating in a Federal Hill establishment and four people nearby were talking about tomorrow’s rally. “I’m protesting by staying away from the games,” a man in the group said.
And his feelings couldn’t have been more displaced. That’s not protesting – no more than avoiding the White House is protesting war, staying away from your local pharmacy is fighting the war against drugs or ignoring your teenage son is objecting to his inability to make curfew.
It’s called apathy, a feeling that’s much worse and much more dangerous than anger or frustration. Apathy is a steel blanket that keeps you pinned down. It empowers oppressors and encourages the status quo. The message delivered is no more than a shoulder shrug.