Do you want to know a really embarrassing fun fact?
Sometimes, I cry over baseball.
I can hear Tom Hanks' voice ringing in my head, "There's no crying in baseball!" But still the fiery red hot tears filled my eyes.
But it's only a game! I know, I know.
Am I just a sore loser? Eh, maybe. But I think it's something different.
Let me tell you a story.
For those of you that don't know, I'm from Baltimore. Born and raised and proud of it, babe. This city is my heart. I'm also a Baltimore Orioles fan. Die hard. I love Baltimore and I know that it's a magical, wonderful place that filled with amazing, strong people. But sometimes, I feel alone in my adoration of this treasure.
Growing up, I heard about how people couldn't wait to move away from Baltimore, how they hated this city. On vacation when I mention I'm from Baltimore, I get, "Oh, like in The Wire?" Just an FYI, being known for an HBO series about the illegal drug trade in your city isn't exactly a good thing. Last year, Baltimore became synonymous with police brutality.
Sometimes, I feel like Baltimore is the jilted ugly step-child city, without the mystique of the White House and shiny politicians of DC or the glamour of Broadway and celebrities in NYC. We can't offer you mystique or glamour but we have a lot of rats and a harbor that's so filthy I'm positive it's radioactive, oh and there's some not so nice people who live here who will break into your cars at night? We know it and the rest of the world knows it-- Baltimore has some issues.
Despite all the things it isn't, this jilted step-child is a bonafide sports city.
This is Birdland. The city basically shuts down for the Ravens on Sundays, and if you dare wear yellow here, you're basically earned yourself a black eye. There's no where else you want to be on a Friday night except at Camden Yards, which is consistently rated the #1 stadium in the country. We claim Babe Ruth as our own, and we sing the Seven Nation Army chant in our sleep. We bleed black and orange in the summer and black and purple in the winter.
So despite the issues that deeply divide our city, despite the racism, the poverty, the crime and the ugly parts of this city, I have never seen such love, unity, peace or hugs in this city than when the Ravens won the Superbowl in 2013. For one week, it all stopped. And it didn't matter that I was different from you because we were all Baltimoreans.
And now the world knew that Baltimore finally won. We weren't losers anymore. We were given hope that this city can win.
So when it looked like the Baltimore Orioles were on the track to win the World Series, the city was hopeful. There was a buzz over the entire area. We all waited with bated breath to see if the world would be reminded that Baltimore is a place of strength, a place where winners live.
During the battle to make it to the World Series, the Orioles played the Royals...and this was the first time I cried over baseball. (And where my deep-rooted disdain for the Royals comes from, but that's besides the point (; I still adore my Royals-lovin' friends though!)
Their pitcher showed up to a post-game conference wearing a "These O's aint' Royal" shirt. When asked about a best-of-seven series and if he thought the Royals would return to Baltimore for a sixth game, one player responded with, "No sir, and I don't think [Baltimore] thinks that either." The Royals also have a reputation for intentionally hitting our guys.
If you aren't a baseball fan or if you're a football fan, you may be like "So what? That's pretty mild" But baseball isn't an aggressive sport.
So when I saw the shirt, I heard the quote, I saw the pitches thrown deliberately at our players, and our World Series dreams were dashed, I cried hot angry tears. I loudly spewed, "I know! I know we aren't royal, I know you don't want to come back, no one ever wants to come back! Stop hitting us, don't you think we've been thrown at enough?!"
My heart was broken because in a sports town, your team represents the heartbeat of your city. It wasn't about baseball. It was about Baltimore. When your team loses, you worry that your beloved home will be seen as a Loser-ville.
It's not about baseball. It's about Baltimore. When our team is down, our city is down. When our team wins, Baltimore wins and we're a city that hasn't won much.
That's why I rarely miss watching an O's game. That's why I'll always suggest taking you to Camden Yards if you are in town or just want to hang out. That's why I'll recruit you to be an O's fan. That's why I'll never ever boo my own team or leave a game early. Cause you don't walk out on your team. You don't walk out on your city. It's not about baseball. It's about Baltimore.