Baltimore gets no respect

If you are like me and you were born and raised here in Baltimore, then you probably have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to our city. For years we have been cast aside and relegated to the shadows of Philadelphia to the north and DC to the south. We have often been referred to as a rest stop on the way to either of these cities. Philadelphia with their rich tradition and historical significance and DC, the nation's capital.

Philly is a bit further away and we aren't exposed to their people and we sit outside of their media circle. But DC is another story. We are exposed to their newspapers and their radio and TV stations. We know more about them -- enough to convince us that they think they are better than us.

Pick up the sports page in The Sun during football season and what do you see? Articles on the Redskins. Watch The Weather Channel and they almost always mention Philly and DC and skip right over Baltimore. The airport -- it used to be called Friendship International but now it's Baltimore-Washington International. When they added area codes, the DC burbs kept 301 and we were stuck with changing all of our numbers to 410. Go to a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion and what do the musical acts say, "How ya doin' out there DC?" 

We can't even get Peter Angelos to put "Baltimore" on the Orioles road jerseys. Aren't they like the only team that doesn't put their home town on their road jerseys? And why doesn't Angelos? Well, we all think it has to do with the Orioles being a regional team and he doesn't want to insult the DC fans that travel the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to see the Orioles play. (And come to think of it, when are they going to start calling it the Washington-Baltimore Parkway.) Hey do you think that the Red Sox fans in Rhode Island give a rats you know what that the Sox' road jersey is proudly emblazoned with the word "Boston"? Of course not.

I remember when I once worked for Xerox. I was a marketing rep for the company and as part of the training, we were sent down to Roslyn, VA, just across the Potomac from DC. I recall a conversation that I had with a colleague who was a DC resident and he referred to the Orioles as the Washington Orioles. Now you know and I know that that is a ridiculous comment and probably not even worth discussing. My colleague's intent was simply to agitate but I wouldn't give him the pleasure. So I forced a chuckle and let it pass. But deep inside I've gotta tell you, it burned me to the core. Part of the inferiority complex, right?

We get no respect. Rodney Dangerfield must be a Baltimore native. "When I was a kid I got no respect. When my parents got divorced there was a custody fight over me ... and no one showed up." I bet they ended up in DC Rodney.

Crabcakes, Camden Yards and Cal Ripken. That's what people outside of Baltimore think of when they are asked about Baltimore. The people of DC. They harbor none of the contempt towards Baltimore like Baltimoreans do towards DC. They just don‘t care. But then they aren‘t the ones with the complex now are they? 

The national media certainly doesn't help. They show us very little respect, right? It must be some sort of conspiracy. No one stood up to defend us when the Colts bolted out of town in the middle of the night in a Mayflower Van. No one in the NFL executive offices stood up to call out Bob Irsay for pimping his team to other cities such as Memphis and Jacksonville and Indianapolis while they were still in Baltimore. No one seemed to care about Irsay's antics yet everyone seems to care about Art Modell moving his team out of Cleveland and into Baltimore. The league and fans throughout the country still vilify Modell for his move despite the fact that the NFL built a new stadium for Cleveland and Modell left the team's name and colors behind. Hasn't everyone now been made whole? Well everyone except Art and that‘s because he‘s now in Baltimore, right? Damn conspiracy.

Even TV shows based in Baltimore don't portray the city well. While both Homicide and The Wire were great shows, they were both shows that focused upon the violence and the drug culture prominent in cities throughout the country. It just so happens that the setting for these two series was our town and it didn't quite look like The Land of Pleasant Living on the tube. Jim Rome torched our city on his nationally syndicated radio talk show for its widespread violence, drug abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. Can't we get a little love or respect?

"I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous - everyone hasn't met me yet." ~ Rodney Dangerfield

Cris Collinsworth and Boomer Esiason and Sean Salisbury show disdain for the Ravens. Why? What have we done? Are our feelings justified or are we getting used to playing the victim and now we overreact to every negative statement about our teams or our city? Are we that hypersensitive? Let's try and remove ourselves from the shoes of a Baltimorean and try to look at this respect issue from an objective perspective.

Do you think that the Orioles are viewed negatively by the national media? Is the criticism directed towards them unjustified? Think about the national media for a moment as it relates to baseball and think about who some of the national writers are. Tim Kurijan and Buster Olney both have ties to Baltimore. They are both major contributors to ESPN's coverage of Major League Baseball. Consider former Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal is the primary writer for The Sporting News and TSN's website and a contributor to Sporting News radio. All of these journalists portray the Orioles positively. They give the team exposure and we accept their criticisms of the team because the criticisms are justified and we no longer defend the Orioles as vehemently as we once did because of their habitual losing and because of the public's disdain for the O's controversial owner.

Football is a different story. Whereas in baseball the national media is comprised of journalists with local ties, football has none. Well let me take that back. There's Tony Siragusa but Goose is portrayed more as a cartoon like character and it's hard to take him seriously. Plus as much as Goose is loved here in Baltimore, he seems to have distanced himself from our town. Chris Berman, Chris Mortensen, Ron Jaworski….none from Baltimore. Michael Irvin, Stuart Scott, Steve Young, Hank Goldberg, Sal Paolantonio…… nada. Cris Collinsworth, Tom Jackson, Boomer Esiason and Solomon Wilcots all have ties to Cincinnati and/or the Bengals, an AFC North Divisional Rival. There's nothing that ties any of these journalists or media members to The Land of Pleasant Living. 

Now let's look at the team itself. The Baltimore Ravens have just completed their 8th season in the league. Yes they were the Cleveland Browns but that team's identity stayed in Cleveland. So the Ravens are in some aspects, an expansion franchise. Recently I spoke with Greg Bicouvaris, a member of CBS' football coverage team and a sports host for Channel 47 in Newport News, Virginia. I asked Greg to give a national perspective on the Ravens and the national media's apparent disregard for the team. According to Bicouvaris, "The Ravens aren't a national media favorite for a few reasons, the most important of which are: 1. They have no national fan base; 2. They are rarely featured in nationally televised games and/or Monday Night Football, which leads to 3. Outside of Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden, the team is viewed as a collection on no-names."

So perhaps the apparent lack of respect is more a lack of awareness. And since there's a lack of awareness, the media doesn't gravitate to the Ravens. After all, awareness means popularity and popularity spells TV ratings and ratings equal money. Last time I checked, except for PBS, television is a for profit entertainment medium. 

But there's more than that folks.

Not only aren't the Ravens the most popular team, they appear to go out of their way to be portrayed as bullies thus heightening the national disdain towards the team. Bullies are almost always despised and the Ravens M.O. is to leverage this image in a way that motivates the team. Brian Billick is the champion of the "us against the world" motivational theme. Billick is hardly popular amongst the national media. He almost seems to go out of his way to speak to them in a condescending way. Billick is a smart man and probably not a guy you'd want to debate on a regular basis. In some ways, he intimidates the media but not like a Bobby Knight whose asinine behavior has its own entertainment value. Billick can come off as holier than thou. Remember Fonzie from Happy Days? Remember how he couldn't even say the word, wr-wr-wro-wron-wrong? Billick never admits if he's wrong. He just spins it and then claims to know something more than the media. And they don't like it and they don't like Billick.

Then there's the Bullies themselves -- the players. The biggest stage that the Ravens ever had was Super Bowl XXXV. And that stage was provided less than one year after their best player was on trial for a double murder. They were cocky and arrogant and proud of their swagger. They beat teams up and they trash talked and beat their chests after every good play. They won ugly on a stage that prefers offense and stars like Kurt Warner and Tom Brady and Joe Montana and Troy Aikman. They couldn't even put their best player on the cover of a Wheaties Box or send him to Disney World because of the trial. The nation looked at the Ravens as thugs and since SB XXXV, they've done very little to dispel this reputation. In fact, they appear to behave in a way that preserves this reputation.

So when you consider the lack of exposure, the lack of a national identity, an acerbic head coach and a team that prides itself on swagger and in your face antics, is there any wonder why the national media just might despise our beloved men in purple? 

And while we're looking at the Ravens objectively, the national media has demonstrated its own objectivity. After all, the Ravens sent 8 players to the Pro Bowl and the AP named Jamal Lewis and Ray Lewis Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively. Isn't that respect?

Look Baltimore, get over the inferiority complex. The conjured up lack of respect and the conspiracy theory arguments are spouted out throughout the country in every town outside of New York, Chicago and LA. We live in a great city that offers plenty and is within 3 hours of just about anything you heart desires. We have a baseball team on the rise, a football team that should be part of the post season landscape for the next few years and two of the world's best stadiums within a 3 wood of each other. Fuggedabout DC! After all they don't have baseball, they have Dan Snyder, they have a horribly located stadium, embarrassing hockey and basketball teams and dreadful traffic problems. 

I'll take good ole Bawlmer any day. And as for the national media's lack of respect -- just look at it like this -- we know something that they don't. Let's just keep it as that well placed chip on our collective shoulder. And as Rod Stewart once sang, "And you wear it well……"

Tony Lombardi is a native Baltimorean and a diehard Ravens fan. He is also a writer for Ravens24x7.com, a website for all those that bleed purple.





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