After hearing where I'm from, many strangers have looked at me as if I'd said I was recently cured of leprosy. Their expressions speak volumes: "How he manages to smile, I will never know. I'm glad he's OK, but, God, I hope he's not contagious."
They hear about our crime and violence. David Simon is a genius, but I worry that some of his less reflective fans view Baltimore basically as a prime location for a blaxploitation/zombie crossover film. Others don't like our accent. We have been held in such low esteem that Hollywood thought it was OK to destroy part of the city with a nuclear bomb ("The Sum of All Fears," 2002). Why, Morgan Freeman? Why?
But Sunday night, that seemed to change. There was something special about the way the Ravens won their second Super Bowl: the soul-searching after the big loss in Houston, Ray Rice's 29-yard scramble in San Diego, underdog status throughout the playoffs, brothers coaching opposing teams, the big lead, the blackout, the comeback, and Ray Lewis' retirement. It was all so miraculous, and the team gave the fans so much credit, that maybe, I thought, our luck and image could change. God was smiling on Baltimore.
How long this window to heaven would stay open, I did not know, so I spent the first 24 hours after the Super Bowl making requests. Everything I'm about to report is true.
Monday morning, I caught a train to Philadelphia for three days of meetings for my day job. After seeing one of the Amtrak attendants pick up a microphone, I asked if he would make an announcement congratulating Baltimore. It turns out he was a Ravens fan and was happy to oblige. One ask, one win. This was a good start.
In Philly, I asked the manager at the information desk at 30th Street Station if he would make a similar announcement, but he laughed dismissively. (1-1.)
Once settled into my room, I called my boss back in Baltimore — not my immediate boss but the executive director herself. For three years, I've resented the fact that my employer expects peons like me to pay to park on campus. So I told her about my magic-window-to-heaven theory, then made an argument for why I should get either a company car (n.b., no one in my organization has a company car) or a free parking space. She's open to my parking space idea. (2-1.)
Then I got serious. I called and wrote NASA to ask if they could send a small piece of Baltimore, perhaps a keepsake from Edgar Allan Poe, into space. A public relations representative said I should talk to someone at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and wished me well. Goddard, expect a call. I then sent the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary a few football-themed words they could use to update their "Baltimore" entry, wrote the governor's office and the White House to see if Baltimore could be declared the state and national capital for a day, and, for good measure, asked the Philadelphia Zoo if they would let me pet a baby cheetah. I'm still waiting to hear from the UK, Annapolis and Washington, and the zoo said no politely, so that's two wins, two losses and four to-be-decideds.
Not bad. But I think the greatest proof of my theory was my luck with transportation. As a black man, I sometimes suspect I'd have to get hit by a cab to make it stop, but for three days, I was the taxi whisperer. When I told a cabbie named Hameen where I was from, he congratulated Baltimore, then cursed the Philadelphia Eagles and their losing record with the venom mankind has typically reserved for murderers and thieves. "These guys make millions while working people struggle," he said. "Why should we care?"
He was right, of course. I know I had nothing to do with the Ravens' win. And with all the head injuries, I suspect that 40 years from now, the brutality of football will be as anachronistic as woolly mammoth hunts. But Monday night, as I said goodbye to Hameen and made my way up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the end of Sylvester Stallone's famous run in "Rocky," I couldn't deny how good it felt to be from a place that has a universally acknowledged right to say something incredibly simple, yet profound: We won.
Lionel Foster is a freelance writer from Baltimore. His column appears Fridays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @LionelBMD.