It is always difficult to write about fans.
Well, that is not true. It's actually very easy to write about individual fans. They have wonderful, meaningful memories of how they fell in love with a team. They speak eloquently about what their favorite sports and players mean to them.
It is difficult to write about fans as a group. About a "fan base." Because, really, there is no such thing. Each person's feelings about say, the Orioles, are as unique as their fingerprints.
I wrote about how Orioles fans feel about the team -- and, more specifically, its owner, Peter Angelos -- for Sunday's paper. Though I talked to probably a dozen "random" fans, the people quoted in the story are what I consider bellwether fans. They set the tone for particular subsets of Orioles fans who follow and discuss the team through web sites or Facebook pages.
Scott Evans fosters discussion at a page called "O's fans Peter Angelos has to GO!"
Ed Kapinos is a frequent commenter there.
Tony Pente runs the popular site Orioles Hangout, which has some of the most robust O's discussion anywhere on the net. You'll find piercing analysis on the boards; there's an 18-page thread (15 posts per page) called "Ask the Orioles" that is probably the best way to take the temperature of die-hard Orioles fans right now.
Terry Cook is the leader of a group called Occupy Eutaw St., which seeks mostly to get Angelos to re-engage with fans (and to "stop lying.") They're pushing for Angelos to re-assure Orioles fans that he is committed to winning, and to share more details about how he hopes to reach that goal.
There are dozens of other places on the Internet where people gather to talk about the Orioles. And, as I said, they don't all sound the same. There's dissent, even, within the groups. (And, I should note here, there are plenty of people who find it silly to blame Angelos; read the comments on my story.)
But what is undeniable is that for too many Orioles fans, the feeling they want to get from following their favorite team now eludes them. Fans want to believe that this year, there's a chance. And that the people in power -- the people lucky enough to own a baseball team, or assemble one, or manage one, or play for one -- are doing everything possible to make winning happen.
Evans, Kapinos, Pente and Cook were all very, very adamant about how much they still admired and rooted for the players. To varying degrees, they believe Buck Showalter is a strong manager, and are willing to give Dan Duquette a chance.
But they've lost faith in Angelos.
My colleague Childs Walker did what he does so well and wrote the definitive piece on Angelos in October, 2010. The story's title says it all: Peter Angelos remains a powerful paradox. It is worth revisiting that story if you haven't read it in a while.
I found it impossible to get a good sense of who Peter Angelos is now, as an 82-year-old whose reputation -- his legacy, really -- is trapped between decades of civic do-gooding and a flailing baseball team. Angelos wouldn't respond to my requests for an interview, and those who know him well often find it better not to comment publicly. What everyone says privately, though, is that Angelos still works hours upon hours a day and cares as much as he ever did.
As with any fractured relationship, there's probably too much posturing here borne mostly out of misunderstanding. Angelos likely isn't as nefarious as fans make him out to be -- he just wants to make money, they shout -- and the fans aren't as ungrateful or uneducated or unworthy of contact as maybe Angelos and his top advisers might think.
Mediation of the sort Cook's group seeks might have some impact.
Winning, of course, would be the only real solution.
But so few of the people I talked to believe there's a good chance of that in the near future.