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Orioles keep Sept. 5 home game, Ravens to open 2013 on road

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The Ravens and the NFL will open up their 2013 regular season on the road after failing to find compromise in a scheduling conflict with the Orioles and Major League Baseball.

Both the Ravens and Orioles released statements Friday saying that logistical issues will prevent the possibility of a baseball/football doubleheader on Sept. 5. The Orioles are scheduled to play the Chicago White Sox at 7:05 at Camden Yards that night while the NFL had also hoped to stage its annual kickoff game across the parking lot at M&T Bank Stadium.

However, after several days of talks and the Orioles' willingness to move their game up to 4:05, both sides decided there was too much to work through to pull off a doubleheader. As a result, the Ravens will become the first reigning Super Bowl champions to open on the road since 2003.

"After thorough discussions among the Orioles, the NFL and the Ravens, it became clear that holding both an Orioles' game and the Ravens' regular-season opener on the same day would create logistical situations that would cause serious issues for the city of Baltimore, and fans for both teams," Ravens team president Dick Cass said. "The Ravens greatly appreciate the willingness of the Orioles to adjust the start of their game in an effort to make this sports spectacular happen. But, in the end, anticipated problems with parking, rush-hour traffic, plus crowd and car congestion around Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium, will keep the doubleheader from taking place."

The NFL released a statement confirming that the Ravens will open on the road on Sept. 5, which is more preferable to Ravens coach John Harbaugh than playing at home that weekend because his team will have nine days of rest before its next game.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is exploring different fan activities in Baltimore around the event, including a pre-game concert. The Ravens' opponent on Sept. 5 has not been announced but the most likely candidates appear to be the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers or Chicago Bears.

The news brought mixed reactions from the city's sports fans. Jeffrey Green, a 53-year-old Parkville resident, was so angered by the outcome that he said that he'd never go to an Orioles' game again. He backed off that stance, saying, "I'll probably wind up going but it won't be no time soon."

"I feel like if it had been the [Orioles] getting this chance, the Ravens would give them the respect," said Green, who traditionally goes to more football than baseball games. "One of the things that I know about the Ravens' organization is that it is pretty honorable."

Madison Levin-Epstein, 27, goes to Camden Yards for about 10 games a year and tries to take in a Ravens' game from time-to-time. He initially thought owner Peter Angelos and the Orioles were making a big mistake by not acquiescing to the Ravens but the more he considered the issue, the more he believed the baseball team was right.

"In a perfect world, the Orioles would play at 12 and the Ravens would play at 9, but I understand why the Orioles would want to stand their ground," said Levin-Epstein who lives in Arlington, Va. "They have nothing to gain by moving it forward. I think they are in the right. It's just an unfortunate situation."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday at the league's annual meetings in Phoenix that the Ravens going on the road was the only alternative if the conflict couldn't get worked out. Goodell, an Orioles' fan growing up, said that he spoke to MLB commissioner Bud Selig twice about the matter.

Last year, the league moved up the kickoff game to a Wednesday so the New York Giants versus Dallas Cowboys wouldn't conflict with President Barack Obama's address at the Democratic National Convention. The Orioles are playing in Cleveland on Sept. 4, but Goodell didn't want to play the kickoff game -- and have all the pomp and circumstance that comes with it -- on the first night of Rosh Hashanah.

The San Francisco 49ers hosted the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football on the first night of the holiday last year, but the league and the Ravens say they spoke to local Jewish groups who were opposed to a Sept. 4 night game in Baltimore.

That's why Goodell called a potential Sept. 5 baseball/football doubleheader the "right thing," and expressed hope that it would gain MLB's approval. After a couple of days of discussion, they determined that the potential issues of it, including parking and traffic, were too much to overcome.

The two downtown neighbors, who bonded over the last year with the Ravens' vocally supporting the Orioles during their surprising run to the playoffs and the Orioles returning the favor during the Ravens' Super Bowl run, maintained Friday that the situation spurred no hard feeling between the two.

"The Orioles did make an effort," said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens' senior vice president of public and community relations. "They were willing to adjust their time. They went above and beyond. We appreciate that."

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged in an interview with The Sun on Wednesday that the Orioles were in a tough spot. He said that the Ravens would offer financial compensation to their neighbors. However to the Orioles, it was more a baseball matter than a financial one.

The Orioles and White Sox play the previous night in different cities and they didn't want their players to have a quick turnaround the next day, especially during a potential pennant race. The Orioles also doubted that they'd be able to get the necessary approval from the White Sox, Major League Baseball and the players association to make such a change.

"The Orioles have great respect for the Super Bowl Champion Ravens and thank Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association, and the White Sox for doing everything possible to work with us to explore all options to reschedule the September 5 game," the Orioles said in a statement. "We also appreciate the work of the NFL and the Ravens over the past several weeks as we attempted to accommodate the Ravens' interest in a game the same evening.

"Given the limited options available to reschedule the game at that late date in the season, the parties jointly determined that even an earlier start time would still create such enormous logistical difficulties that it would greatly diminish the fan experience for both events which all parties realized would not be in the interest of their fans or the City."

The conflict reminded Kirby Fowler, president of the Baltimore Downtown Partnership, of a similar situation that happened in January, when organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race decided to back out of a commitment that would have had that event stop in town the weekend of May 16, 2015.

The race moved instead to Providence, R.I., because it would have been the same weekend as Preakness.

"These things have happened before. But think about it. A lot of cities would be glad to find themselves in a situation like this, with a Super Bowl champion and a playoff-caliber baseball team vying to play on the same day," Fowler said. "It appears that both the Orioles and the Ravens tried to make it work, and that's what counts. Unfortunately, we can't do both at the same time."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Sun staff writer Jonathan Pitts contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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