8:54 PM EDT, September 5, 2013
It was a fairly intimate crowd that showed up at Camden Yards on Thursday night for the Orioles’ series opener against the Chicago White Sox, which should have come as a surprise to no one who has any interest in either of Baltimore’s two major professional sports teams.
The hardcore Orioles fans showed up to watch a game that could have playoff implications and many others came for the free plaid cap giveaway with the intention of staying until it was time to head home or to a local watering hole to watch the telecast of the Ravens’ opener against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field.
With an announced attendance of 17,383, the ballpark was far from empty when the game started, but it was a somewhat ambivalent gathering that watched Adam Jones hit his 30th home run in the first inning and many kept their smartphones handy for early Ravens updates.
Andrew Arconti of Middle River, sipping an adult beverage in his No. 5 Joe Flacco jersey, spoke for all the fans with divided allegiance.
“I’m a season-ticket holder, and if the Orioles are up big or down big, maybe I’ll duck out and try to catch the second half in one of the local bars here,” he said.
There was also the third option — the free Keith Urban concert that the NFL staged at the Inner Harbor to compensate for the scheduling snafu that cost the Ravens the traditional Thursday night NFL home opener afforded to the defending Super Bowl champion.
This is all old news, of course, but the controversy that erupted in March after the NFL tried to persuade the Orioles to reschedule Thursday night’s game to accommodate the Ravens was still on the minds of plenty of the fans who showed up for baseball — some wearing regalia from both local teams.
“I think it’s horrible,’’ Aconti said. “I really think the NFL dropped the ball. I don’t blame the Orioles — for the first time — and I don’t blame Peter Angelos. I think they’re trying to cram too much with the Keith Urban concert. I think they should have put it on an actual home game day and put it in the neck [between the two stadiums] or something, but they’re spreading the events around to thin.”
Jonathan Willis of Cockeysville showed up in a loud Ravens aloha shirt and an Orioles cap, carrying a box of Bowie Baysox bobblehead dolls. He must have lost a bet or something, but he wasn’t too upset about the Ravens having to open the season on the road.
“It doesn’t really matter,’’ he said. “They’re making a big deal about it. They’re going to play eight here and eight on the road. It would have been nice to have the game here just because we could all celebrate, but they’ll celebrate the first home game here next week.”
That’s the thing that a lot of unhappy fans don’t seem to understand. The NFL’s decision to move the opener to Denver didn’t cost Baltimore all that much in terms of festivity or economic activity. The city was full of merrymakers on Thursday night, and the Ravens still have eight home games left. If the NFL had succeeded in shaming the Orioles into scheduling a doubleheader this weekend, it actually would have cost the downtown a day or night’s worth of sports revenue, considering the Orioles would have lost Thursday’s home date and the Ravens would have used up a home date.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn’t worried about the impact that the scheduling conflict might have on Thursday night’s crowd, and he certainly had no desire to stoke the controversy that grew out of it.
“We’re just trying to get to their level consistently like [the Ravens have] been consistent. That’s what we want to be,’’ Showalter said. “To critique the fans or our fellow Baltimoreans on what they consider worthy of their time on a given night, I’m not going to critique that. I’m just excited that anybody decides to come here.”
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun