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Last week, when I was blogging over on O, by the Way, I asked O's fans a question: Why do you still support the team? And is that support, like true love, unconditional? What would be your breaking point, if it hasn't come already? Those questions drew a number of interesting responses, and since we're going to be all about reader and writer interaction here at The Life of Kings, I'm printing them in mailbag form. (I had to edit a few for length, but I tried to keep the central point.) A few e-mails included a few choice words for me, so enjoy:

Hi Kevin,

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I'm with the Orioles all the way this year, but only on the TV and radio, no trips to the ballpark.

Television, otherwise, has nothing but crap on it - stupid "reality" shows ("Big Loser", "Fear Factor", "Survivor"); violent crime/cop dramas ("the Wire", "the Sopranos"); straight-from-the-commode shows ("Family Guy," "Nip/Tuck," and "South Park"); and reruns (thank goodness for the Andy Griffith show, but how old can Opie be by now? 50?) And then there's sports -- golf, the Olympics, and the O's! No matter how bad, it's fresh, live, wholesome, and entertaining.

Radio is there when I get too sleepy to watch TV, but I'm not complaining. The Orioles announcing crew is the best I've ever heard. Listen to some of those audio clips on ESPN Radio and FSR if you need convincing.

Camden Yards is out of the question because I hate to drive in Baltimore. The horribly rough streets, never-ending road construction/detours, mis-timed traffic lights (if they are timed at all), dearth of parking/high parking-garage fees, the possibility of a ticket for illegal parking or running a red light (real or imagined), the dirty streets and litter-strewn back alleys. This doesn't cause me to drive into the city -- are you listening Mayor Dixon? -- except for very special events; going to an Orioles game doesn't qualify.

Bottom line, I'm glad they're back, wish them well, and will enjoy them at a level commensurate with the quality of their play. - Paul, Aberdeen

Paul, while I don't know that the city is quite the morass that you make it out to be, I would agree that there is a certain beauty to listening to the O's on the radio, even if Chuck Thompson isn't the guy broadcasting the action anymore. My mother-in-law, a true O's fan for the last 30 years, loves listening to games on the radio late into the night. As for good TV, might I suggest "How I Met Your Mother" or "The Office"? Two of the best comedies on TV right now.

Hey, Kevin,

Yeah, yeah, I know dem Os are going to lose approximately 120 games this year. So be it. If Mr. MacPhail is really serious about the future, then keep Brian [Roberts], and, sometime next winter, pry the key to the vault out of Pete's cold dead hand and pay whatever it takes to get Mark Texeira in orange and black. I know, it will take baseball's first 30-year, $1 billion contract (I am only being slightly facetious) but the money is not counterfeit if there is enough of it. With all the revenue from the television contract, and the low payroll this year, there should be enough to get the deal done. Then, when the pitching comes around, we can give them some run support. - Bob Lambert, Glen Burnie

If Texeira is willing to take the O's Confederate Money (in the words of Syd Thrift), then the Orioles should back up a truck in front of his house and dump as much of it on his lawn as he wants. From a credibility standpoint, it would do wonders.

Hey Kevin,

The ONLY hope I have for the Orioles is to think of them as the Detroit Tigers of 2003 when they had a 43-119 record. Three years later, in 2006, they were in the World Series.

I don't know everything the Tigers did to improve, but they have a lot of talented young players with a mix of good veterans. But the O's could lose the most games in Major League history this year and that will be hard to take. Can I get my World Series tickets now for 2011?

- Richard H. Schwartz

If the O's lose 119 games this year, then our beat writer, Jeff Zrebiec, should win some kind of humanitarian award. You can only write "another tough loss today" so many times. The Tigers model does give O's fan hope though. Detroit did it with a mixture of young pitching (Justin Verlander, Mike Maroth) and veterans getting a second wind (Kenny Rogers). That seems to be the formula Baltimore is going for.

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About your fan loyalty question ...

It's all about the decision to take the word "Baltimore" off the shirts.

That is what tells you what Peter Angelos is all about, what he thinks of the city and the team's most loyal fans. Frankly, he needs to offer a public act of repentance. When I moved to the Baltimore area back in the late 1990s, I wanted to become an O's fan. I was looking forward to it. I did not realize that the team had been killed. I still go to a game, every now and then. I always wear a Nationals shirt. It's all about the word "Baltimore." The Sun should sell jerseys that say "Baltimore" across the chest. Please. - Terry Mattingly

If there is one thing I can complete sympathize with, it's fans frustration over the jersey issue. It seems completely preposterous that the Orioles are still trying to market themselves as a regional franchise by leaving the word "Baltimore" off the jerseys. For a town that is admittedly provincial, and proud of it, it's a big slap in the face. Angelos is a brilliant lawyer, but it seems clear that he doesn't understand PR. I don't think he understands how insulting it is to some people. It would be a major olive branch to the fans to put "Baltimore" back on the jerseys, but no one should hold their breath waiting for that one.

Kevin,

I've been wanting to write something about the sorry state of the Orioles for a long time. Maybe somehow Mr. Angelos will read this. I don't know the answer to get them turned around, but enough is enough. I guess the youth movement is a start.

I gave up on the O's after Cal's retirement. I'm so sick of their on-field performance, skyrocketing salaries, and the steroid scandal. I use to go to about 30 games a year when they played at Memorial Stadium. The year that Steve Stone won the Cy Young Award, I think I saw every one of his starts at home. I remember going to the airport after they beat the Angels for the American League crown and going downtown for the parade after they became world champions in 1983. I have tons of memorabilia from their golden years.

After they moved to Camden Yards, I probably took in about 10 games per year until Cal's retirement. Now I never go! I turn down free tickets to see those bums play. I'm not wasting my time and money anymore. I'll turn on the TV or radio for about five minutes just to chuckle to see how far behind they are in a game.

I think the downward spiral started with the firing of John Lowenstein, Jon Miller, and Davey Johnson. Bringing back "Baltimore" on their away uniforms would be a start. Call me a fair-weather fan now, but I used to bleed orange and black. It's a shame that my kids aren't the least bit interested in the O's. It was a way of life growing up for me. I played college ball and semi-pro up until my 30's. Now, I wouldn't care if they backed up the Mayflower moving vans and slipped away in the night. - Keith Kelley, Towson

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I don't think anyone wants to see Mayflower vans pulling up in front of the Warehouse, nor will they. But Keith makes a good point about the future. Young kids aren't getting hooked on the Orioles the way young kids in New York and Boston and St. Louis are getting hooked on the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals. Baltimore used to be a baseball city, and now those young kids are wearing Ray Lewis and Todd Heap jerseys.

Kevin ...

Thanks for giving The Sun's readers a chance to vent some frustration.

Many Orioles fans are a unique breed in that we've experienced the loss of a franchise – the Colts. I believe it would be difficult to ever turn my back on the Orioles so long as they call Baltimore home. That being said, I will disown the franchise forever should it ever hold a Peter Angelos Appreciation Day (although the prospect of an Angelos bobblehead doll sporting a shiny crown is somewhat amusing).

Bearing down for a long season, Jim Lichty, Columbia, .SC.

The idea of a Peter Angelos Appreciation Day is both tragic and hilarious at the same time. It's funny, I was reading a bunch of old clips recently about when Angelos bought the team and, at the time, he was absolutely hailed as a hero in this town. I don't think anyone foresaw this 12 years ago.

I have been an Orioles fan for about 40 years now. I don't know that I'll ever completely pull the plug, but I could come pretty close. I know this season is going to be a long, rough ride, I've set my sites on just hoping they can avoid 100 losses, and I expect it to be close, but I still won't abandon them if they lose 120, as long as I see some reason to have hope in the younger players.

As much as I like the guy, all you need to know about how the O's will be this year is summed up in [Kevin] Millar as the cleanup hitter in a division that boasts A-Rod and Big Papi. They still have too much dead wood like [Aubrey] Huff and [Jay] Payton and [Jay] Gibbons floating around, but if I see the new guys starting to develop into something, I'm content to let [Andy] MacPhail finish his job and rebuild the team.

What has been so god awful frustrating the last 10 years is the sense of treading water. Year after year, they just never showed any signs of getting anywhere -- they seemed to have no clue what to do. Now they have a direction, a plan, and I'm willing to let it play out. I think MacPhail has taken the right approach in rebuilding the farm system and stocking up on prospects. The end of my rope comes if Angelos steps in to frustrate MacPhail and screws things up again. Be it killing an otherwise done deal for Roberts should that happen, or something down the line we can't anticipate yet, I cannot stand anymore of PA thinking he's a baseball genius and ruining this franchise. Keeping Gibbons won't be the last straw for me, but it will be a warning sign. Well, that's my two cents. - Roy Gibson

I got Roy's e-mail before the Orioles decided to cut Gibbons loose, so hopefully he's a happier man today, but he makes a good point about dead wood. What exactly is the benefit to having guys like Huff, Payton and Millar on the roster right now? I guess you want to at least TRY to put out a credible product, but when you have guys like Huff basically saying (whether it was a joke or not) that they don't even watch video of the opposing pitcher because they're too busy watching pornography, I've got to think you're better off going with your best minor league first baseman than someone like that. With the Huff situation, the O's really revealed themselves to be equal parts Shakespearian tragedy and comedy.

I see similarities between the newspaper business and baseball in Baltimore. Both have obstacles and have been poorly managed. The Sun is not the high quality newspaper of old. Writers often leave for Web site jobs and the young replacements are so green it can be infuriating to read sometimes. We know all too well, the Orioles have paralleled this demise in the last decade.

THE QUESTION IS, DO WE STAY LOYAL BECAUSE ITS FOR OUR OWN GOOD IN THE LONG RUN OR DROP OUR SUPPORT FOR LACK OF QUALITY PRODUCTION?

I think we need Major League Baseball in Baltimore. I also think we need a good daily local newspaper. Both are good for Baltimore. So, I still buy The Sun and I still buy Orioles tickets. Good or Bad, I support both, even in bad times like this when money is tight, because I believe they both are important to our quality of life. - Tom Savage, Locust Point

P.S. Mr. V V: We have seen that old journalism school trick before, when young writers quote Mencken after writing something stupid. Good luck, get better, I'm rooting for you too.

Tom, I think your analogy would work better if all those Web sites and bigger papers that keep snatching away some of our better writers had to give us revenue sharing kickbacks like the Yankees and Red Sox do through the luxury tax. But it's an interesting comparison. As a big fan of "The Wire," I wish I could convince David Simon to write Season 6 about the soul-crushing institution that is the Orioles, but I think even he might consider that too bleak a task. Also, you're right, Mr, Mencken would probably see right through my tricks. But as long as I was buying drinks, I think he'd forgive.

Kevin,

Bonafides: fan since 1955 ... In attendance at [Hoyt] Wilhelm's no-no and Game 4 of the '66 Series.

Over the past 10 years, my 40-year died-in-the-wool demeanor has weakened steadily, so that my sarcasm about them is routine. Seems to me that most "old" Orioles fans here in Virginia (there are a few) have become cynics.

My interest hasn't died, but it has faded... faded... faded --- until I now half pay attention to televised games, and, if they're looking poorly by the fifth or sixth inning, I just tune out.

It's as if the Orioles are on a ship that is moving into a fog. You watch and watch and eventually see nothing. - Bob Fritz, Oakton, Va.

I wish a few years ago someone would have stood on the deck of that ship and shouted, "Steroid iceberg! Right ahead! Man the lifeboats! Tell Raffy to step away from the wheel!"

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Kevin,

The start of the downward spiral really started about the same time that Angelos and sons took control of the Orioles. If you were around this city for at least 20 or more years, you'd understand. This is the first year that I'm going to listen to my head and not my heart. The Huff radio incident was enough, but Millar pushed me off the edge. Did I forget to mention the fact that Angelos and sons did not think it might be important to have either Brooks or Cal connected somehow with the club. I think I'll stop now and put a cold towel on my head. - Rick

A few months ago, I was reading an old column by Ken Rosenthal where he questioned the wisdom of Peter Angelos for letting his sons use the team as their personal rotisserie league. If this is the result of 10 years of their management skill, I'd love to invite the Angelos boys to play in my league. I think Bonds is still available.

Kevin,

Man, I've been around some pessimists but you take the cake. Why don't you try a bit of positive news and commentary in your columns. I can't say that I'm a regular reader but one more like today's (March 29) and it will be my last.

If the fans of all of the professional sports teams that have had multi-year losing seasons would have deserted those teams, dozens of franchises would have filed for bankruptcy, or moved to other cities. I have always admired the fans of Detroit for their solid support of the Lions and the Tigers, in spite of decades of losing seasons, especially the NFL team. It looks as though those fans will be rewarded this year with really competitive teams to cheer for.

Give us a break, man! After writing a column that almost encourages the fan base to desert the Orioles, you then have the audacity to tell your readers what they should be talking about. I don't think that even Mencken earned that right; I know you haven't. - Tom Forno, Baltimore

Tom, I'm not sure I understand your mentality. Why are fans obligated to support a product that is consistently poor? Is it a civic responsibility to continue to subsidize a billionaire's business interests, even if that business produces an inferior product? I'm of the opinion that if you love something, it's imperative that you speak up and not be afraid to point out its flaws. Would you continue to buy cars that broke down and left you stranded simply out of brand loyalty? No one is being asked to desert the team. But they should definitely speak up and voice their displeasure.

Mr. Van Valkenburg,

For a new kid in town, you sure do know how to make friends and influence people. I'm sure you will be welcomed into the locker room with open arms after calling the players fools, liars, cheats and frauds, and I hope you can prove those accusations!!!!

And of course, you've never been or done the things that you've accused them of -- that takes care of Friday's article, now to Saturday's. Has it ever occurred to you that some fans would rather support the home team no matter how bad? We don't need a new guy in town to knock OUR TEAM. We have enough of those kinds of writers and they are doing a pretty good job. I'll bet that it has never occurred to you that going to the games is the only way to see the stars on the other team in person, so go to the games and enjoy the players on both teams -- they all have to have talent to get to the major leagues. I'll grant you that some have more than others but I don't seem to recall your name in a box score or the Literary Hall of Fame. - Myrl Hartman, Glen Burnie

Mr. Hartman, first, getting welcomed with open arms in the locker room isn't really a concern of mine. Second, I'm hardly the new kid in town. I've been here since 2000. I'm married to a beautiful and funny woman who was born here and grew up here. This is where I live, pay taxes, and plan to raise my kids. Throwing out the tired "you're not from here!" trump card is a weak play, and I call your bluff. The Orioles are not good. Both you and I deserve better. As for this Literary Hall of Fame, I am intrigued. Will Jayson Blair and James Frey be signing books down the street during the induction ceremonies the way Pete Rose does each year?

I read your article about how we owe it to Brian Roberts to trade him. This may come as a surprise to you but there are many that think Brian owes us for giving him a chance and sticking with him through his early years.

Then I read today's article about how much longer can Oriole fans put up with losing? You don't seem to get it, the Orioles are our team, win or lose. If we want to complain about them that's OK, but we'll defend them against attacks by anyone else.

When I read these two articles you wrote this week I said this guy has got to be from New York. But I did some research and found out you're from Montana. We had an outstanding pitcher from Billings, Mont., Dave McNally. I also found out that you graduated from the University of Montana in 2000 and have been employed by The Sun for several years.

I can only guess that your editor gave you the assignment of writing negative articles about the Orioles. There's a small group of Oriole fans that will jump on your bandwagon, but most don't want to read or hear negative reports. The box score reveals enough negative results.

There have been a few other Sun reporters who wrote most every article with a negative slant, they are gone. Get smart, Kevin, your future in Baltimore is not in tearing down the Orioles.

The Orioles are in a rebuilding stage, fans realize that it may take a few years to get back on top. But true fans are willing to wait. I have been through the good, the bad and the ugly. But I've never lost hope. - Paul, Parsonsburg

There is a difference between being negative and being realistic. After 10 years of losing seasons, I think it's fair to be realistic. Sports writers should not be homers, rooting on the home team and ignoring its flaws any more than political writers or columnists should root on the people they cover. I will be thrilled to praise the Orioles when it's warranted. As for Mr. McNally, you might find it interesting to know that my father played against him in Little League growing up in Billings. So I'm well aware of his Montana roots.

How far will I stand by this team? Will I be there to the very end?

Of course I will. We are in a rebuilding phase and have enough young talent now to contend in a few years. That is the goal of rebuilding. To stop being a fan now is to quit on your team when they need you the most. So how long will I stay with this team? Forever. Because that's what true fans do. Non-true fans write articles such as yours. There is no excuse to ask people to quit on this team. If they want to, they will without your egging it on.

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I hope your blog fails. - Jason Capri

Jason, I think 2002 just called. It wants your rebuilding speech back. I think it's wonderful that you will stick with the team through good times and bad. I just think you deserve better than the product you've been getting. My mom will be very disappointed to hear that you hope my blog fails.

Thanks for all the great e-mails. Sorry I wasn't able print all of them. There are a ton of passionate fans out there, and agree or disagree, they deserve to be heard. I did read every one of them. We'll try to do this again later in the week or next week.

Cheers,

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