What Baltimore Is


Item: Baltimore is the metropolitan area whose residents' values most closely match those of Americans as a whole, although it is also the most overlooked product test site in the nation, American Demographics magazine says.

Item: The Baltimore CFL's are about to embark on their first season in the Canadian Football League.

Two disparate pieces of news? No. They both emanate from the fact that this is a rock-ribbed, unpretentious place and that its strength remains a secret to much of the U.S. It is the reason that the city ranked first in the magazine's study on American values and dead last for test market sites. It is also a reason that the town finds itself cheering the up-and-coming CFL instead of the National Football League.

Maryland native Jim Speros saw an opening to bring Canadian football to Baltimore while the city was being jerked around by the NFL. Though you cannot discount the great impact that personalities played in the NFL's rejection of Baltimore -- namely NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke -- the NFL owners as a whole didn't seem to grasp what Baltimore has become.

It all could work out fine: Baltimore may learn to love the kind of football played north of the border and Orioles' owner Peter Angelos may yet lure the NFL's Los Angeles Rams to relocate here. But the pigskin pursuit of the last few years has left such a bitter taste because it has been an exercise in convincing others what we already know: This is a great place. In the muscled torso of a city pumps a small town's heart. Baltimore embraces the Orioles (and perhaps someday the CFL) with the passion of a Texas prairie town rallying around its high school football team on a Friday night.

Baltimore isn't Washington's stepchild. It can't be viewed through the opaque prism of the '68 riots or its smokestack past. It's a reborn metropolis with immense tourist appeal and strong suburban growth that needs only a concentrated emphasis on revitalizing the inner city.

The American Demographics study said that Baltimore comes closest to matching the make-up of the American psyche -- and a closer look at the profile "clusters" only verifies what we already believed. The largest groups of U.S. households fall into three categories: "Believers," older folks who don't have grand educations but who have strong values and habits; "strugglers," lower-income households who use coupons and read supermarket tabloids, and "strivers," younger blue-collar workers who are image conscious and TV-lovers. Sounds like the Baltimore we know and love.

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