When bad things happen to good Orioles fans Playoff: As sometimes happens, high expectations can leave your dreams laid low.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

I'VE SEEN some nasty, terrible, horrible things in my life.

I've seen, just as an example, Jerry Lewis sing in person. I've seen Earl Weaver naked. I've seen Marty Bass do the Macarena.

But I've never seen anything to compare with this past weekend at Camden Yards.

We waited 13 years for this? We waited 13 years to see the Orioles humiliated by the, shudder, Yankees and, worse, the Yankees fans?

We've all had bad weekends. You may remember a few. There was the time you came home late on a Saturday night only to find the kids had held a "slight" party.

Or the time you realized, as you sat down to watch "Walker, Texas Ranger," your life had turned into a Sam Cooke song: It's another Saturday night and you ain't got nobody.

But now we have a new standard for lost weekends. Move over Ray Milland.

We now have Bobby Bonilla at the plate.

We now have Robbie Alomar and the ball between his legs.

We now have the Todd Zeile pump fake.

This is the danger, folks, of having your hometown team make it to the postseason. This is the danger of high expectations.

We learned a lesson this weekend. It's not easy being a fan whose whole life suddenly becomes hostage to the vagaries of the sporting world, where anything can happen and much of it is bad.

You watched the game. I watched the crowd, and not just that woman in the box seats Saturday night who -- wearing an orange T-shirt against the October chill -- danced the night away. The boys in the nearly all-male preserve that is the press box had the binoculars trained on her because, I'm guessing here, they were concerned she might catch cold.

I watched the crowd come in Friday with their "Spit Happens" T-shirts and go home wondering what happened to Mike Mussina.

I watched the crowd Saturday night, and it was like a scene out of "Saturday Night Fever," only with more dancing. The crowd came to party. And then Darryl Strawberry, who treats his body as if he were Keith Richards, shut the place down like he was a cop with an attitude. In fact, the night got so ugly, I saw the first fight I've ever noticed in Camden Yards not involving a cellular phone.

The next day it was Cecil Fielder, who treats his body as if he were Meat Loaf, to spoil the day. And then there was the unaccountable error by the wondrous Robbie Alomar, who showed that he can mess up without spitting.

The crowd was flat yesterday. People knew deep inside that the series was basically over. They needed something to get them going; instead, they got six Yankees runs in the third. And the rest of the afternoon was spent planning the best route home.

Even the Pavlovian monster that is the Orioles' Jumbotron -- Let's Make Some Noise -- couldn't get them going. Nothing did, until Bobby Bonilla finally hit his homer in the ninth.

At that point, you let yourself dream, didn't you? If Bonilla can get a hit, isn't anything possible?

That's always the way. The team is two runs down. Cal is up, and if he gets on, Ed-die becomes the would-be tying run. You could see it happen.

Which is why you're a fan.

In real life, Cal grounds out and nearly hurts himself sliding into first, vainly trying to beat the throw. The Yankees win. They win for the third time in a row at Camden Yards, where they've won every single game they've played this season. The Yankees win so convincingly that who can say they weren't the better team.

The town's hopes were so high. They were dashed on the rocks of despair, or was it on Bernie Williams' Louisville Slugger?

And then it really got ugly.

For much of the weekend, the Yankees fans who made it to Camden Yards had not shown themselves.

We saw them yesterday, particularly after the game, when they gathered around the Yankees dugout, some carrying brooms (as in sweep), other simply shouting, uh, slogans.

The Yankees were so confident of victory that George Steinbrenner didn't even bother to show. Maybe he was busy making an illegal campaign contribution.

Who knows what happened?

Who can explain it?

Even if you were there, you can't quite believe what you experienced. It's like being in a car wreck. You hear the metal crunching, but you believe all the while that it's somebody else's auto insurance that's going to be canceled.

Anyway, it's Monday. You know where your team is?

Yep. The season's over. And just when it was starting to get fun.

Pub Date: 10/14/96

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