We won’t bother with a blow-by-blow account of the Baltimore Ravens’ unlikely victory against the favored Kansas City Chiefs in the home opener at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday night — we’ll leave that to the sports writers. But let’s just say it required extraordinary effort in the face of long odds, along with a bit of carefully considered daring. The choice not to punt on the fourth down in the waning minutes of play might have been supported by statistical analysis, but it certainly wasn’t in the better-safe-than-sorry tradition of National Football League coaching. In short: It took guts.
So let’s make a list. To win, you need talent and courage. And it doesn’t hurt to have thousands of people rooting for you, who care deeply about your success and are yelling about it at the top of their lungs. And speaking of fans, did you notice how happy and raucous the Ravens ticket holders turned out to be? This was the first fully attended home game since the COVID-19 pandemic crushed such events. They were not deterred by the ongoing threat of the delta variant, nor by fear of crime in Baltimore — not even after dark. They cheered. They danced. They screamed (and booed) appropriately. They sang. And they were ultimately rewarded for their faith in the home team.
Baltimore could use some of that enthusiasm outside the stadium. We sometimes forget that there is talent and drive and a strong sense of community in the city. There are serious obstacles, of course. Gun violence tops that list. Even as fans gathered at M&T Bank Stadium, there were other families gathering at hospital bedsides as at least nine people suffered gunshot wounds in multiple incidents in the city over the weekend. Concentrated poverty, systemic racism, substandard housing, failing schools — we’ve got those things, too. To grow up in certain city neighborhoods is to face some pretty long odds. But there are also reasons for hope and pride here.
Like any good game plan, a strategy is needed to succeed. Here are five of the city’s best plays for revival:
Location, location, location. Easily taken for granted is Baltimore’s proximity to Washington, D.C., and the Interstate-95 corridor to the Northeast. Yet it can make all the difference — and already has in some cases. Warehouses, distribution centers, logistics, the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Those giant cranes that cruised into the city this month? That’s the future calling.
An innovation economy. Baltimore is blessed to have a veritable army of experts in the life sciences and information technology, two booming sectors, thanks, in no small part, to the presence of leading researchers at both the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University. Job creation and entrepreneurship are the payoffs.
Investment in education. Underperforming city schools may grab the headlines lately, but the bigger picture is that there’s been a willingness to support K-12 public schools and higher education in this state. Efforts to keep tuition affordable have made Maryland a more desirable place to live. And the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future educational reform efforts are likely to do the same. Pre-pandemic, city school test scores were making headway under CEO Sonja Santelises. We need to prepare city residents for 21st century jobs.
Fixing a broken criminal justice system. Admittedly, it’s a work in progress, but the Baltimore Police Department appears to be making a good-faith effort to restore trust among residents in low-income, predominantly Black city neighborhoods. The emphasis should be on accountability and fairness, standards that serve any team (and especially its leadership) well.
Positive support. Put this final piece on the to-do list because sometimes it seems as if there are more Marylanders rooting against Baltimore’s comeback than for it. But if we’ve learned anything from successful city leaders of the past, it’s that it’s not enough to make the right decisions, it’s also about having everyone around you on board with them. Remember how Coach John Harbaugh sought his quarterback’s thoughts before he decided to go for a first down rather than punt? It made a difference.
Real life and pro football aren’t the same, of course. But to look across the stands Sunday night and watch thousands of men, women and children, young and old, of different races, religions and cultures, sitting shoulder to shoulder in common purpose and rooting for the home team? Well, maybe it’s not quite so great a stretch to see in them hope for Baltimore’s future, too.
Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.