In Baltimore, the business of sports is booming

Nine of the richest individuals in the United States live in Maryland, according to Forbes.

Two of them do business in Baltimore, and quite prominently so (sometimes together): Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.

There’s a third man who is, at the very least, on the cusp of being a billionaire if he is not already. Peter Angelos, owner of one of Baltimore’s most prominent law firms and its baseball team, has shrewdly built his fortune for decades. No move figures to net him more gain that his insistence on owning a majority share of MASN, the television network that shows both Orioles and Nationals games. The team is worth about $450 million, according to most estimates. The network is worth more.

That three of this city’s wealthiest and most powerful men work in sports partially explains why The Baltimore Sun decided to bring back the business of sports beat. But there’s also an IndyCar race that runs through downtown, and a swimmer named Michael Phelps whose future outside the pool will be of interest to the people in this city for decades to come.

Gambling has swept through the state. And with a casino coming to downtown Baltimore and the coming introduction of table games, it is only going to grow. That’s part of this beat, too.

So is horse racing, or at least the business side of it. Maryland has a long history in the sport of kings, one that has been endangered in recent years by track owners struggling to keep up with nearby states whose racing operations are subsidized by casino money. Now Maryland has a chance to again emerge as a top state for horse racing, but it must overcome in-fighting to come up with a cohesive plan that benefits track owners and horsemen alike.

Sports pervades life in Baltimore and the surrounding area. You'll see Orioles hats in Towson and Essex, Ravens jerseys in Fed Hill and Carroll County (and Terps football gear safely stored in people's closets until next year). Businesses scramble to be affiliated with success -- like the dentist office that reached a deal with the Ravens -- or to capitalize on the ways our hearts and wallets are influenced by wins -- as was the case when the Orioles made their run.

Already I've written about a Loyola professor who helps the Orioles decide how to build their team, the money Towson received for traveling to play football in one of the toughest places in America, the way Under Armour is trying to influence young basketball players and win the marketing war, the Grand Prix of Baltimore's future and how Michael Phelps might spend his retirement.

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