GBC’s Fry: Community spirit and sports

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

The baseball season is over and the Orioles aren’t playing in the postseason. Disappointing, of course.

But what’s even more disappointing to me is when local media commentators suggest to their readers and listeners — usually around this time of year — the notion that Baltimore’s baseball fans should boycott Orioles games next year and leave seats in Camden Yards empty until the Orioles field a winning team.

To local sports fans who buy into this … think it through.

First, Baltimore fans already tried the “boycott” idea. Remember the 1983 Baltimore Colts, who became the 1984 Indianapolis Colts?

This is not to imply that the Orioles are going anywhere. They aren’t. They have local ownership that is strongly committed to Major League Baseball in Baltimore. Actually, that fact alone is probably reason enough to support the team through thick and thin.

But there’s a bigger reason to support not only the Orioles, but all of the local major-league and collegiate teams in the Baltimore region.

When support for teams in a region dwindles, for whatever reason, others around the country notice. Who watches levels of fan support in a market region? People who are considering bringing major sports events, or even other professional teams, to our region.

Sports events are big business. They help keep Baltimore and other cities on the map, bringing visibility, visitors and revenue and adding to our quality of life. The Baltimore region has the capacity to become the venue for many more big-time sports events such as the Army-Navy game and other major entertainment events. But there’s a critical prerequisite. We must continue to demonstrate that we are a superior sports town — that our community gets the big picture about supporting sports.

It’s not just about the Orioles — or any other single team. It’s about our community and the image we project as a sports market to the rest of the country. As a community, we must show ourselves to be “winners” not “whiners.”

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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