Camden Yards comes to life in October
Oct. 8, 2012
I'm now on a personal, two-game playoff losing streak with the Orioles that stretches over 15 years. I attended Game 6 of the 1997 American League Championship Series, a 1-0 extra-innings loss to the Cleveland Indians that extinguished the Orioles' World Series aspirations, and I returned to Camden Yards for playoff baseball Sunday night and watched the Yankees spoil the team's return to the postseason with a five-run ninth inning in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. So, yeah, closers make me nervous.
The home crowd is integral to the October baseball experience. This already evident point was reinforced several minutes prior to Sunday's first pitch when the public address announcer instructed fans to cheer and wave the orange rally towels they received upon entering the stadium because the TBS broadcast was going live. "Seven Nation Army" boomed through Camden Yards, the Bird darted across the infield with an Orioles flag and the crowd willfully assumed its role in the made-for-TV theatrics.
Sure, there was a great deal of artifice involved in creating the instantly raucous scene, but the payoff was the experience, once more, of uninhibited enthusiasm for the hometown team. The moment was artificial, but the enthusiasm was not. And the tenor soon changed.
Complicit in the myth making prior to the initation of the game, fans periodically poked the sport's romanticism in the eye once the competition started, taunting players and at times even the sport that had taunted them for more than two decades.
Sunday evening represented not only an opportunity for fans to reward their beloved birds for a season of surprises, but also served as an exercise in collective catharsis following 14 years of losing. What better opponent than the Yankees - an extended exercise in sports mythologizing - as the locals attempted to purge more than a decade of negative emotions? And what better opponent to stifle a complete catharsis, at least for the time being.
With ALDS Game One in the books, the frustration endures, but so too does the passion in all its forms.