- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2014


Boys and girls, it’s getting serious between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles, who come to Nationals Park Monday for one leftover Battle of the Beltways contest.

They may not be in same league, or the players may not feel the passion of it.

But it’s real in the stands and the corporate offices, where fans count up the opposing team’s jerseys to declare their superiority, and now, in the board rooms, where the two owners are in a war over their cuts of the television revenue from MASN, the regional sports network that was created in the deal with the devil to allow Major League Baseball return to Washington.

MASN was created by baseball commissioner Bud Selig to keep Orioles owner Peter Angelos out of court when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington. It was his payoff. Whether he deserved it or not, baseball did not want to go to war with Angelos and wind up having him exhume the bodies of past commissioners for DNA evidence as part of discovery in any lawsuit.

Now, not only is he faced with the very thing he feared — the Law Offices of Peter Angelos dragging the secret business secrets of the game — in a fight over the cut of the MASN revenue the Nationals receive, but the other side, the Nationals owners, can be as brutal and petty as the Orioles owner is.

The Lerners are no lightweights. They won’t flinch at a courtroom battle with Angelos.

It’s getting bitter. It’s getting ugly. It’s time to take sides.

David Simon the best storyteller in America is a friend and former colleague of mine who produced the best show television has ever seen in “The Wire.” I owe David because he found a small moment for me in the final season in a newsroom scene that recreated the Baltimore Sun, where we had worked together. It was two seconds, but it was two damn good seconds. The episode aired six years ago, yet last week a maintenance worker at my apartment complex stopped me and asked, “Did I see you in The Wire?”

Simon wrote an essay recently for Sports Illustrated essentially about the pain and pleasure of being a Baltimore Orioles fan, as the team seems to have climbed out of the grave that Angelos dug for the franchise, having made the playoffs as a wild card two years ago and now lead the American League East.

“Remember: Anything that can happen in an infinite and expanding universe eventually will,” Simon wrote. “And despite some long years wandering amid the deep-space weight of baseball dark matter, Baltimore has now crawled from its black hole.

“I’m a scribbler by trade,” he wrote. “And like all the other scribblers, I know it’s as tempting to assert for a narrative of tragedy as to exalt in glory. Either outcome is food and fuel for poets, who can throw meter at men in the thrush of righteous victory or, even easier, at those bravely facing inevitable doom. We want it all to Mean Something.”

Wandering amid the deep-space weight of baseball dark matter? A narrative of tragedy?

You want dark matter? You want tragedy? How about having your childhood team ripped right out of your grasp and moved to some backwater Dallas suburb called Arlington, Texas? How about being abandoned for 33 years?

Simon’s roots — his deep baseball roots — are with Eddie Brinkman, Dick Bosman and Mike Epstein. He has told me about falling in love with baseball as a Senators fan — and hating the Baltimore Orioles, like so many Washington Senators fans did.

But he, like so many other Washington baseball fans left by the game on a deserted island, eventually turned somewhere else for baseball companionship — like Tom Hanks in “Castaway.” The Orioles became their version of Hanks’ volleyball. The Orioles became their “Wilson.”

“Wilson” provided great companionship. The Orioles won, went to the playoffs, and actually won a World Series during that period of Washington baseball abandonment. But then came the baseball “dark matter,” when Angelos was handed the keys to a Cadillac and turned it into a Demolition Derby clunker.

Meanwhile, baseball came back to Washington. And if you really want the reward of the pain where your baseball identity was born as a child, rooting against all odds as a Senators fan, the time is now. The Washington Nationals are what you dreamed about, what you yearned for as a child.

For David Simon and other Washington fans who clung to the Orioles to keep baseball alive in their soul, you’ve been rescued. It’s time to recognize that, and enjoy the payoff that awaits you the payoff you’ll never really find in Baltimore.

It’s time to come home.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.



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