As a college student majoring in Sport Management at a school in New York, much of my day is spent around fast-talking, highly opinionated, city raised sports fans. Classes are often led by discussions based primarily around New York sports teams, and the looks I get while strolling into class in a black, orange, and white cartoon bird ball cap are less than enthused. However, recently, while studying what makes sports in America so successful, the subject of heroism and unforgettable moments came up. As students who are also crazed sports fans, we were asked to come up with a person or moment in our life as fans that exemplified our love for our team.
After being forced to hear story after story of Jeter's backhanded flip to nab Giambi at the plate, or of Eli Manning escaping pressure and heaving the ball downfield for David Tyree's miraculous "helmet catch" to lead the Giants to Super Bowl glory, my turn arrived to profess the moment in my life as an Orioles fan that gave me the most satisfaction.
Now, I'm sure that many of the people who spend their time on this blog and have been Orioles fans longer than I have been alive can recall moments of Orioles playoff glory that are similar to these Yankee and Giant stories, however as a young man who has spent the majority of his life rooting like hell for a losing team in a region dominated by fans of the Evil Empire, I could not dream of coming up with a single moment that would stack up to anything that had been shared. When I think back to the moments of my childhood watching the Orioles, names like Sidney Ponson, Jay Gibbons, and Geronimo Gil pop up in my head (Not exaxtly "heroic" figures).
What I came to realize was, there was no single moment or figure as an Orioles fan that had defined my love for the team. No season-changing play or heartwarming story that confirmed my unconditional support for a group that I had never seen triumph on the biggest stage. I realized that, the moment that propels my love for this team does not come in the pressure packed grand-scale atmosphere of the playoffs. In fact, my moment is quite the opposite.
My moment comes annually, around this exact time. After the doldrums of winter and the typical let down amongst most fans over the lack of blockbuster moves to improve our team. After the press conferences at Yankee stadium introducing the newest flashy toy. After all of the season previews, projections, and rankings. After all of this, which, for the duration of my time as an Oriole fan, has been mainly negative, comes hope.
The hope and optimism of a new year of opportunity is what makes being an Orioles fan great. As O's fans, we have had our opportunities to jump ship and abandon the yearly disappointment watching our beloved ball club fall short of October dreams. Watching the Nationals form into championship contenders just miles away and grab national attention has not been easy to say the least. Watching our brass fail to address perceived needs in the offseason is exponentially more frustrating for many of us. But the fact remains, no matter how many games were lost the season prior, or how many bidding wars were lost in the few months prior, when February rolls around and Spring Training arrives, that hope is there. For me, this is the moment that defines my support. My hero is not so much a player, but a feeling. The feeling of hope. And it's the most reliable, undeniable hero there ever could be.