Being a fan of sports teams can be a lot of fun, but let’s face it, sometimes it really sucks. You get so invested in something - like, say, the success of the Orioles - over which you have no direct control whatsoever, and when you get down to it, only one team can win a championship every year. There is a lot of potential for heartbreak.
Last week, I asked people to search back into their memory for their first Orioles memory. Most of these were happy memories. This week, I’d like to hear about the other side of the coin:
When was the first time the Orioles broke your heart?
If you’re around my age, the same event will probably pop up, but I’d still love to hear your version of the story because we all experienced it a little differently.
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Maybe your bad memory has nothing to do with the playoffs at all. Maybe Sidney Ponson ruined your special birthday at Camden Yards some time in the dark years by pitching horribly. Maybe it was broken when you were a kid and you couldn’t get an autograph.
As for me, well, the first time the Orioles broke my heart, it wasn’t even the Orioles that broke my heart so much as it was an idiot kid, an idiot umpire, and a lack of modern video replay technology. Yes, I’m talking about the Jeffrey Maier incident in the 1996 ALCS.
For a kid who was 12, who had grown up as an Orioles fan but never really been conscious of a good Orioles team before 1996, on account of their not making the postseason yet in my lifetime up to that point, it was the first time I was ever super emotionally invested.
The wider world is just starting to get confusing when you’re that age, and there’s little more confusing than an obviously unjust, against-the-rules outcome in a baseball game that the rules do not allow to be fixed. I will go to my grave believing that, if Maier didn’t interfere with that ball, the Orioles would have won the 1996 World Series.
Instead, what happened is what happened. It’s been 20 years and I’ll probably never get over it. You never forget your first heartbreak.