Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/22/11

First off some housekeeping; the Baltimore Orioles signed former first round draft pick Matt Antonelli last week. Antonelli came up within the San Diego Padres organization, and was in essence considered a bust when he only hit .215. However the Orioles must have liked what they saw in 2011 when Antonelli hit .297 with Washington’s triple-A club. Antonelli is primarily an infielder, but he can platoon in the outfield as well. He’s expected to compete for a job in spring training, and could be a valuable asset if Brian Roberts and/or Chris Davis continue to have injury problems.

As we know all too well in Baltimore, opposing fans love to travel to see their team on the road. However are they really traveling? Some of them are for sure, however in the last ten years or so I’ve also noticed more and more people growing up and “choosing” out-of-town teams for whom to root. I was a kid in the 1980′s; the Soviets were in a malaise, the term cowbell meant nothing, and the Orioles were the only team in town. In theory they’re still the only team in town, however there’s one big wild card: satellite television. Up until the mid-1990′s you really only had the option of watching one team on a nightly basis. As the 1990′s went on satellite television became more and more popular, until packages such as MLB Extra Innings exploded in the early 2000′s. (Extra Innings and NFL Sunday Ticket came into existance in the 1990′s, however they didn’t become really big until later; now most cable companies offer them as well.)

In the past you were an Oriole fan in this area first and foremost because they were the Baltimore Orioles. However the fact that they were on television everyday and they were the only team on television everyday made a difference. Aside from ESPN’s Sunday Night game, the O’s were the only team you could consistantly see. Even in down years (which the past 14 seasons have been), you still watched the O’s because they were the only team being shown. But now with the Extra Innings package, that’s no longer the case. For a mere $300 plus a year, you can literally watch every game in the league. Some might say, how is that a bad thing? It’s not a bad thing per se, however I think it does affect what used to be called home-field advantage to a point.

Certainly if you grew up in the Baltimore area rooting for the O’s and now you live elsewhere due to work or some other reason, this is a great program for you because you can see the O’s on a nightly basis. More people move into this area than out of it. Again, put youselves back into the 1980′s or even further. If someone moved to this region from Boston, they wouldn’t be able to see the Red Sox everyday; only the O’s would be televised. Certainly they could go to the games when the BoSox came to town, but that’s about it. So while the parents might be BoSox fans, the kids might well have adopted the Birds as their team since they saw them everyday. Now none of that applies, as those people can watch their home team as easily as Oriole fans watch the O’s. Granted they still can’t see them in person as easily, however what’s the difference if you’re watching them on TV in Baltimore or Boston?

The other part of this is that growing up now is much different than growing up in previous eras. As a society I think that we put much more of an onus on instant gratification; translated, this in essence means winning. So you might ask what the problem with that could possibly be. In the past I think that fans were a bit more patient in terms of a rebuilding process with a team. Granted the O’s haven’t had a winning season in 14 years, however you catch my drift. Nowadays from year-to-year teams are able to turn their fortunes around almost overnight. In 1988 the O’s started out 0-21 and the season was over for all intents and purposes in the first three weeks. However given the fact that the Orioles were the only game in town, they didn’t lose too many fans. Nowadays, what kind of incentive do kids have to root, root, root for the home team if they aren’t winning? The O’s aren’t the only game in town given the fact that you have the option of watching the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Rangers, Braves, etc. on a nightly basis. 

Speaking for myself, the fact that they were the Baltimore Orioles always meant something to me. I’m proud to be from this region and that’s the one thing that satellite television can never replace. However whether or not that holds any weight with today’s young people remains to be seen. Obviously satellite television isn’t going anywhere, nor should it. This should give the O’s an incentive to improve themselves as best they can, lest the line between home white and road gray be dimmed even further.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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