Six days from now we’ll do “Free The Birds”: Where will you be?

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The time has come to be heard. Over the past four years I can’t begin to even estimate how many people have yelled a simple phrase at me on the streets of Baltimore: “FREE THE BIRDS!”

It’s nice to know that a movement that I felt was rooted in peace, baseball, community and the future of downtown could take hold and that so many people thought it was a great thing and wanted to participate, even if it’s just buying a shirt and wearing it to the mall or screaming “FREE THE BIRDS” at me out their windows on city streets.

Join our Facebook “Free The Birds” fan page here…

Join our Facebook “I’m coming to FREE THE BIRDS 2010” event page here…

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But civic politics are a funny and strange business and it’s taken me into my forties to realize there are two kinds of people in the world when you’re outspoken: those for you and those against you. And most days, you feel like you only hear from those against you.

Honestly, four years ago I thought this: “Who in the WORLD could possibly believe that Peter Angelos has done a good job with the Orioles since 1997? There won’t be 10 people in the city – outside of family and apple-shining employees – who could possibly defend nine years of awfulness in every measurable category of what you’d want from a local sports franchise owner/steward?

The answer was summed up by what my Pop told me when I was a little boy: “There’s a sucker born every minute…”

And he was right. Just writing this blog – writing from the bottom of my heart as a native Baltimorean who loves the Orioles and this city and has dedicated literally every breathing moment of my existence since 1972 as a lover of all things Baltimore – will cause many people to write nasty lies about me on the internet in regard to Free The Birds and what we’re planning over the next week.

And if I cared about such things, I wouldn’t be the person I am…

As I wrote four years ago when I did a 19 chapter book on my love of the Orioles and my father’s love of baseball, courage isn’t tough when you believe in your cause.

It’s been four years since the first Free The Birds rally and I still know I’m right and have been right all along. I know 13 years of losing can only be traced to one man: Peter G. Angelos. And if Baltimore baseball is ever going to change permanently for the better, Angelos can’t be involved with the franchise.

It’s like the city has contracted a 12-year cancer of losing, loss of morale and pride and interest. And just when you think it can’t get any worse, this year it has.

The toxicity of his ownership, demeanor and treatment of players, fans and sponsors alike has made Baltimore a bad place to play, be a fan or be a civic supporter of the Orioles.

Sadly, the pride for Baltimore baseball is in hibernation but in my mind not extinguished.

I see it on Opening Day every year. I saw it on that hillside in Cooperstown three years ago when Cal Ripken was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I see it every time the Ravens take over the city with a swath of purple each fall and through the holidays.

Baltimore loves sports. Baltimore is a proud city. Baltimore is, at heart, still very much a baseball city that is dormant because Peter Angelos bought the team in 1993 and proceeded to wreck the franchise.

But as I wrote four years ago, I have no personal axe to grind with Angelos other to make him realize he’s the problem.

And there’s no agenda here other than to fix the baseball team for region and to continue to pressure, protest and make this family and this ownership group accountable for the continued murder of a three-generations long baseball heritage in Baltimore.

So, it’s in the spirit of community that I’m putting together an event on the evening of May 17th that I hope you’ll attend.

I sat at the Towsontown Spring Festival for two days last weekend selling “Free The Birds” T-shirts. I heard from hundreds of people from all kinds of walks of life over the weekend and many of the things that I heard said about Peter Angelos even made me blush.

Our Free The Birds 2010 is NOT an event to simply “bitch about Angelos” or “wear a bag over your head.”

I want this event to be a night for freedom of expression.

If you want to carry “pro-Cal Ripken” signs, bring ‘em.

If you want to wear a “Free The Birds” T-shirt, wear it.

If you want to applaud this lousy ownership for 13 years of lying, ineptitude and shameless profiteering off of the awfulness of this franchise and its greedy TV revenue roots, feel free to do that too.

This isn’t about me or WNST or Peter Angelos. This is really about the city of Baltimore and it’s God-given right to love its baseball team and identify and be proud of what Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray stood for in our community.

There will be plenty of room for everyone at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Monday, May 17th. Trust me, without us they would’ve announced the crowd at 11,000 when there wouldn’t be 7,000 in the seats.

Perhaps with us, they’ll actually have 10,000 in the ballpark and pad their greedy pockets with our $8 donations to the Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz arbitration funds for 2014.

But this evening on Monday, May 17th will REALLY be about the downtown business community, which has been crippled by Angelos’ ugly reign as the czar of Baltimore baseball. The civic abandonment of the Orioles over the last decade hasn’t hurt Angelos’ pockets at all – he’s making $40 million in profit this year thanks to the existence of the Washington Nationals and the obscene profits accrued via MASN.

But the downtown Baltimore restaurants, bars, hotels and other vendors and their employees have lost millions and millions of dollars of necessary revenue while the baseball team has spent the last 13 years losing and rendering the franchise irrelevant to all but the orange Kool Aid drinkers who apparently have no depth for the amount of abuse they’ll take from the Angelos ownership group.

Angelos, his sons and employees ban all legitimate questions and they lock out legitimate journalists who would dare criticize or bring to light the losing and the lack of civic pride associated with the franchise that has the audacity to put “Baltimore” on the crests of its jersey.

The owner never has any accountability for the losses. And the team has no sense of community spirit – and if you were downtown at any point last week and had to fight your way through a sea of Yankees and Red Sox fans to get to your seats for the 10th consecutive season at Camden Yards you know what I mean.

The team hasn’t played a meaningful baseball game since 1997. Instead of apologizing to the city and changing the way they do business, Angelos continues to keep even the likes of Cal Ripken at bay from the organization.

Nothing has fundamentally changed about the message the Orioles have sent. Angelos is in charge and if you don’t like it — well, then, you’re not a “real Orioles” fan (whatever that means…).

They’ve pocketed nearly $100 million of profit since the last “Free The Birds” event in 2006. That unto itself, is a borderline civic criminal act.

For me to list the many sins and transgressions of this horrendous group of profiteering thugs, would be redundant. If at this point you’re still one of the orange Kool Aid drinkers, apologists or one of the “deep thinkers” who say “it’s the players fault the team stinks” or “fire Dave Trembley, he’s the problem” – this event on May 17th probably isn’t for you.

But, in our spirit of community, YOU’RE INVITED TOO, because you want the Orioles to succeed and become relevant again!

But May 17th is really for the rest of us who believe what’s happened here in the city with the baseball team has been nothing short of a civic crime against the community.

The event is planned. Just buy the cheapest ticket you can find. With Facebook and Twitter, organizing events on short notice is pretty easy. Quite frankly, I’m hoping we get enough people downtown to make a difference and be heard but I’m openly skeptical of how many people still care enough to show up.

There will be pre-game revelry and festivities and a mini-pub crawl to commemorate the event. I’ll be announcing some more plans as we get closer to May 17th.

Ravens fans have coined the term “Festivus” for the playoff season each December and January. But, if you’ve done any real research on “Festivus,” you know it’s a Seinfeld reference that actually is defined by Kramer and George Costanza as the “airing of the grievances.”

So, May 17th is a “Festivus for the rest of us” indeed.

I think it’s high-time for an “airing of the grievances” with Peter Angelos once again here in 2010. It’s a night for the fans to turn in a “report card” to Mr. A.

The fans here have a REAL grievance against the owner of the team and the state of the franchise and the damage that’s been done here.

I’ll be releasing more details for pre-game festivities before the event.

For now, try to score a ticket to the game in the upper deck – the cheaper the better if you’re buying tickets – and meet us at Phillips Harborplace at 4 p.m. on Monday, May 17th.

We’re going to drop by a few local watering holes, eat some free and discounted food and leave some tip money behind for some local businesses who’ve struggled since 1997 on otherwise-empty Orioles game nights.

The Orioles will do their best to pretend that disgruntled fans don’t exist or don’t matter. It’s almost laughable how empty the stadium is and how foolish Greg Bader sounds every time he addresses the fan base and talks about how happy Orioles fans are with all of their profiteering policies.

So far this year, they’ve raised ticket prices for the walk-up fan and they’ve eliminated their “scalp free” zone.

So, whatever you do, PLEASE buy your tickets ahead of time so these crooks don’t sting you for another $2-$5 at the gate to see the lousy Royals take on the lousier Orioles.

We’ll do what we did last time – except we’re not leaving early. We’re NOT walking out! If anything, we should arrive late so everyone can see the difference between an empty stadium where everyone is sleepwalking through another horrendous season of Orioles baseball and the life an energized fan base would bring to downtown on summer nights.

I hope we can bring a spirited, peaceful crowd inside the stadium and have our message delivered personally.

We want change.

We deserve change.

Once again, Free The Birds means that what Peter Angelos has done to the Orioles and to the city of Baltimore should be fundamentally unacceptable to our citizens.

I hope to have a beer with you and enjoy a ballgame on May 17th.

If you’re joining us, simply join our event page on Facebook here and join our Facebook group page here and meet us downtown next Monday. And bring a friend or two you would normally call to go to a ballgame. Or friends you USED to call 10 years ago when the Orioles were fun and having tickets to the game felt more like a treat than a burden.

It’s another “meaningless” baseball game in May in Baltimore.

The fans of the REAL Baltimore Orioles can add meaning to this game by coming and being heard.

More details will be coming over the next week…

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