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Orioles magic

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Right now in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., my beloved Baltimore Orioles are beginning Spring Training.

Most fans see this time as one where every team has a chance to win because, until Opening Day, every team is in first place. Even Cubs closer Ryan Dempster thinks that the “loveable losers” will win the World Series – and some Cubbies fans even believe him.

I have my own bold prediction to make for the 2008 season: The Orioles will suck.

Baltimore’s young talent is still a few years away from developing – if it ever does – and its “veteran leadership” consists solely of Kevin Millar. The O’s have no pitching (rotation or bullpen), no solid cleanup hitter and a few glaring holes on defense.

(One quick note on Millar, who many people call a “great clubhouse guy.” All that means is that he can’t hit, can’t catch and can’t run, but, boy, he sure is funny.)

Saying the Orioles will be terrible is not a novel notion this year, just as it has not been any of the last 10 seasons. The real reason I am writing this is because this annual 162-game suck-fest has influenced my development at least as much as anything else in my lifetime.

I still pine for the Orioles to succeed every year, anticipating each game with youthful exuberance. I love to see the O’s play at Camden Yards, going as often as possible, but often brood silently as I watch them miserably founder.

But how the Birds have scorned me. Incompetent ownership, absurd free agent signings and overall poor play have crushed my spirit, leaving me a bitter, jaded fan. The on-the-field failures of my other favorite teams this season – Irish football and the Baltimore Ravens – I can look past; there is hope on the horizon for both and I can see it.

Not for the Orioles.

It seems as though they get some sadistic pleasure in losing, and they enjoy passing their pain onto their slowly dwindling loyal fan base. They tease fans with early successes, bringing the naysayers and fair-weather fans back into the fold before ruthlessly tearing them down after the All-Star Break – if not sooner.

And yet I continue to support them.

Maybe it’s stupid or crazy to keep cheering for them now, but for as long as I can remember, I have supported the Orioles; baseball and the O’s was not a part of my youth, they helped defined it.

Like I often tell my girlfriend, even though I love her, the Orioles will always be my first true love, the kind you can never let go – no matter how hard you try.