Mark Viviano: Fans Sacked By Training Camp Move
On its surface, the Ravens’ decision to abandon Westminster as a pre-season training site is cause for outrage by fans. Thankfully, most fans are looking deeper than the surface and therefore tempering their reactions. In summary: the decision is a bummer, but it makes sense.
The disappointment is understandable. For 15 years Ravens fans flocked to Westminster on hot August mornings to get a coveted spot along the sidelines for an up-close look at practice and maybe even an autograph from a player. Many of those fans say the training camp experience was especially meaningful because they can’t afford the high price of tickets to see Ravens games at M&T Bank Stadium. The trips to training camp at McDaniel College quickly became a tradition for some fans and their families, and for some older fans there was the added connection that the Baltimore Colts once held their pre-sesaon practice sessions on those same fields.
Times change, circumstances change and plans change. The Colts are a memory in Baltimore- the team moved to Indianapolis in 1984. The Ravens are the newly-beloved NFL entity in town and their owner Steve Bisciotti built a magnificent 200,000 square foot, state-of-the-art training facility in Owings Mills. For practical reasons, “The Castle,” as it’s been nicknamed, is a better place to hold pre-season workouts. The location and its amenities are more convenient for the team and the facility allows for greater efficiency in preparing for the season (especially now that new NFL rules limit training camp practice times).
One thing that’s clear in fan reaction to the disappointing news is that the Ravens have certainly earned some goodwill amongst their customers. Fans are more willing to accept the bad news because they’ve grown to trust that the organization knows what’s best toward building a winning franchise. It’s something that Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome have proven by assembling a first-class franchise that’s become a perennial playoff contender. Had the Ravens not built up such a base of goodwill, fans would be more inclined to judge the decision as selfish and heartless. Need proof? Witness how after 14 losing seasons, EVERY decision the Orioles make is scoffed at by skeptical and distrusting fans. No, it’s not fair- but customers (fans) are demanding and they want what they want when they want it. What they want more than anything is a successful team to support. The Ravens are proof that winning makes life a whole lot easier, even when difficult decisions have to be made.