Nightmare on O’s Street

Woebegone. Sad sack. Wretched. Willy Loman-like. Embarrassing. Hideous. Bag-over-your-head shame. These are some ways you could describe the 2010 Orioles in the first month of the season. Thanks to a 10-inning victory over the Red Sox last night (that they nearly blew anyway) they improved to 3 and 16. That’s a winning percentage of .158, by far the worst in the Majors.

And for longtime Orioles fans it’s reminiscent of 1988. That’s the year they began the season 0 and 21 — the worst start in Major League history. That year they fired Cal Ripken Sr. as manager six games into the season before reeling off another 15 losses in a row under Frank Robinson. I was a freshman at Tufts that spring and spent a tortured April being mercilessly harassed by my two roommates for my team’s general ineptitude. And it’s amazing Cal Ripken, Jr stuck with the team after they fired his father. Imagine how that must have felt?

When a friend of mine heard I would be starting seminary 13 years ago he told me, “That’s great! Now everything bad that ever happens to you can end up as a sermon illustration.” Thankfully for my parishioners I haven’t exactly followed that model of preaching (“This week I’ll share how my elevated cholesterol level relates to John’s gospel”).

But the life of faith does bring the entirety of our lives — our triumphs and disappointments — into the realm of the spiritual. And for me, the fortunes of the Orioles have always been a part of my identity. Granted it’s been mostly a downer in recent years. Oh, okay, they haven’t won the World Series in 28 years. I used to joke that as long as they win another championship before I die I’d be happy. That was 20 years ago. At this point, I think I’ll pass on the Eggs Benedict to keep that cholesterol level in check.

Perhaps the Birds can run off their first winning streak of the season tomorrow night by winning two in a row. That’s the hope-springs-eternal side of me. Unfortunately they begin a three game series with the hated World Champion New York Yankees. It doesn’t look good.

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