In my final print column of 2016, I introduced a hashtag (#In2017CanWe...) and offered Baltimore sports wishes for the coming year. Looking back on it, I didn't get my way.
Among my hopes for 2017 were: that we'd stop complaining about attendance at games; Baltimore would get high-level pro soccer back; get more live national sports broadcasts on local radio; honor Terps basketball legend Adrian Branch in the Xfinity Center rafters; embrace Baltimore's new Arena Football League franchise; see the Ravens develop an impact receiver; have the Orioles extend third baseman Manny Machado's contract long-term; see the UFC return to Baltimore, and take steps toward a new arena and revitalization of Pimlico Race Course.
It really wasn't my year. Although I did also hope to see Maryland snap its 42-year lacrosse national championship funk, so I guess one out of a million ain't bad.
Let's try it again. The hashtag is #In2018CanWe... It can't be as bad as last year.
#In2018CanWe... get at least one of the five greater Baltimore men's basketball teams back in the NCAA Tournament?
It seems incredible that of the five Division I men's teams in Baltimore, none have made the tournament since 2012 (Loyola). Towson hasn't gone dancing since 1991 but has perhaps the best chance of any of the five to reach March Madness this season. (Morgan State also has a better-than-decent chance, while UMBC is pretty good in a tough America East conference.)
It's always nice to have Maryland go dancing, but there's something really wonderful about watching alums and fans of the local schools embracing teams they may not have otherwise been paying attention to for years. (Although shame on you, because college basketball is one of the great treasures in the Baltimore sports landscape and these teams deserve more support in general.) How wonderful would it be for Morgan State to have a shot at knocking out Duke in the first round of the Big Dance? We can only dream.
#In2018CanWe... see some sort of direction from the Orioles at all?
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has argued against a full rebuild of the team by stating that such overhauls aren't “very much fun.” To some extent, he's right. There's nothing pleasant about trading away talent and signing up for losing seasons. At least not immediately.
But we've really gotten smarter as sports fans in recent years. Thanks to examples such as the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, we know that rebuilding is often the absolute best possible way to go about building a championship caliber team. And if the Orioles aren't going to spend the big money necessary to win a World Series, it might be their only hope. Many Philadelphia 76ers fans (albeit a different sport) have thoroughly enjoyed #TheProcess. Perhaps in Baltimore we might actually love #BirdSeeding or something like that, too.
The point is that we just want to see some sort of direction here. With Duquette and manager Buck Showalter's contracts about to be up, where is this franchise headed? Whatever the direction is, we'd just like to see it.
#In2018CanWe... feel a bit more of a “touch” from the Ravens?
This is a tough one because I don't think this issue is necessarily unique to the Ravens ... or to football ... or to Baltimore necessarily. But as we saw more empty seats in the stands at M&T Bank Stadium this year, I couldn't help but wonder if there was a bigger “touch” issue for the Ravens.
On a given day, where can a Ravens fan go to celebrate or embrace their fandom that has an actual feel from the team? Certainly the Ravens would tell you that their website, mobile app and social media platforms handle just that. And to some extent they'd be right.
But there's no brick-and-mortar options. You can't go to an official Ravens restaurant or pub for dinner. You can't stop by an official team store (unless you're at the stadium for an event). It's almost impossible to know where to find Ravens television programming at this point, and their flagship radio stations are: A. a conservative talk station that turns off half of the market and barely talks about the Ravens; and B. a rock and roll station that also barely talks about the Ravens.
So where does a Ravens fan turn to embrace their fandom in Baltimore? It would be nice to see this out more in 2018.
Also, let's roll over all of the stuff that I wanted but didn't get in 2017. A man can be greedy.