This is why communities spend millions of dollars building ballparks they can barely afford. It’s why they spend years hungering for brand new teams after the old ones are stolen away.
Ravens 59, Dolphins 10.
Sunday’s victory felt like a flash of sunlight for a city yearning to come out of the darkness. It’s more than Lamar Jackson’s precision passing, or Mark Ingram’s slashing runs, or Marquis Brown and Mark Andrews leaving all those pass defenders in the dust.
It’s the reminder that there’s more to Baltimore than the daily homicide count and the political grubbiness and the sights of sheer municipal decay.
It’s only a game they’re playing, and yet those guys in the Baltimore uniforms remind us that we’re not alone. Thousands of us are rooting for the same stuff at the same time. Even in the isolation of our living rooms, we can feel it in our bones.
We need each other’s company. We crave shared experience. We need reminders that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.
That’s what sports give us – but not only sports.
At the same time the Ravens were beating the Dolphins, a wonderful crowd gathered in the city’s Little Italy. Don’t tell me people are afraid to come downtown. Let them come to Little Italy.
The crowds were there for three days, by the thousands, for the fifth annual Madonnari Arts Festival, that marvelous collection of chalk paintings on the streets of the old neighborhood.
And there was live music, and outdoor eating, and places for children to do their own artwork. And some speeches, too. Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young was there and WJZ’s Denise Koch with some words reminding everybody of the city’s great diversity.
We need reminders that we’re not alone.
The city’s going through a tough time, but we’ve gone through tough times before. At the Little Italy gathering, a few of us remembered another tough time, in the years after the ’68 riots, and the City Fair gatherings that helped bring us out of awful psychological shadows.
You can’t have a gathering downtown, the naysayers told us back then. We’ll have riots, we’ll have violence. At that time in the city, you never saw people downtown after dark. That’s what drove the basketball Bullets out of town, never to return, leaving us with long winter nights and no municipal gatherings to bind us.
But those Baltimore City Fairs helped bring a frightened city back to life for what we then called the first modern Baltimore Renaissance. They were showcases for city neighborhoods and institutions and ethnic traditions.
They helped spawn years of even more ethnic festivals, summer after summer. Whatever happened to those great gatherings?
They reminded us – we’re not alone. We need to bring them back again.
We live in the same metropolitan area, which means we have needs and desires in common. And rooting interests, such as those Ravens.
It’s not just the final score. It’s the beating of the collective heart. We’re a community trying to find that heart, which has been muted for too long.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).