Baltimore’s tradition of fans shouting ‘O!’ during national anthem sparks interleague feud

David Brown
Big League Stew

Well, a disagreement has broken out, anyway. Between two sports writers. One (Mike Wise of the Washington Post) is against Baltimore Orioles fans shouting "O" during the national anthem to show team pride. The other (Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun) defends the practice.

But first, a word from my maternal grandfather. Were he still alive, Grampa would offer you at least three pieces of advice:

1. Always drive with your headlights on, for safety, no matter the time of day.

2. No matter what you need, you should be able to pick it up at "the hardware store."

3. When attending a sporting event and they play "The Star-Spangled Banner," either be silent or sing along — but silence is preferable. And he took this to the Nth degree. Grampa also discouraged clapping or cheering after the anthem because it wasn't meant to be received like a song one might hear on the radio or the iTunes. (It's a good thing he's not around to critique Chicago Blackhawks fans for cheering during the anthem, which he'd find incredibly disrespectful, no matter the opposite intention.)

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I've always had the good sense to take his advice on all three topics. (Although, the hardware store selling everything might have been wishful thinking on his part.) Not only because he was my Grampa and all that entails, nor simply because he landed at Normandy in France on D-Day during "WW II: The Big One," but also because it just seemed the right way. Forget patriotism. It was a matter of respect.

That said, I've never had a problem with O's fans shouting "O!" because it reminds me of Baltimore baseball. Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray. Rex Barney and Brooks Robinson. Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium. In case you haven't heard it:

... Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Orioles fans have been doing this since the 1970s, but Wise picked his preview column for the O's recent interleague, intra-region series at the Nationals to stir up some stuff. Both teams, usually looking up at the rest of their respective divisions, are contenders. Already among those sensitive to other invading fans co-opting Nationals Park, Wise complained that Baltimorians were trampling the national anthem and it was unsuitable sonic behavior in the nation's capital:

[T]here is a more basic Battle of the Beltways: It's the class and dignity of people who appreciate the national anthem as the last bastion of Americana we can all stand behind vs. the cretins who continue to ruin the song, many of whom are from Baltimore.

Wise presumably is half-kidding, at least in tone. He's playing a role, trying to push an emotional button. Schmuck counters:

The Nationals, meanwhile, dress up four employees like giant cartoonish mascots of our greatest presidents and make them participate in a "sausage race" during every home game. Where's the patriotic outrage?

Lots of hyperbolic outrage. Maybe not joking 100 percent, but tongue surely in cheek.

Except, people can get really upset about the national anthem. They get protective when Washington Capitals fan shout out "RED!" a little louder or when Kansas Citians scream "CHIEFS!" right before kickoff.

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People can become a little irrational, too. People such as my grandfather. To people like him, what Orioles fans have done, in a sense, is like taking the U.S. flag and made some lovely drawings on it. Maybe it looks nice to them. Maybe it's even art in some galleries. But it doesn't matter. It's been defaced.

Maybe it would be better if O's fans — at least when they're away from Camden Yards — kept their "O!"s to themselves as a matter of respect.

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