The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are going to open the 2013 season on the road because the Baltimore Orioles, with whom the Ravens share a parking lot, have a homestand that weekend. New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, who was a Ravens coach from 1999 to 2008, a period that included the team's first Super Bowl win, is outraged by this fact. Here are his comments from a conference call tied to the release of the NFL schedules on Thursday:
"I understand the Orioles are playing a game at home. Well, who really cares? You've got 81 of them things at home and maybe you could've done the right thing and given one up and played 82 on the road and 80 at home. I really don't think people are going to care about that game. You have a chance to have the defending world champs open the season at home where they rightfully should. I think that's unfortunate. . . . The defending champion, in my opinion, should always open at home. They've earned that right. To think that something couldn't have been worked out, that's disappointing. If baseball had a 16-game schedule, you might understand it. But when they have 162 games, I think you might just, out of common courtesy, say, 'You know what, maybe I'll play this one on the road or whatever.'"
The Ravens and Orioles did explore alternatives that would allow the Ravens to open at home, including a baseball-football doubleheader or a Wednesday opener for the Ravens (who will now open on Thursday, Sept. 5 in Denver) while the Orioles are wrapping up a series in Cleveland. The logistics of the former proved untenable, and the latter was scrapped because Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
Ryan won't find a sympathetic ear around these parts. After all, the World Series champion Giants opened on the road this year, and I can't see why it matters where the Super Bowl champion plays its first game. It's not as opening on the road robs the Ravens of a home game. They'll still play eight in Baltimore. In fact, they'll be home the next two Sundays, against the Browns and Texans, and I doubt their fans will be any less enthusiastic to great their defending champions on Sept. 15 than they would have been on Sept. 5, even if Peyton Manning and the Broncos stomp them in Week 1 like they did when they met in Baltimore in Week 15 of last season (a 34-17 Broncos win). Ravens coach John Harbaugh already said, when this conflict first hit the newswire last month, that it didn't matter to the team where they played, that the home opener was more of a symbolic gesture for the fans.
By comparison, the revenue the Orioles would lose by playing a home game on the road, or even by moving Thursday's game into a doubleheader later that weekend, is both real and significant, never mind the travel logistics of actually playing a single game in a unique location, be it in Chicago against the White Sox on Thursday or in New York against the Yankees on Monday, per Ryan's unthinking suggestion. There is also the matter of how it would impact a potential pennant race for either the Orioles or the White Sox. Last year the O's entered play on Sept. 5 tied with the Yankees atop the AL East and with the A's atop the wild-card race, all three with identical 76-59 records. Baltimore went on to wrap up its first playoff spot since 1997 by just three games. Asking them to surrender a home game this year when they could be in the playoff hunt again is nonsensical. Major League Baseball released its 2013 schedule last September, before the second week of the 2012 NFL season. There was no way to know then that the Ravens would win the Super Bowl. There are only a few baseball and football teams that still have physical conflicts like this one (Oakland's A's and Raiders, and Toronto's Blue Jays and the CFL's Argonauts share stadiums, and Kansas City's Royals and Chiefs, and Philadelphia's Phillies and Eagles share a parking lots). The MLB schedulers could make sure the A's, O's, Royals and Phillies always play on the road during the weekend after the first week of September, but I don't think, given all the complexities of the Major League Baseball schedule, that it's reasonable to expect the schedule makers to plan around potential outcomes in another sport, particularly given how unlikely this sort of conflict is and, at least from this baseball fan's perspective, how petty and absurd it is.