The unlikely ascension of the 2012 Baltimore Orioles has been one of the most remarkable stories in baseball this season. The O's have captured the attention of many, including one of Baltimore's most notable citizens: David Simon, creator of the brilliant drama The Wire and co-creator of Treme.
Simon wrote an extended essay in this week's Sports Illustrated on the team's magical run and sat down with SI.com for an extended podcast on a number of subjects, including the city's relationship with this Orioles team, how far baseball has traveled from inner-city America and how his characters on The Wire would view these Orioles. Below are five excerpts from the podcast; to hear the full interview, use the player to the right or subscribe on iTunes.
SI.com: How would you describe the relationship between the city of Baltimore and this Orioles team?
Simon: There's a little bit of a rapprochement going on and the city is a little behind the curve. But it's catching up. There is a lot of talk and a lot of attention being paid now. But the city never really had a chance to go crazy. We were all waiting for that summer swoon. There are a couple of seasons in that horrifying quarter-century of losing where they showed really well in May or June and then suddenly you would hit late June or July and the collapse would be complete and dramatic. So we have kind of been there before and we were waiting for it, and then at some point it was August and they seemed to fall apart a little bit but then they would sweep a series. So it's been remarkable.
SI.com: If you were filming The Wire today, would you want this O's team to be part of the show's narrative?
Simon: I'd have to say you would only see it on the cops side of it, or the political side of it. You would only see it glance into those stories. The part of The Wire that I think was so culturally iconic for some viewers was the emphasis on the ghetto and inner-city America, and the America that has been left behind. It would be false to put baseball into that world. Baseball is not part of the imagination in those neighborhoods anymore. Basketball and football are.
SI.com: There's a scene in The Wire that was filmed at Camden Yards where detectives Jimmy McNulty and Bunk Moreland are watching the Orioles against the White Sox. Sidney Ponson is on the mound for the O's and he's getting shelled. What are your memories of shooting scenes there?
Simon: They let us film there for that scene and they were really gracious about it. We also tried to do something else outside of Camden Yards. The fabulist reporter (Scott Templeton, in Season 5) was sent there for a color piece and he cooked some stuff [quotes] up. While we were out there we had hoped to get into the area where they marked off the home runs, the walkway outside the stadium. But Major League Baseball and the Orioles would not let us film there. So David Simon being David Simon and not willing to take no for an answer, I made sure that when we did film across from the stadium, the dialogue was as assaultive as it could possibly be on the Commissioner of baseball. ... The other thing I should say about the stadium is when we were filming Homicide, [Simon was a writer for the show] they let us film a murder there, and the only reason they let us do it was because we decided the victim would be a Yankee fan and the killer would also be a Yankee fan. That so appealed to Orioles' management that they convinced the stadium authority to let us do it.
SI.com: Your wife, the award-winning mystery author Laura Lippman, grew up in Baltimore and has Brooks Robinson memorabilia scattered across her office. She actually met [Mets outfielder] Ron Swoboda by chance and told him she was still aggrieved by 1969 [World Series] and The Catch. Your son is also into the race. Your whole family is infused by this, right?
Simon: I was once meeting my wife at a downtown bar on Charles Street and I came to the bar a little bit late. She was sitting at a bar with a cosmopolitan and there was a look on her face. She had just come from an interview about one of her novels and she flipped open the cover of her book to show me she had just gotten Brooks Robinson to sign the cover of her book. He had been sitting at the bar and she recognized him and she asked him to sign her book. I saw the look on her face and it was a level of happiness that I will never be able to provide for her. Ever. That's how she views the Orioles.
SI.com: By your own definition you are not a glass-half-empty guy. You are a "glass-broken-over-the-end-of-the-bar-and-used-to-splay-the-jugular-of-whatever-character-stood-up-and-dared-assert-for-human-dignity-two-scenes-earlier guy." How do you reconcile such gloom-and-doom with the reality that the O's are in the race this deep? How are things going to end?
Simon: Ah, what do I see? Let me answer it this way: If you have ever read Albert Camus's Resistance, Rebellion, and Death on existentialism and morality, in that book in so many words, he makes the argument that to commit to the fight against injustice in a world in which that fight is almost certain -- or certainly more probable to lose -- is an absurdity. But to not commit to making the fight is equally absurd and only one choice actually offers the choice for human dignity, and dignity matters. ... So having said that, I am rooting for the Baltimore Orioles this year and it feels glorious. Let's take it as far as we can, shall we?