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"Ascendant" Baltimore


Under the category of “It’s always nice to be wanted,” that was a really sweet civic kiss that Ted Leonsis threw at Charm City on the front of the local newspaper Sunday.

Leonsis, who owns the indoor sports teams in Washington and the arena they play in, called Baltimore "ascendant" in The Baltimore Sun, to explain why he bought two Arena Football League teams and placed one at Royal Farms Arena.

Indeed, Leonsis said that while people think it’s crazy for him to own both the Washington Valor and the Baltimore Brigade, he thinks the Brigade can stimulate Royal Farms Arena, create jobs and bring people into downtown.

And while we all should hope Leonsis is right, there are a few things connected to the Brigade’s arrival that just don’t pass the smell test, if you will.

First, the comments of Zach Leonsis, Ted’s 28-year old son, equating the relationship between Baltimore and Washington to a brotherly love rivalry, just don’t feel right, or at least not to folks who have been in these parts for a while.

Let’s just say that there aren’t very many native or long time Baltimoreans who feel anything approaching brotherly love for Washington. We could ask native Washingtonians for their view, but there really aren’t any.

On this end of the Baltimore Washington Parkway, that end seems bloated and self-important and self-reverential. People in Washington are used to having things their way, while Baltimoreans work hard for whatever they earn.

For many in Washington, Baltimore’s that cute place up the road to get reasonably-priced seafood, not a living, breathing city with a pulse and soul of its own. 

It just feels as though, for the Leonsises, the Brigade is nothing more than a business opportunity, programming for their streaming network.

And Baltimore is merely the vehicle to sell it.

Frankly, we deserve better.

Part of Baltimore’s perceived inferiority, at least when it comes to sports, is centered around the place the Brigade will call home, namely the Royal Farms Arena.

The building has gone through a host of names and looks over the 55 years it’s been in operation. The arena carries its age remarkably well and the people who manage it have done an exceptional job of keeping the place in some semblance of order.

But the Royal Farms Arena should have been put out of its and Baltimore’s misery years ago. No city the size and majesty of Baltimore should have a facility that old and that dysfunctional.

Look, the city of Atlanta is about to get its third baseball stadium and third football stadium in 50 years, and is already on its second arena and we’re better than Atlanta.

And Washington, for that matter. The difference is, we don’t have a former high tech gazillionaire like Ted Leonsis ready and willing to write a check to build a state-of-the-art arena..

To be totally accurate, Leonsis didn’t build the Verizon Center, but he did buy it.

Now, if you know someone who’s got that kind of cash, drop me a line here. I’d like to chat with him or her about a little matter of civic pride.

And that’s how I see it for this week. 

Send questions/comments to [email protected] or @sportsatlarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.