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This is my 92nd post, however it’s the 1st post that I never intended to be writing.  I typically try to stay away from controversy because I want folks of all backgrounds and opinions to enjoy my posts and share them with others.  Today however, I may wind up rubbing some people the wrong way with my words.  I don’t care.  I am sickened by the subject of this post and I feel it deserves to be addressed.

Last night, it was announced that former Baltimore Oriole great Mike Flanagan had passed away.  Flanagan has been one of the faces of the Oriole’s franchise for decades from his time as a Cy Young winning pitcher, to his stint as Oriole’s General Manager, and most recently as broadcaster for the team.  His passing is saddening to say the least, but it is the details behind it that disgust me.

It is being reported that Flanagan took his own life yesterday; in part due to his struggles with the perception from fans and colleagues alike that he was partially responsible for the demise of the team over the past decade and a half.  A once storied franchise, chock full of hall-of-famers and World Series titles, The Orioles have fallen into a state of perpetual disappointment.  Having served as GM for the team over the course of several losing seasons, Flanagan took his share of criticism.  Perhaps more than his share as it turns out.

As a fan of sports, baseball, and more specifically The Orioles, I am ashamed to say that I have been extremely critical of the organization and Mike Flanagan’s role in it.  It pains me to learn that the constant complaints of fans like me may have been the cause of a man’s death.  Sports is important to me, I make no bones about that.  I am passionate about sports; it stirs up emotions in me and leads to debates and sometimes conflict when strong opinions differ.  But it wasn’t until this morning that I realized how powerful the harsh opinions of fans can be on the target of their anger. 

This morning I am angry and disappointed.  I am upset with the Oriole’s organization for what has appeared to be a decade long refusal to admit that they are running this team poorly.  I am angry at the uninformed, misguided fans who chose a man who meant so much to this team as the target of their malicious criticism.  Most of all though, I am extremely saddened by the idea that Flanagan, a man who embraced the Orioles and its community for years as if they were his own family, took his own life because he felt responsible for their fall from grace.

Perhaps this incredibly sad day will be the catalyst for changes to be made.  Maybe fans will learn to take a step back and try to see things from the perspective of the folks behind the scenes.  Since we are not able to personally control the fortunes of the teams we love, we tend to thrust our emotions onto someone who we feel can control them.  As we’ve learned today, this irrational process can have devastating results.

I also hope that the organization will take a hard look at itself and its future.  A man who had a huge impact on the successes of the past is gone today, in part because the team he loved has refused to accept responsibility for its downward spiral.  It’s no longer acceptable to sit back and be content with mediocrity.  The O’s were the cream of the crop back in Flanagan’s day and it’s time to get back there again.  If not for the sake of the fans that live and breathe Oriole’s baseball, at least for the family of Mike Flanagan who died for Oriole’s baseball.

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