Like every great American protest movement, the FreeBirds have a strong social element. After a hard day of marching, singing songs and carrying signs, they retire to local watering holes called Pickles Pub and Sliders to down American lite beers, and sometimes shots of Jagermeister or bottles of Twisted Tea. They also carefully monitor the media for signs of their impact; several FreeBirds have asked me what I think of their movement, and when WBAL just broke in for a live protest shot, the crowd at Sliders gathered 'round to watch.
"Where am I, where am I?" one FreeBird shouted as WBAL showed a shot of the crowd.
If you're curious what happened, here's a summary.
5:02: A FreeBird started screaming at his fellow travelers to "Cowboy Up."
5:04: Several FreeBirds began chanting "Four More Minutes."
5:06: The FreeBirds began singing "Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, good bye."
5:07: The FreeBirds joined in the trumpet "Charge" call.
5:08.30: "The FreeBirds began chanting "Sell The Team."
It was 3-1, in the bottom of the fourth. There was a man on second. Corey Patterson was at bat. Suddenly, right on schedule, the FreeBirds streamed toward the exits, yelling "Free the Birds." Thousands. Really, thousands. They poured down the tunnels, pointing and screaming at each other, and especially at the people holding cameras. Much of the crowd went down to the lower deck and paraded through slowly, chanting "Free the Birds," in sort of a funeral march. I saw one kid get dragged out by police, but the movement seemed to stay true to its non-violent principles. One lady was yelling at the demonstrators, telling them not to come to games if they didn't like it. Bloody reactionary.
Sample sign: Roses are Orange, Violets are Black, [Bleep] You Peter, We Want Our O's Back.
Sample Sign: The Orioles are Not an Asbestos Lawsuit.
Sample Sign: 9 Losing Seasons; 1 Lost Franchise; [Angelos] Selling team: Priceless.
(If the person who wrote that sign is reading this, I don't think you quite understand the MasterCard campaign. The campaign contrasts actual expenses with the intangible joy that comes from some touching life moment that requires a MasterCard. And thus, the expenses seem trivial next to the intangible joy. This requires the introductory statements to involve actual expenses. So you might want to try something like this:
Skipping work: $136. Commemorative t-shirt: $10. Seven bottles of Natty Boh: $3.50. Spending a beautiful fall afternoon marching around and carrying a sign at the behest of a sports talk radio host in a vain effort to convince the owner of a baseball franchise to sell his team to another rich guy or something like that: Priceless.)
Anyhow, I saw more people with the Hitler-Angelos t-shirts. "Ich Liebe Asbestos!" one of them was shouting. "Angelos ist [bad German word], ja?" someone else yelled. Leave it to Orioles fans to make you feel sorry for Peter Angelos.
Someone else was passing out brochures promising 2 for 1 beers at Sliders, plus Happy Hour prices up until 6:12 for anyone in a Free the Birds t-shirt. "Is the demonstration over?" someone was asking.
Then I got in an argument with some FreeBird about whether it was realistic to expect every team to have a winning record. He argued, as many of the FreeBirds do, that he wasn't asking for a winning record, just for some progress toward a winning record. Nasty Nestor claimed this movement isn't about wins and losses, it's about treating fans with respect. Either way, today the FreeBirds added another chapter to the history of American dissent.