A bizarre feeling has come over me. I don't know what to make of it. It is as unreal as if a lifelong liberal Democrat had suddenly felt a twinge of respect for Ronald Reagan, or a confirmed Beethoven buff were mysteriously drawn toward punk rock.
Confession is necessary: I, a fanatic Baltimorean with an on-the-record resentment of all the smug and unfounded superiority of Washingtonians, confess that I rooted for the Washington Redskins in Sunday's Super Bowl.
It is possible that my thoughts are the belwether of a vast change in Baltimore-Washington relationships --a new morality between cities, so to speak.
My objection to Washington and Washingtonians (including their hangers-on in Prince George's and Montgomery counties) has not been to them or their city per se, but to their cavalier attitude toward Baltimore. They have dismissed us as their "Newark" or "Oakland," when such comparisons are invalid and unfair. As for the Washington suburbanites in Maryland, more of them have always stood with their backs toward Baltimore.
But maybe that is changing and there can be a new relationship based on equality--not of size and economics, which we already have--but of attitude. There have already been inklings of such a change within the hearts of Washingtonians. At first begrudgingly, and now definitely, Washingtonians have become Orioles fans. Of late, Washington sportscasters when recapping Orioles games, often use the pronoun "we," as in "Well, we beat the Brewers again last night."
The Washington media have been far more receptive to Baltimore than they were a few years ago. Tom Boswell of The Post who, I think, is the best baseball scribe in America, has evolved into the most eloquent writer about the Orioles. Wolf von Eckardt, of the Post, before he absconded to be the architecture critic of Time magazine, was constantly making comparisons between Baltimore and Washington, with the former usually the winner. Jonathan Yardley, The Post's book columnist, lives in Baltimore and is an unabashed admirer of his adopted home town.
So if I, and many Baltimoreans, hated the Redskins, perhaps it was because that was our only defense against the depredations of Washingtonians. If they scorn us and spit upon our native gabardine, what recourse remains but mutual poisoning of the air over the parkway between us?
This was before Baltimore's resurrection, a change not so much of physical rebirth as of rediscovery. When the Inner Harbor was refurbished, when the Tall Ships came, when Harborplace was built, when the National Aquarium was opened and when the Orioles started winning pennants, Washingtonians at last began to come to Baltimore.
And having broken their reserve and made the effort, they discovered the rest of Baltimore as if it had no previous existence. Hence an article in The Post on the Walters Art Gallery referred to a "renaissance" of art in Baltimore, when it really was a renaissance of Washington's awareness. The Walters, after all, has been a public institution for 50 years, and for all of that time has been regarded by museum people as one of the nation's half-dozen best collections (better by most reckonings than Washington's National Gallery).
Similarly they discovered the Museum of Art, Center Stage, Mt. Vernon Place, Fort McHenry, Little Italy, colorful neighborhoods and other indigenous attractions that have been around a long time.
I have never met Edward Bennet Williams, but I feel certain that when he bought the Orioles he fully intended to whisk them away to Washington, as casually as one might move a team from Camden to Philadelphia. Then, unintentionally, he discovered that Baltimore was a unique and delightful place. I believe he now genuinely loves the city. In that sense, he may be symbolic of many Washingtonians.
What this means is that, at last, Baltimoreans can feel secure; there is no longer any need to feel resentment, an emotion which after all, is born of envy. Let us cheer for the Redskins, and, some distant day when the Colts win a championship (granted, waiting may require patience) let Washingtonians root for them as even now they root for the Orioles.
So long as Baltimore and Washington are on an equal footing, enjoying mutual respect, their sum is greater than their parts. Because they are so different, there are no two cities in the United States that can better complement (and compliment) each other. The relationship between them must inevitably grow closer; like the Mississippi, let it roll on.