Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Those O's and Bohs !

It was about an hour before the gates opened on Opening Day.  I was strolling through the lower concourse of Oriole Park, admiring how well all the improvements and additions came together, when I was greeted by Baltimore's most famous cyclops.  Decked out in the new Oriole gear was Mr. Boh, enjoying a cold foamy draft and just waiting for the fans to arrive.

There are a number of nostalgic elements in this 20th season at Camden Yards.   A winning season (above .500 at the All-Star Break!!) has to top the list.  But I don't know of any other that resonates with the faithful quite like Mr. Boh and his commemorative can.

Recounting Nationial Bohemian's association with our city and particularly the O's would take a great deal more space that we have here.  Suffice to say, they were virtually synonymous during the early years after the team arrived.  Natty Boh is as Baltimore as Bromo.

The colorful commemorative 16 oz. can is ubiquitous on game days.  I saw it for the first time at Dempsey's, where cases were chilled on ice for Opening Day.  It was a particular favorite of the foreign visitors in port for the Sailabration -- many of whom picked them up while strolling Eutaw Street.

But it isn't just the novelty of the can and the connection to the home team.  I was amazed to learn National has developed a genuine following since its triumphant return to the ballpark gave it such local visibility.

Two recent stories in local papers have focused on the impact of the O's winning ways this year. Attendance is up, vendors are selling merchandise, and fans are wearing it all over town. 

However, the most accurate economic indicator (at least to this unscientific observer) is the action at the local watering holes.  That is where Natty Boh leads the league this year.

You'll notice that this group of pre-gaming fans at a nearby pub is not just enjoying the product but sporting the Boh gear as well. 

(Until I saw this, I didn't realize the natty Mr. Boh is a southpaw.  Just like Babe Ruth!  How poetic.)

This collection came from a trio of equally enthusiastic Boh fans who bequeathed me a seat after they departed for the 4:00 game.

Intrigued by a) the huge crowd, and b) the mountains of bright orange cans inside and outside the establishment, I asked about the phenomenom.  This is what I learned.

Business in the restaurant/bar just beyond center field has been booming this year.  Fans coming early, returning after the game, and even coming in during the game to watch the action on the TV (in air conditioned comfort.)

Fans are coming here to watch the game even if they don't go to the stadium.  If this vicarious viewing experience has a name, I don't know it. I did, however, see it first hand.  And yes, these secondaries dress for the occasion and blend right in with the paying fans.

Finally, those orange commemorative cans are selling just as well as they display.  Indeed, they are quite the rage, both inside and outside.  Part of it seems to be the reasonable price and jumbo size.  Another is the hipster appreciation for "local" suds. 

(No matter what the jingle says, it's no longer "brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay."  Not even in Maryland.  But since Mr. Boh is eternally ours, that makes it local.)

And speaking of Mr. Boh . . .  in addition to gracing beer cans, retro print ads, a repurposed brewery, and t-shirts, he has a new gig.  Mr. Boh is the official mascot of the Baltimore Bohemians soccer team.  His visage even graces their kit, giving it a distinctive flare.

So the O's as well as Bohs are big winners in this first half of the season.   They're providing a high tide that lifts a lot of boats (not to mention mugs) around our neighborhood.

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