A very good friend of mine, when measuring the importance of tried and true customs once told me, “Tradition doesn’t graduate.”
That poignant statement hung in the air for me for a few moments. And when it finally soaked in, I knew he was right. All of those traditions passed down from generations; family gatherings; friends hoisting a memorial toast at a special happy hour; the list could go on.
But each and every one has significance and these traditional events help sustain and honor the memories. Tradition allows them to echo in eternity.
Tradition doesn’t graduate.
If only the Baltimore Ravens shared that conviction with my friend, there would be happier fans in Ravens Nation today.
Towards the end of 2011 we learned that the Ravens would not host their training camp at McDaniel College beginning this summer and from the looks of it, training camp outside of the team’s headquarters in Owings Mills is a thing of the past.
Apparently this tradition has graduated.
“In 1996, Westminster was the best place for us to have training camp,” general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome explained. “How teams conduct training camp today is vastly different. Our football needs and requirements are different. The absence of two-a-days, how much space we need for the players and the meetings, the limited number of practices allowed by the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement), the importance of having an indoor field when the summer storms come – all of that and more football-influenced factors, had me recommend to Steve (Bisciotti) and Dick that we hold camp [at team headquarters].”
The backlash from the fans, particularly those who made the trek to Westminster a traditional summer event was predictable and arguably warranted. Those who depend upon the economic boost provided by the McDaniel College camp will be hurt financially and forced to adjust.
Most will argue that the move was driven by greed but the Ravens say no.
“This is not a financial decision,” team President Dick Cass pointed out. “Because of our training camp sponsors and partners, we did not lose money going to Westminster.”
According to the team, this really boils down to what they believe is best for the players and coaches to prepare for the season.
Both Newsome and Cass point to the following as the driving forces behind the decision:
• Facilities at the team’s Owings Mills facility are conducive to the best practices, especially in bad weather when the team can quickly move inside without losing the limited practice time. The team’s state-of-the-art weight room, conditioning machines and medical/training areas are significantly better.
• Ravens have outgrown the Best Western Hotel. “There aren’t enough rooms for our players, coaches and staff. Nor are there rooms for the individual position meetings that are an everyday part of football preparation,” Cass noted. (Each year the Ravens have added trailers to hold position meetings and use as office space for the staff.)
• Technology requirements, including computer and video, have changed dramatically in recent years. Capacity at the hotel is not compatible with team needs.
• The new CBA limits teams to one practice per day, and the efficiency provided in Owings Mills with meeting space, fields and video and IT operations allows the team to maximize the preparation for the season.
Still the fans will be disappointed – some bitterly. You can count team owner Steve Bisciotti among them.
“We completely understand that this takes away an important part of our connection with our fans. I regret that,” Bisciotti continued. “Hopefully, we can find other ways to continue this outreach. We’ll have more to say on this as we develop these programs.”
Let’s give this time to marinate. Let’s see how the club engages the community with these new programs and determine if such new programs coupled with what’s best for the team justifies this gut-wrenching decision.
Old treasured traditions cast aside aren’t easily forgotten.
It’s hard to watch them graduate.
But maybe new programs lead to new traditions.
And maybe the people will come with newfound smiles.
Time will tell.