You probably don't know Moag's name, which might be all right with him. As head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, Moag' clinched the deal with Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell. Moag, a lawyer who fits in well with the other lawyer types eating at the Stadium Club, never anticipated the reaction the move would get—a nationwide media assault and the excoriation of Modell. "I think all of us believed that there would be a couple weeks of out-cry and then resignation that that's the way life is," Moag says. "I knew it would be more serious than the other franchise moves because the Browns are a storied franchise and because they drew 70,000 a game. But I never guessed it would be what it was."
He did guess, though, that football and Baltimore would be a good match. He understands the city's contradictory attitudes: an inferiority complex versus a certainty that there's no better place to live. There's a New Yorker cartoon showing a guy on a tropical isle sitting beside a pool framed by palm trees. He's talking into the phone: "Hey, it's not Baltimore, but then what is?" A true Baltimorean would enjoy the cartoon but wouldn't get that it was supposed to be funny.
"The demographics in this city are just perfect for the NFL," Moag says. "Football is a blue-collar sport. And, whatever has changed in Baltimore, it's still a blue-collar town. You look at the crowd, it's real Baltimore. There's a huge population in this town that considers a ticket to the Ravens game a reasonable and legitimate cost of living, right up there with rent and groceries. I sit around a lot of these people, and I'm in the $75 seats. They say, 'I won't get a new car. I won't take a vacation this summer. But I have to have Ravens tickets.' "
Like many Eastern seaboard cities, Baltimore has problems. Declining population. Declining schools. The main library branch is closed on Fridays because there's not enough money. But still, there's $200 million for a football stadium that will be used 10 times a year. Moag, the lawyer, is ready to defend it: The stadium is downtown, and it's another part of the Baltimore renaissance that includes Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor and the new Convention Center. Tourism is now Baltimore's second-largest industry. Fourteen thousand people took the tour of the baseball park in the 1995-96 off-season. Yes, there are only 10 Ravens dates, but football, Moag points out, is different from baseball. Football games are weekend-long events. "You know, people like to spend money," Moag says. "You hear at the kitchen table people talking about dropping $100 or $150 at the ballpark, but they do it very willingly. People can't wait to get out of Memorial Stadium and into the new stadium and spend money there. And spend money at the Inner Harbor and show up at Phillips crab house with 30 people before a game."
It's a new day. Moag knows it can't be like the old days. "The player is a very different kind of person," he says. "He doesn't stay with a team anymore. The money is huge. It's an entirely different mood. And there's the other element: He's black. Blacks are an overwhelming percentage of football players today. But not on the old Colts—they were white guys who didn't, quote, threaten other white guys, so to speak. The white, blue-collar fan could relate to them, and that's changed.
"Everybody is still trying to figure out how the new team fits into his experience. What surprised me, my wife loves it. She wants and expects to be at the stadium every week. My daughters are both into it in a big way. That's new to me. When I grew up, girls at least feigned having no interest in football. Remember Diner? In Diner that quiz about Colts trivia was the unfortunate hurdle the girl had to get over to marry the guy. Now, to have two little girls who are absolutely gaga over football, who insist that they have a football to throw around, it kind of hits you over the head that everything's changed."
Everything has changed, yet people come to Ravens games hoping nothing has changed, or at least nothing fundamental. It's hard to put your finger on what exactly was lost when the Colts left Baltimore 12 years ago, except that surely something was lost—and not just the opportunity to see out-sized men crash into each other and the chance to drink overpriced beer in bad weather and in uncomfortable seats.
Maybe people come to Ravens games in search of what politicians like to call family values. No one knows what "family values" means, really. One possible definition: Values we never had but imagine that we had in some better time and can find again if we can replicate that time.
Maybe that's what brings Bob and Mike Miller, father and son, to their seats down near the end zone. They're looking for something, and—this is good news if you like your endings happy—they think they may have found it. On this November day the Ravens are fending off the Cincinnati Bengals, but Baltimore will, of course, lose in the end. That doesn't seem to discourage lather or son. Bob lives in Hagerstown, Md., an hour from Baltimore, and is mostly retired; he sells a few cars on the side. Mike lives in Wilmington, Del., where he works for a pharmaceutical company. He left Hagerstown to join the Navy soon after the Colts skipped out on Baltimore.
"The Colts left," Mike says, "and then I left, but the hex continued wherever I'd go. I moved to L.A., and both teams left. Then I moved to Cleveland, and the Browns moved to Baltimore. Now I'm in Wilmington, where I guess everyone is safe."