My name is Glenn and I’m wrong. Constantly.
There is little more popular in internet culture than “dunking on” each other. In the sports world, the account @OldTakesExposed has become an ongoing reference to set up our next Twitter posterization. We seek out something any random person at all has said in the past, drag it back into the sunlight and then treat the person as if they were the Frederic Weis to our Vince Carter.
That’s the nature of the business, though. My job requires me to share (what I believe to be) informed opinions. Every now and then I knock them out of the park. Every now and then I strike out so hard it makes Chris Davis blush.
Such was the case just one year ago. In issue No. 254 of PressBox, I led my column with the heavy-handed declaration, “It’s over.” And just to double down on my decidedness, I tossed in an “obviously” to boot.
The topic? The future of the Preakness at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. My position was reasonable enough, right? For years we had worked under that assumption, and the downfall of then-mayor Catherine Pugh seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. Decades of strong leaders in the city had failed to ensure the long-term stability of the race and track. Now that the situation appeared to be coming to a head, there was no reason to believe the event’s salvation was viable under the guidance of an interim mayor.
It’s not just that I was a little off. I was “George W. Bush standing in front of a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner” wrong.
After the issue hit newsstands, the first person I heard from was former city councilman Bill Cole, whose message was simple. On May 16, 2019, he sent me the following:
“The Preakness isn’t lost, man. It really isn’t. I’ve got new stuff coming.”
Cole, who served as Baltimore Development Corporation CEO after his time on the city council, had taken on a role as a negotiator for the city in the hopes of getting a long-term deal done. His message proved to be perhaps the most prescient I’ve ever received in my life.
About a year later on May 7, The Racing and Community Development Act of 2020 passed into law (without the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan), clinching a comeback even more incredible than the Orioles against the Red Sox in 2009 and an upset even more remarkable than UMBC knocking off Virginia. It’s a deal so good I STILL can’t believe there’s no catch. There will be a new Pimlico. Laurel will be revitalized. The major economic impact of Preakness — $50 million-plus annually — will be saved for Baltimore for decades to come (just as long as people are allowed to attend the race again in the future).
Of course, these agreements don’t happen without significant work. And that’s why I’m going to do something strikingly unpopular. I’m going to thank politicians.
I’ll start with Cole. I guess he’s not technically a politician anymore. But he was the absolute heart and soul of making this happen. He knew that no matter how bleak things looked from the outside, there was reason to keep up the fight.
Thank you as well to Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and City Council president Brandon Scott. This isn’t an endorsement of their respective mayoral campaigns. It is a recognition of the significant work they did to ensure the city would not suffer another devastating financial loss on their watch.
Thank you to Gov. Hogan. Despite once telling WBAL Radio “the overwhelming number of people in Maryland don’t really care where [Preakness] is. They would just like to keep it in Maryland,” he never got in the way of the legislation. A politician of his stature (who to be fair governs both Baltimore and Laurel) could have tried to flex his power in an attempt to prevent this type of deal from happening. While he didn’t sign the bill, he didn’t get in the way. That matters.
And thanks to Belinda Stronach and the Stronach Group, who proved to be good faith partners with the community by working with lawmakers to make a permanent deal happen in a time when we otherwise believed the company downright preferred to abandon Baltimore altogether. They even donated the land near the track to get the deal done.
I genuinely can’t believe this is finally over. The Preakness issue has existed for the entirety of my adult life. I’m so grateful for this anticlimactic conclusion.
I’ve never been happier to be so incredibly wrong.
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox
Originally published May 20, 2020