It isn’t always easy being a D.C. sports fan, but for Ted Peters, it’s been a continuous pleasure. Most local fans might not recognize Peters by name alone, but a single glance at his bushy beard and all-white captain’s outfit easily gives away his identity.
Peters is “Captain Obvious,” the unofficial mascot that’s a regular appearance at Washington Nationals and Capitals games.
In the last few years, several D.C. teams have experienced major upswings. The Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018. The Washington Mystics made history this year by winning their first WNBA title. More recently, the Nats won the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Before these major wins and comebacks, the local fan base had been pummeled into constant disappointment.
But even before the wins started pouring the past few years, Peters had succeeded as a positive presence in the local fan base with his quippy, dry-humored signs that allowed for moments of levity.
“I didn’t catch that ball,” read one of his signs in 2017. At the time, former New York Mets player Travis d’Arnaud hit a foul ball, which bounced into the stands. After Peters unsuccessfully attempted to catch the ball, he grinned and lifted a large white sign with bold, red letters. In that moment, it was obvious: Even if the catch was out of reach, his ability to get noticed was always in the palm of his hand.
Other past signs have included simple, honest, and straight-forward messages like, “I do this to get on TV” and “I’m holding a sign.” Peters is always prepared. He says he has “about 30 signs, front and back.”
When speaking about himself—Peters, not Captain Obvious—he laughs and says, “That guy is supposed to be invisible.” For him, he is “just a guy out there, being a fan.”
Born and raised in Prince George’s County, Peters’ life has been focused on appreciating sports, always eager to watch the Washington Nationals/Senators, the local NFL team, Capitals, D.C. United, Mystics, and the Wizards/Bullets. It was thanks to his father that he first learned to love competitive sports. His father got him involved in baseball, football, and basketball. As a student at Salisbury University, Peters also played rugby.
The 54-year-old’s emergence as a local celebrity was in part sparked by his own desire to get noticed on TV or the jumbotron.
“Everybody wants to see themselves either on or in TV, and I’m one of them,” he says with a chuckle, adding he’s “not too proud” to admit this.
For a fan like Peters, he says he’s lucky to be in the profession that he is. He is a self-employed home inspector, able to set his own schedule. He has also been a season ticket holder at Nationals Park since 2013. He used to have season tickets with the Caps, but says he can only do a partial plans now since life can get in the way sometimes; he has two kids and also dogs to think about.
An early win for Peters was in 2012. At a Nationals game, Roger Bernadina was on the starting lineup. Peters was ready with a cardboard cutout that looked like shark’s teeth, celebrating the player’s moniker, “The Shark.” This move got him his first brief feature on TV.
Afterwards, Peters considered what could help him achieve an even bigger presence. Veering away from face paint, he instead considered creating a character that was inspired by a string of DirecTV commercials that featured Rob Lowe. These commercials poked fun at the company’s competitors, comparing them to “super creepy,” “painfully awkward,” or “peaked in high school” versions of Lowe. DirecTV’s comparison to Lowe was well-dressed and appealing. Peters decided to do a spin on this by dressing up as an Enrico Pallazzo version of Lowe, inspired by the film, Naked Gun.
“It was a failure,” Peters says. Most people didn’t understand or recognize the character.
Despite the initial swing and a miss, Peters continued his search to become a recognizable caricature. There’s no harm in being a regular fan, he says, “but the ego took over.”
For his next attempt, he took inspiration from MASN color commentator, F.P. Santangelo, Hotels.com’s mascot, and the The Love Boat TV series. In his analysis of Nationals games, Santangelo would often go “Captain Obvious” on the audience, saying if the pitcher needs to throw a strike or if the team needs to score some runs to win. Peters says he always found it to be pretty funny. The Captain Obvious mascot for Hotels.com also paved the way for Peters, who at first wasn’t sure what kind of captain he could portray himself as.
It took some time before he found an outfit that he felt was worthwhile and looked legitimate. The first outfit that Peters’ Captain Obvious character adopted was from a Michael Jackson display in a costume store. There, he found a long-sleeved, black band leader outfit. To accompany this, Peters bought a ship captain’s hat and wore a sash to which he hand-wrote the word, “Obvious.” This outfit once again led him to being featured on TV. With this success, Peters went to the next day’s game without the outfit, not realizing that the people who sat near him on the stands expected Captain Obvious to show up once again.
“He was a one-timer. He’s not supposed to be every day,” he remembers thinking. “I guess I’m doing this.”
What followed was the addition of hand-written signs with “obvious” statements, such as, “Jayson Werth has a beard.” His influence from The Love Boat also came at this point. The band leader outfit didn’t work in the summer heat, so he switched to something more along the lines of the all-white, short-sleeved outfit worn by the fictional Captain Merrill Stubing.
Since then, Peters has repeatedly been spotted on TV and featured in local news publications like Washingtonian, the Washington Post, and WUSA9. As part of the 2019 World Series games, he also collaborated with the Captain Obvious mascot from Hotels.com, played by actor Brandon Moynihan.
Virginia resident Erika Crawford described Captain Obvious as “one of the most popular fans at Nats Park” in the local blog, TalkNats.com, earlier this year. She tells City Paper that her favorite moments with him are not baseball-related. He’s a “genuinely sweet” person, according to Crawford, always greeting fans with a big smile and allowing photos when requested. Even when the Nationals lose, he carries an air of positivity.
Gene Wu, a Virginia resident, says, “It’s a character that kind of transcends sports.” Wu adds that he was surprised Captain Obvious didn’t make an appearance at the post-World Series parade since he brings so much energy to the crowd.
Meredith Dougherty, a D.C. resident, also praises Peters’ attitude during games.
“I want everybody to think we’re all like like Captain Obvious,” she says.
The best part of being Captain Obvious, according to Peters, is the interaction he has with the fans. “It does the soul good when you can have an impact like that.” He doesn’t foresee his character going away any time soon. This captain, he says, plans to remain on the local D.C. sports ship for as long as possible.