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Among the worst parts of the new Bloomberg Politics site’s nonsensical essay on the state of Nats fandom: the giant pullquote with the tiny attribution.
“The Nationals are more for people like me who have been living in Washington, D.C. for years and years,” the pullquote reads, three paragraphs into the piece. Scrolling through, I failed to notice that those words were attributed to Wolf Blitzer in a font size four times as small as the pullquote and buried several inches below it. The statement by Blitzer doesn’t appear in the story until the penultimate paragraph, so up until that point, I was under the impression that the piece’s author, Will Leitch, has been “living in Washington, D.C. for years and years.”
Leitch’s credibility as a local, which existed only in my head, was the only thing this piece had going for it. Forgive me for not knowing in advance that Leitch is an Illinois native who now lives in Georgia after spending more than a decade in New York.
According to Leitch, the fact that members of Congress and Supreme Court justices no longer think it’s trendy to go to Nats games or talk about the team is a sign of depleted enthusiasm in the region as a whole. Which makes Leitch just the latest in a seemingly endless supply of outsiders who are unaware that anybody lives in the D.C. area who doesn’t hold national power or work in the national political media. “The only people still making a point of attending all the Nationals playoff games…are those who are proud to be members of that Washington establishment,” he claims.
It’s beyond tiresome for people from D.C. to keep having to rebut statements like that, but I’ll just note that I purchased tickets more than a month ago to every possible Nats playoff game through the World Series (and also a theoretical fourth home game in the World Series, which, by the time I purchased the tickets, was already impossible). Nobody has ever mistaken me for a member of the Washington establishment.
But then again, I could be the exception. Perhaps the fans at Friday and Saturday’s games were just me and 44,000 Hill staffers. I’m surprised Leitch didn’t discern that the crowd was heavily Republican—after all, so many of us were wearing red.
Leitch also argues that D.C. baseball is inextricably linked to politics by citing the time that President Calvin Coolidge included a “dig at the opposing party Democrats” while congratulating the World Series champion Washington Senators in 1924. You don’t have to be a member of the Washington establishment, though,to know that holders of elected office tend to make everything about politics, and always have.
It’s true that some of the buzz surrounding the Nats, especially on the national level, has tapered off since 2012. But that has nothing to do with locals’ passion for the team: The 2012 team was great way ahead of schedule, the first D.C. baseball team to make the playoffs in decades. It was a great story that got national attention.
Similarly, in the past week, there’s been a surge of excitement nationally about the Kansas City Royals, a moribund franchise that made the playoffs this year for the first time since 1985. The Royals staged a stunning comeback in the do-or-die wild card game, then went on to sweep the Los Angeles Angels, who finished the regular season with the MLB’s best record. There’s buzz about the Royals because people are happy to see long-suffering fans finally win something. I have no ties to Kansas City, but I did enjoy reading a heartwarming Kansas City Star story from May about the life story of outfielder Lorenzo Cain that someone shared on Twitter last night. The newfound chatter about the Royals didn’t result from a rise in support from Kansas City’s barbecue establishment, or Hallmark greeting cards, or whatever other industry rules that town. Reaching a conclusion like that would be just as lazy and ignorant in Kansas City as it is in D.C.—but unfortunately for D.C., people only bother making that argument about our town.
D.C. baseball fans don’t mind the support from members of the political establishment, especially when it’s genuine—which it clearly is for some, including Blitzer and Ben Bernanke. It beats the usual treatment that D.C. gets from national figures, who often think that nobody really lives in the city and that its residents don’t deserve autonomy over local affairs, let alone representation in Congress.
People in D.C. are used to being loathed by association because national politics in our country are so screwed up. Amid that sentiment, the professional athletes who play for our sports teams, most of whom are from other parts of the country, proudly wear the name Washington. Maybe that’s part of the reason we love our teams and their players so much.
The main reason, though, is simpler: For most Nats fans, D.C. is just the place we’re from. We have die-hard sports fans just like any other city, and we’re eager for the national political media to stop overthinking it.
On the other hand, with the home team down 0-2 to the San Francisco Giants, the team will surely will take all the support it can get today—even from politicians.