From Scott Leibowitz. Find Scott on Twitter @Lebodome.
What is the best way to measure one U.S. city against another? Is it public transportation, homegrown culture, or nightlife? While sure these things are important, I’d venture to say that some of this country’s best cities are the ones home to great baseball teams. Thus, based on that gauge, D.C. is… well… pending a championship run, doomed for a life of “just okay.”
Let’s take a few steps back. D.C.’s last baseball team, the old Washington Senators, were so bad that their unofficial tag line was, “Washington Senators: First in War, First in Peace, and last in the American League.” (In 1960, the Senators moved to Minnesota where they currently have die-hard fans.) Where do the Nats come in? After years of nothing but Redskins football, in 2004, D.C. began an aggressive anti-Canadian campaign and stole the Montreal Expos in the middle of the night (kidding, the league helped too). Baseball returned to the nation’s capital and here we are today.
Shenanigans at the Ballpark
Last Saturday, my girlfriend took me to the Nationals vs. NY Mets game. Now, I am one of those fans who cry in Field of Dreams, and watch around 70% of my team’s regular season on my laptop. With that in mind, I take a pretty skeptical eye to the experience of Nationals baseball.
No matter when I go, or who the teams are, I see the same shenanigans and have to laugh. Where to start?
It’s Baseball, Not the Opera. When the Nats get a 3-run home-run in the first inning from its highest (and most overpaid) player, it’s generally a good time to cheer (this happened). Yet, most cheering from the majority of D.C. fans was reserved for the patriotism, the huge stuffed president mascots and late inning collapses. It’s just not that loud.
Games, Gimmicks and Races. Any baseball fan will tell you that minor league games are great because they are packed with funny entertainment throughout the game (I once saw a game where a dog was the bat-boy.) But sometimes the entertainment is just way too frequent and distracting; the Nationals literally have something between every inning. Yes, I laugh hard during the “President’s Race,” but how many giveaways can there be?
Is this Foodie Heaven? No, it’s a baseball stadium. Maybe I am just too old-school for this “renaissance in baseball eatery,” but whatever happened to cheap beers, huge dogs, salty pretzels and a trough-like bathroom for men (right, guys?). Even with all the pricey/trendy/tasty D.C. food available, I am there for baseball, not food.
Nats Park is a cool stadium – nice people working in it and a fairly decent product on the field — the Nats did win that game. The Lerner family has done well for the Nats (and for GWU students, having funded easily the best gym in D.C.). That said, convincing D.C. residents to buy in to the baseball culture is a challenge. A playoff run would go a long way, but that is a few years away. Until then, if or when you go, be prepared for displaced baseball fans who miss their home team but just want to enjoy the pastime, no matter who plays.
Thought for the Week
Are you ready for some football?! Is there a Borderstan Fantasy Football League? Can I start one? Anyone?