I have a confession: I can’t muster any excitement for baseball season. It may be America’s pastime, but I’m not sure it’s Washington’s, and so far it’s not mine. “So far” is operative here -- read to the end to find out why.
I am a proud D.C. native, born and raised in the District. Growing up, my summers were a desolate sports wasteland, stretching from the near-simultaneous conclusions of the NHL and NBA seasons to the beginning of NFL training camp, with a smattering of MLS to keep me satiated. No pre-preseason casual practice sessions were reported on more than the Redskins’, because the Washington Post’s Sports section was thin as can be during the summer.
Baseball fans know why my summers were so slow: the Washington Nationals have only been here since 2005. Before that, some Washingtonians considered themselves fans of the Baltimore Orioles. Others hopped on bandwagons (Yankees and Red Sox “fans”, I’m looking at you). Most Washingtonians, being non-natives, continued to follow their home teams. But a good number, like me, developed a practiced indifference to baseball.
Why not follow the Orioles? The Orioles’ ownership consistently lobbied against Washington getting our own baseball team, arguing that Washington lay within their market, and that giving us a team would significantly detract from Baltimore’s revenue. It was only after many years that the argument won out that there was plenty of money in the area to support both teams, and that long-time Orioles fans were unlikely to jump ship. In light of all this, can you blame me for boycotting baseball as it pertained to the D.C. area?
Maybe you can. True, the Nats are not to blame for the fact that they weren’t here when I was growing up. True, six years is long enough that this team should have made an impression on me by now. And true, a devoted sports fan will follow a league even if his or her home town doesn’t have a team, just for love of the game.
I suspect you’ll also tell me that my disinterest in the Nationals is due to their lack of success. I would argue otherwise, but if that is true, I’m certainly not the only one. As Dan Steinberg tweeted this morning, tickets for today’s opener were available on StubHub for less than $3 a pop, and I’ve heard that in past seasons we have more folks attending games than watching them on TV. Put those facts together and the outlook is bleak.
Which brings me to my resolution: This year, I’m going to follow baseball. It’s hard to be 23 and taking on a major sport for the first time, but I’m excited (I mean tickets for $3? I’ll be there!) If there’s any interest, I may provide an update down the line as I work from square one to learn about this team and the fans who support it.