D.C. Sports Bog on Bill Nye the Science Guy and His Love of the Washington Nationals

Bill Nye, the Nationals guy. You know, growing up in Northwest D.C. he used to deliver The Washington Post.
Bill Nye, the Nationals guy. You know, growing up in Northwest D.C. he used to deliver The Washington Post. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
Thursday, March 26, 2009

'So here's the thing, here's the great truth," Bill Nye the Science Guy told me over the phone the other day. "A couple years ago there was this big idea to have Arnold Schwarzenegger run for president. They said they were gonna modify the United States Constitution. Okay, that's a fine idea, but let me tell you: Arnold Schwarzenegger is still going to root for Austria in the World Cup.

"Now, I've lived in Seattle," he continued, "and I've lived in Los Angeles. I'm a Mariners fan, and I'm a Dodger fan. But deep down," he whispered, "I'm a Nationals fan, since I grew up in Washington. And there's nothing you can do about that."

See, at some point, you toss the rational science out the window and go with your silly heart. And really, enough with the big-shot politicians getting famous, moving here and continuing to root for teams from Chicago. Here's to the celebrities who moved away from D.C., got famous but still root for four quadrants, even when it doesn't make sense.

"I was so excited to get a team," Nye said of the Nats' arrival. "That's the weird, crazy thing about human brains."

Before Nye was a Boeing engineer, before he was television's bow-tie wearing Science Guy, before he became the host of Planet Green's "Stuff Happens," Nye was a baseball-loving kid in Northwest, delivering The Washington Post and following the Senators. He has vivid memories of one season when they spent several weeks in second place, carries around images of Frank Howard on his cellphone, and can describe in detail the "sudden, shocking" throwing motion of one-time catcher Paul Casanova. I confessed that Casanova was before my time.

"You're making my point," Nye replied. "Like, Bill, get over it; Bill, they're still playing baseball. I acknowledge that I'm living in the past."

Soon, the Senators left town, and so did Nye, to school and then his career. He never latched on to the Orioles, and spent some time resenting all of baseball. Nye was in Seattle when the Mariners arrived, became a partial-plan holder, went to their fantasy camps and still loves the players he followed then. But when the Nats showed up in his home town, that was something different for the fourth-generation Washingtonian.

So, isn't this wrong somehow? A guy famous for his science admitting an irrational attachment to a team from a city where he hasn't lived for years?

"Well, yeah, it's emotional," he said, "but I'll claim there are good evolutionary reasons for it. The things that happen to you when you're young shape your whole life. People who learn music, who learn algebra, who learn science, who get a love of the Washington Senators, that happens to you before the age of 10. . . . Try to learn a foreign language when you're an adult. You can't do it. Try to switch your baseball team when you're an adult? Maybe. Good luck with that.

"But I claim I have a healthy relationship with it," he added. "I don't start throwing up when they lose. I press on."

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