Kasten Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Phillies Fans

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Here are a few rules for your all-sports D.C. die-hard fan: Philly is the (metaphorical) enemy, in every sport. The invasion of fans from rival cities is an inevitable plague best left unmentioned. And the active courting of visiting fans is craven betrayal of the grandest hope, which is normalcy.

Stan Kasten is still a relative newcomer to Washington, and maybe he hasn't learned the rules. Kasten is brilliant in many ways, but if you're representing D.C. sports you can't -- CANNOT -- open your arms wide in a fuzzy embrace of visiting Philly fans. You might as well just take the D.C. off your caps.

Kasten was on the "Jody Mac and Harry Mayes Show" yesterday, the midday sports radio program of ESPN-950 AM in Philadelphia, and he turned the segment into an advertisement for next week's home series with the Phillies. Good tickets, apparently, are still available. The first question was about the Nats' roster, and unprompted, Kasten ended with this:

"I think Philly's our best, closest National League rival," he said. "We always have great games with them here, because there's so many Philly kids in college here. So we always have great, enthusiastic crowds, and we hope you all come back again. We have an Opening Day here Monday, we'd love for all our Philly fans to come down, because I know it's gonna be so hard to get tickets in Philadelphia this year. It'll be much easier if you drive down the road and come see us in Washington."

No, Stan, no. Stop now. Hang up the phone. Tell them you just realized you have a lunch appointment. Tell them you need to go watch a MASN rebroadcast.

"No, we want to play you, we want to see you here, and we would welcome your fans here," he said later, when the hosts joked about avoiding this improving Nats ballclub. "And I've got to tell you, I have gone to enough games in three different sports in Philly to tell you that I haven't always felt welcome in your parks, okay? But you can root for whoever you want, you will be welcome when you come to Nationals Park."

Look, rational D.C. fans don't want hostile conditions for visiting fans, but they don't want their faces rubbed in it, either. They don't want to be shamed.

"Hey, you've got an Opening Day hat!" Kasten said, when asked about any giveaways on Monday. "It's a Nats hat, which is okay, but we do feature for sale many Philly hats in our store, so come on by."

Okay, that's not being tone-deaf, that's deliberately going out of your way to play everything in E-flat when you're living in a D-major city.

To be fair, there was one moment of sanity, when Kasten said exactly the right thing. "Well, first of all, the aggravating thing for me is the last few years, the Philly games, it feels like a damn Philly home game," he said. "Now building teams go through that -- road teams attract more customers than you would like as the team is building. The better we get, that's gonna turn over quickly, and it'll quickly become a lot more Nats fans."

That's what you say. That it's a sad inevitability, and that we'll grin and bear it, and that we want it to change. But please, don't encourage them. Civic pride is more important than filling a few empty seats.

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