Post Metro Columnist
Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:00 PM
Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion by Metro columnist Marc Fisher, who looks at the latest news with a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.
Fisher was online Wednesday, April 2, at Noon ET to look at the opening of Nationals Park, the latest on the illegal immigration controversy in Prince William and John McCain's description of Washington as "the city of Satan."
Fisher was online Wednesday, April 2, at Noon ET.
Check out Marc's blog,
In his weekly show, Fisher veers wildly from serious probing to silly prattle, and is open to topics local, national, personal and more.
A transcript follows.
Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks--thanks for stopping by on a special Wednesday edition of the big show. Potomac Confidential returns to its regular Thursday spot next week. These are a busy couple of weeks of openings around the Washington area. Lots of you are weighing in with your reviews of Nationals Park, the stadium that opened on Sunday. Will the place be full when the team returns for its first real homestand next Monday?
And what do you make of the prospects for National Harbor, the glitzy new hotel and retail complex that opens on the Potomac River next week? How compelled do you feel to go check it out? Also getting started next week: The Newseum, relocated from Rosslyn to a prime spot on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Capitol.
Is it any of Montgomery County's business how big you build your house? Council member Roger Berliner thinks so and as today's story by Miranda Spivack notes, he's moving to get the council to limit construction of single family McMansions of the sort that have been getting neighbors riled up in recent years. Good idea or another nanny state move by MoCo?
Coming up in the column tomorrow: A look at how Howard University Hospital has changed since the David Rosenbaum tragedy.
On to your many comments and questions, but first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day:
Yay to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine for stepping away from the last-second drama about whether he will halt executions at the final possible moment. Kaine announced yesterday that he is putting a moratorium on executions at least until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on whether lethal injections are cruel and unusual punishment--a decision that's expected by the end of this session in three months.
Nay to the Prince William politicians and activists who have jumped on police chief Charlie Deane for meeting with immigrants and a representative of the Mexican government to explain the county's crackdown on illegal immigrants. Deane is in a tough enough spot having to train his officers to enforce the new rules in a fair and transparent manner; the last thing he needs is a bunch of pols slamming him for doing the right thing and taking straight info to the people who need to hear it.
Your turn starts right now....
Fort Washington, Md.: Marc, the new Nats scoreboard is, well large. Almost too large, IMO -- it towers over the field. And it needs to be tweaked a bit for those of us who keep score. First, give field positions along with spots in the batting order. And, when a change is made, announce the new player's batting position along with his position, even if it is just another pitcher occupying the # 9 slot. I don't think they ever announced that Willie Harris had replaced Elijah Dukes until Harris came up to bat, and I am a serious scorekeeper who pays close attention to this sort of thing.
I also attended the O's home opener on Monday. That team is going to be dreadful, but the park is still a gem. And their new out of town scoreboard is amazing. It's almost too much of a distraction for those of us who score every pitch. Obviously there was no out of town scoreboard on Sun. night, but I'm hoping they follow the same approach. The O's get very little right these days, but that scoreboard is a big exception.
Marc Fisher: Too big? Goodness, no, the scoreboard is a delight, perhaps a distraction, yes, but just a pleasure to see, especially when they show replays, which they didn't do nearly enough on Sunday. I'm told there will be more, but to fans' everlasting frustration, the scoreboard operators, who of course work for the team, are instructed not to show replays of close or controversial calls, which is really too bad. The idea is to prevent the crowd from getting all surly and ugly against the umps, but what would be the harm in letting fans at the park see the same replays that the TV audience at home gets to see? After all, the replays vindicate the umps' decisions in a vast majority of cases.
Baltimore, Md.: Marc, I'm Peter Angelos's worst nightmare, a disgruntled Orioles fan who is happy to convert to the Nats. But to someone who with mobility issues, i.e., ME, their new park leaves much to be desired. There were hour-long waits to get through security, and elevators only go to a few upper deck sections. Not to mention the $35 handicapped parking fee. Say what you will about the Orioles, Camden Yards is about the most handicapped-accessible ballpark around. You can park for $10 right next to the stadium, and even those using walkers, which includes me on occasion, have no trouble getting around.
Marc Fisher: I keep hearing from handicapped fans on this, and while the Nats say they are trying to make it work for the disabled, the parking situation is not a good one, and the Nats' solution is both expensive and cumbersome. Yes, there's a shortage of parking, but the Nats need to work out a drop-off system that works for those who are bringing the handicapped to the ballpark. There were lots of people in wheelchairs at Sunday's game, so they somehow made it work, but it does seem that the Nats are less attuned to this issue than they ought to be.
Arlington, Va.: Marc, I was happy to see that the D.C. Council has OK'd vendors outside the Nats new ballpark, but I hope they do something to keep it from becoming a mob scene (think Cleveland). While I'd prefer to eat my food in the park, $5 as opposed to $20 is enough of an incentive to overcome this.
Marc Fisher: Most stadiums allow outside vendors and most do a good job of keeping the pedestrian flow moving despite the vendors' presence. In Baltimore, you can buy a multi-course meal outside the stadium as well as far cheaper and superior nuts. In Cleveland, the offerings aren't as varied, but you can certainly save money that way. The city is making the right move. The only tricky part will be how to manage the sidewalks, which are actually non-existent along several of the blocks near the stadium.
Capitol Hill: I have to disagree with your assessment of the new ballpark. Bland, boring exterior, and a cluttered look from the seats. The atrocious center field restaurant and bar detract and distract from the field and the interior of the stadium. And, while it wasn't an issue Sunday, will there be an out-of-town scoreboard? Kudos to the concessions, I'll give you that.
Marc Fisher: Well, we don't agree on this one. Your position, similar to that of Post Style writer Philip Kennicott, seems based on the idea that the classic Washington limestone and granite look of so many buildings in the Federal core is somehow insufficiently urban, or promotes a sameness that limits the visual diversity of the city. I like the exterior of the ballpark much more than that of the convention center, which is its closest cousin in town. That said, my main problem with the stadium is that its out of town designers put its main, grand entrance around what most fans will think of as its rear, behind home plate. That entrance is really interesting and fun, whereas the entrance most of us will see and use, the one closest to the Metro station, is the butt of the place and is utterly bland, except for the dramatic view onto the field.
The main missed opportunity is the cynical and short sighted choice to build ugly above ground parking garages right where most fans look out toward the city.
I don't get the appeal of that centerfield section of bleachers for high rollers, but similar ventures have proven popular in other cities, and it doesn't look bad.
And yes, there is a large and prominent out of town scoreboard along the outfield wall in center-right field. It wasn't operating Sunday because there were no other games going. I just hope they leave the scores up there, rather than rotating them with ads.
What do You Get for Your $611 Million?: Nothing.
Because the people of the District aren't paying anything.
The city didn't take this money from somewhere else. They borrowed it by issuing bonds that will be paid back by stadium taxes. None of the money came from any other budget item.
I guess you could say that it limits further borrowing opportunities, but the Distirct could borrow anything it wanted if it had a dedicated funding stream (like the stadium).
Whether or not it was a good deal for the city is another issue.
Marc Fisher: You are absolutely right that there is no direct payment of taxes by D.C. residents for the ballpark. The deal was structured so that the city fronts the money and is repaid primarily by those who use the stadium--through taxes on tickets, products sold at the stadium, and on businesses that chose to support the stadium as an economic development tool. But opponents of the public funding do have one good point, which is that there is only so much borrowing that the city can do, and the choice of devoting a big chunk of that borrowing to this project does limit the borrowing done for other public purposes. So it's fair to judge the stadium's success by how well it sparks the development that is expected to expand the District's tax base. On that measure, the answer is so far, so good, as the cranes you can see out beyond centerfield illustrate. But it's early.
Rosslyn, Va.: Looks like things went pretty smoothly for opening night at the new stadium. Do you know if anyone took food/water in from outside?
Marc Fisher: I saw quite a few people bringing in bottles of water with no problem, and a smaller number bringing in their own sandwiches and the like--also with no interference from the security folks. The Nats' official rules say there is a limit of one bottle of water per person brought in from outside, which seems needlessly restrictive, especially once we get into those midsummer weekend day games. But let's see whether they enforce that. Anyone have any problems on this front on Sunday?
Crofton, Md.: Marc, great news about the outside vendors! I was caught up in the long security lines on Sunday, just grabbed a roast beef sandwich for $10.50 (no line) on the way to my seat. What a disappointment! 2 slices of dry bread (probably should have stopped at a condiment stand), with a clump of roast beef and a single lettuce leaf, neither of which came anywhere near the edges of the bread. Plus only the most expensive soft drinks have lids. For these prices, they should do better.
Marc Fisher: Lids are a real problem. And the maddening practice of having the food vendors open all bottles and take the caps away from customers is resulting in all manner of spills. The policy is supposedly a result of fans throwing bottle caps onto the field. But this is an absurd overreaction to a quite rare event. And it's completely inconsistent: You're allowed to bring in a water bottle from outside, with a cap, but you can't have the cap on the same bottle purchased in the park.
Dippin' Dots in the news: Marc, The Onion freebie has a cover story on this subject, claiming that everyone in the future will be eating it. I thought of you immediately since I recall how much you enjoy their fresh 'natural' taste!
washingtonpost.com: Time Traveler: Everyone In The Future Eats Dippin' Dots The Onion, March 26)
Marc Fisher: I keep getting that link from readers who know my, um, special relationship with the Dippin Dots people. Many thanks to all of you. I was stunned as I walked along the third base concourse Sunday to hear not one, but two separate families talking with absolute joy about seeing that the Dots are available at the park. Perhaps reeducation camps are the only solution.
washingtonpost.com: Step Up to the Plate ( Post, April 2)
Arlington, Va.: Although this seems frivolous, I was wondering about the almost complete disappearance of black licorice, the old Switzer's kind, from stores. We mainly have the red kind and Giant also carries chocolate in a few places, but I am of the generation to whom black was the only way to go. Is there something logical that caused it to become scarce?
Marc Fisher: Frivolous? Hardly. These are the defining issues of our lives.
As a lifelong black licorice despiser (hey, some people are deciders, I'm a despiser), I have next to no sympathy for you. But as a professional nostalgic, my heart bleeds.
Hey, maybe literally: Seems black licorice can do all sorts of evil stuff to your heart.
But no, there's no conspiracy to remove black licorice from the market. It's just not as popular as the red stuff. Maybe they should dye it red.
Bowie, Md.: I think the Nay of the Day should go to Congressman Al Wynn. Leaving before the end of his term to cash in with a lobbying firm establishes that Wynn was always in it for the money. Now, Maryland will likely be stuck with having to pay $2 million for a special election to fill his seat. What's the chance that we taxpayers can send that big fat bill to Wynn?
Marc Fisher: You know, I just found in my briefcase my note to myself from yesterday making exactly that today's Nay of the Day--and then I went and forgot about it. You're right--that's the Nay of the Week or maybe even the Month.
A congressman is elected to a two-year term. It's really not asking a whole lot to expect that they will finish up their duties without forcing taxpayers to shell out for a totally unnecessary special election. Waiting just a few more months before cashing out and sucking even more from the public teat is not a terrible hardship.
PG County, Md.: Hi Marc,
From over here in Maryland, it seems like every other story I read about Prince William county is related to illegal immigrants. Can they really be THAT obsessed with the issue? It reminds me of Gov. Bobby Haircut and his obsession with slot machines.
Marc Fisher: Oh, there'll be lots of other stories in Prince William, as the county's budget suffers not only from one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state, but from all manner of other shortfalls caused by the focus on illegal immigration.
As the Post reported the other day, the exodus from the county by both illegal and legal immigrants is having a devastating impact on retail businesses, and there's no reason to think that this will ease anytime soon.
Alexandria, Va.: Hi, Marc. Our family of 5 (dad, mom, 11, 8 and 7-year-olds) loved our $10 seats, but the high food prices are going to reduce our ability to attend from maybe twice a month to twice a season. We're better off than some, not exactly destitute, but have to watch our money; and that $25/person we spent, eating fairly modestly, is a deal breaker. We also gave each child $20 to buy a souvenir, and had to supplement that as well.
BTW, the adults gave the park a mixed review -- it didn't really grab us, which is probably appropriate for a tax-funded stadium -- but the kiids were pretty enthralled. The Nats also could have done a better job of directing arriving patrons to entrances where the security wait was shorter than the hour plus we endured to get in behind first base. But the game made up for everything, and we do plan to return.
Marc Fisher: The food prices are indeed high, but not appreciably higher than they are at other sports venues, or even as they were at RFK. In fact, some of the prices are lower than they were at RFK. But going to a game and eating a meal there is an expensive proposition. In our family, the rule is that we don't eat meals at the game and we cart in our own water. And no souvenirs. Your ticket and your page in your scorebook are your best souvenirs.
All of that said, everyone had a grand time Sunday and can't wait to go back. The interior of the park is every bit as lush and dramatic as those great new parks in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and better than Detroit and Cleveland by my estimation.
Ticket Discipline: Regarding an entry of yours last week, I have seats in 114, and while it wasn't an issue on Sunday night, there was no usher checking tickets at the top of my aisle. Folks who are spending better than $50 for seats are going to get plenty tired of seat jumpers if the Nats don't get the ushers to do their jobs.
And by the way, the ushers need to hold folks at the top of the aisle until the inning ends, or there's breaks in the play.
As for our fans, they need to learn that the time to get up from your seat is right after the third out, don't wait until the first batter of the inning has stepped into the box.
Marc Fisher: Tough customer. I wouldn't hold my breath for any of those restrictions to happen, nor do I think they should. Why shouldn't people be free to move around the stadium at any time? It's not a concert hall or movie theater. The whole experience is designed to encourage wandering--that's how the team and city make their money. There is one design flaw that strengthens your argument: There are so few aisles and the rows are so long at Nats Park that if you're seated in the middle of a row, you have to slip past a whole lot of people to get out from your seat.
Chevy Chase: Having attended both Nats games last weekend, it wasn't difficult to figure out what was mostly causing the food lines -- there clearly had been no attempt to train the food service workers on how to produce and serve the food. Each stand seemed to have 3 or 4 cashiers standing around doing little because there was so little food being produced. At one stand, there were no hot dogs because somebody had turned the heat down too low on the hot dog cooker and no chicken sandwiches because they forgot to put chicken on a nearly empty grill. Meanwhile, the workers were running around bumping into each other and shouting like in a Three Stooges film. Any thoughts?
Marc Fisher: Actually, those workers received at least five long days of training, and many of them are veterans of RFK, FedEx, Camden Yards and other sports venues. I think and hope that much of the crowding you saw over the weekend is a matter of management learning how much food to stock, how quickly to replenish supplies and what staffing is needed at each outlet. But if those long queues continue after a few weeks, that could be a serious problem.
Prince William:"it seems like every other story I read about Prince William county is related to illegal immigrants. Can they really be THAT obsessed with the issue?"
But Marc and all the other illegal immigrant appoligists in the media are.
Marc Fisher: You won't care for this response, but in fact, reporters tend to follow the lead of the people they are covering, and in Prince Williams' case, the focus of the county's elected officials has been very squarely on this issue for many months now, and the citizen activists on both sides of the question regularly demonstrate in their numbers and intensity the fact that illegal immigration is the #1 issue before the county. I would think that the housing situation would take that place, but that's just my view and it does not appear to be reflected in the activism we see in the county.
HSV, AL: No, Marc, it is having a devasting effect on retail businesses (sic) that cater to the immigrant community. Maybe The Post wrote an article about the collapse of other stores, but I didn't see it. If it reduces the stabbings at Manassas Mall it might be good too.
Marc Fisher: It will be interesting to see if the impact is felt in the entire retail sector, not just those shops that cater to the immigrant community.
Springfield, Va.: Excitement about the Nats.
Excitement about the Caps.
Excitement about the Wiz.
Is D.C. threatening to become an all-purpose sports town?
Marc Fisher: Let's not get carried away. The football team is still struggling. The Wiz are still just this side of decent, though they are now finally an exciting team to watch. And while the Nats are off to a lovely little start, the lack of anything that we could charitably call a starting rotation is almost guaranteed to produce a mediocre season.
But I share your excitement, and just wandering past the Pollin Center last night, the crowd's anticipation of the Caps game was palpable--very thrilling scene there.
Gaithersburg, Md.: Marc,
Can we, or can we not, bring food into the stadium?
Marc Fisher: The official rules say Yes.
Rockville, Md.: I took 2 bottles of water into the new baseball stadium with no problem on Sunday. It was a good thing too since I went it around 3:30 after getting in line for $5 tickets at 1:30. It was a long day, but the fabulous ending made it all worthwhile!
Marc Fisher: And there's someone who had no problem getting liquid into the building.
Brookland, D.C.: Marc, any chance the "fan friendly" Nats could provide golf carts or similar transportation between the M St. shuttle drop-off point and the stadium? It's hard to gauge blocks because they are not blocks as such, due to the construction, but it's quite some distance over pretty uneven pavement. My elderly mom is in pretty good shape, but she uses a cane and this long a walk is tiring. We really cannot afford the $35 it costs for a handicapped space near the stadium, not to mention the additional fee for printing off the coupon, which must be purchased on line!
Marc Fisher: The walk from the stadium back to the pick-up point for the RFK Shuttle is a good five blocks, and while that's not a problem for most folks, there are those for whom that might be difficult. Golf carts are a good idea and I'll pass that along to the team and hope they pick up on it.
Disabilities:"...but the Nats need to work out a drop-off system that works for those who are bringing the handicapped to the ballpark"
So disabled people are supposed to depend on having someone to drop them off? Lots of disabled people -- perhaps most -- are able to drive, but for whatever reason are limited in how far they can walk. You know -- those able-looking people who get abused in grocery store parking lots because they aren't in a wheelchair or on crutches.
Marc Fisher: That's why the golf cart idea makes some sense--the problem is that this is an urban stadium in a tight footprint, and you wouldn't want carts competing with rush hour traffic on Capitol Street. But you could probably do something on the eastern side of the stadium, where the car traffic proved to be light bordering on non-existent on Sunday.
Woodbridge, Va.: Marc -- Since you follow the Washington radio scene I was wondering if you have any info on the status of WJFK's Don and Mike. They are currently in the third week of their Easter vacation and rumors are circulating that they are finished and aren't coming back. Geronimo was supposed to quit in May.
Marc Fisher: The rumor mill is hard at work with talk that Don Geronimo has indeed left the building and that he will not return from vacation as scheduled next week. I don't know if that is the case, but it would make sense, as he has more or less checked out. Not yet clear is exactly what form Mike O'Meara's new show will take on WJFK.
In other radio news, the Greaseman is back, sort of. He will do a Saturday-only version of his classic show on DC101 starting this Saturday morning. Grease recently shut down his low-powered AM radio show to spend more time on his boat. It's good to have him back on a station that the entire market can hear.
Washington, D.C.: Another slight to D.C.? I caught the show Home Improvement and they have a promo that they are visiting (and fixing up a house in) each of the 50 states. Does that mean they won't visit D.C.? What should we do? Alert E.H. Norton? Write to ABC to complain? Be thankful that they will not be building a soulless, environmentally-unfriendly mcmansion in D.C.?
Marc Fisher: I'm not familiar with the show, but we routinely get press releases from reality shows that are stunting in the District. Doesn't seem like we're being left out of TV exposure.
Rockville, Md.: Still want us to boo the Nats?
Marc Fisher: Goodness, why would I want that?
Arlington, Va.: It is bad enough that there is some lame Cal Ripken quote on board outside of the Red Porch, but what genius decided to plaster the likeness of Hall-of-Famers FROM OTHER TEAMS over the columns throughout the concourses?
This is Washington, D.C. -- home of the mighty Nats! We don't need other teams' history to make us feel connected to baseball. Let's make our OWN memories.
Marc Fisher: That Ripken quote really bothered me--along with the continuing embarrassment of a fair minority of fans shouting "O!" in the midst of the National Anthem in the Baltimore tradition--but I love the other tributes to baseball history that are spiced all around the new ballpark. From the detailed panels relating the history of baseball in Washington to the terrific display on the history of the Homestead Grays (you have to have access to the club level to see some of this stuff) to the very cool display of important dates in history that forms the central design of the home plate stadium entrance plaza, history of both the Senators and all of baseball is infused through the park.
Greenbelt, Md.: I rode the Green Line down to Sunday night's opener and that part of the journey went pretty smoothly. However, the generally favorable reviews of the new park largely ignored the 2+ hour waits to get into the stadium! Sure, I knew Bush was going to be there, which is why I arrived around 6 p.m. (Family obligations prevented an even early arrival.) This should have been plenty of time for an 8:05 start, but it wasn't. I didn't even get to my seat in time to boo his tossing out the first ball!
C'mon, folks, this is D.C. The president is out and about ALL THE TIME. Friends who arrived at 6:45 missed the first hit, first RBI, a couple even the first HR (no, not Zimmerman's, Chipper Jones). Apparently other lines moved faster but no one directed them to those lines. I hope they will do better when he returns for post-season play!
Marc Fisher: Those who arrived close to game time indeed had very long waits. The Secret Service just got overwhelmed. A couple of hours earlier, there weren't waits at all. But as you say, this was a one-time deal; there shouldn't be any queue to get into the park on a non-presidential night.
Is the security overkill? Probably, but good luck persuading the Secret Service of that.
Bethesda, Md.: When ESPN panned around the neighborhood Sunday night, I clearly saw an entire empty parking deck on the garage next to the stadium. What's up with that??
Marc Fisher: That's the parking for the ultra high rollers, and indeed those garages seemed hugely underused--as were many of the parking lots in the surrounding area. Seems that many season ticket holders chose not to buy parking. This means that the Nats are likely to open up some of those lots for regular daily customers, but it's tricky, because they don't want to encourage folks to just drive down there and assume there will be parking.
Most likely, they will come up with some sort of system for buying a parking space online on the day of the game. But that could take a little while.
I know a bunch of folks who defied all the advice and just drove down there Sunday and did just fine. They even found street parking, but it involved a walk of at least 10 blocks. If you're willing to walk, go ahead and drive is my advice, though the team has a cow anytime anyone dares to utter such things.
RE: there's no conspiracy to remove black licorice from the market.: You're right. People don't buy black licorice because it's DISGUSTING. That's why it's going away.
Marc Fisher: There is that.
Alexandria, Va.: With so many openings and so much development going on in and near D.C. (as you mention, the Nats Stadium, the Newseum, National Harbour), what's the next big project for D.C.? Any news on the Poplar Point plans and how those may compliment and interact with everything going on around the new baseball stadium?
Marc Fisher: I asked Matthew Cutts, the chairman of the D.C. Sports Commission, exactly that question on Raw Fisher Radio yesterday (you can hear the entire interview at washingtonpost.com/rawfisherradio) and he said the ball is now in the hands of the developer chosen for the Poplar Point site. The Fenty administration is not closed to the idea of a soccer stadium there, but it doesn't seem to be a paramount question for them as they consider that development.
But United is itching to settle its future, so I would expect that their talks with Maryland might be the tool to get the District to move on the soccer stadium question. Cutts said the District is moving to put concerts and other entertainment on at RFK this summer and he expects an announcement of some shows there soon.
Arlington, Va.: Marc,
Ney to you for your continued lobbying for the taxi industry. At this point you appear to be in their pocket. Sure these people may be getting a huge deduction of income. However the reason for the deduction is that they now have to pay taxes, and there is a considerable amount of "mischief" that is encouraged by the zone system. If you pay your taxes and don't overcharge, the new fares shouldn't change much. I have to pay taxes, why shouldn't cabbies?
Marc Fisher: Cabbies of course should pay taxes, and while you're probably right that a lot of that cash went unreported under the zone system, the drivers are now advocating for a system that would eliminate that cheating: The GPS-driven zone meter idea, which Mayor Fenty rejected, is the perfect compromise that would give riders the assurance that they're not being swindled, while letting both riders and drivers benefit from the more fair fares that zones allow.
Bethesda, Md.: But there's a larger question about illegal immigration -- is it, broadly speaking, a major issue? Before the primary season, one could reasonably think so, but as of now it looks like the candidates and rabble rousers who ran on that issue have basically disappeared -- but you don't see much coverage of that. Given that, it's not so unreasonable to see the Post's coverage of the Prince William issues as a case of 'Let's you and him fight'.
Marc Fisher: Not sure I buy that: The main politicians pushing the illegal immigration issue remain very much in office and in control of the county's agenda. Both Corey Stewart and John Stirrup have dramatically raised their profiles through their emphasis on this issue, and I don't see either backing off, though Stewart has yielded to political reality and stepped back from his planning to run for lieutenant governor.
Washington, D.C: Can someone please explain to the Nats scoreboard operation, that "SO" is shut-out. A "K" is a strike-out.
That was my only complaint about the new ballpark. Everything else exceed expectations (well, except that we played Sweet Caroline, but that's a whole other issue!)
Marc Fisher: I hadn't noticed that--good catch. Let's hope they make the fix.
M Street NW, Washington, D.C.: If it doesn't taste like licorice, is it really licorice?
Marc Fisher: It's the stench that gets to me.
Golf carts: An even simpler solution would be to run "limited mobility specials" that go all the way to the most accessible entrance every so often. Not so often that they'd be attractive to lazy fans who just don't want to walk the 1/2 mile from the regular drop-off point, but often enough to accommodate fans who can't manage the walk.
Marc Fisher: Another good idea--thanks!
Washington, D.C.: How do you like your new publisher? Have you met her? What changes do you think she will make?
Marc Fisher: The Post's new publisher, Katharine Weymouth, met with the Metro section staff just this morning and stated the paper's continuing commitment to local news as what she called "the bread and butter" of The Washington Post.
Obviously, newspapers are going through a rough time and major structural change is inevitable. We have more readers than ever before thanks to the web, but fewer and fewer paying customers, and that's a problem that the industry is only starting to grapple with. The good news is that Weymouth said that this is not a problem that you can solve by cost-cutting, so while the Post is going through a large buyout of older employees, the management seems to understand that there is great danger in cutting too far.
She's a sharp and frank person who seems committed to maintaining the Post's role as the most important monitor and storyteller in this region, and that's exactly what reporters and editors wanted to hear.
Floris, Va.: Were you shocked that the Nats opener at their new stadium did not sell out? I was.
Marc Fisher: It did sell out, but not everyone showed up, which was indeed surprising. What I'm curious about is how big the crowds will be next week, during the first real test of the stadium--how it goes when a game starts smack in the middle of evening rush hour.
Cleveland Park, D.C.: On the Nats park: It was a great experience, although the concession stands workers weren't ready for prime time. Having outside vendors will be good, but where on earth are the 40 vendors the city council mandated going to all fit?
On Prince William County and its obsession with immigrants: I have to laugh at how royally screwed the county is. They're going to be the regional leader in foreclosures and housing price plummeting. And yet instead of focusing on that gigantic issue, Corey Stewart put the focus on immigration. So PW County will be suffering tremendous financial hardships, but at least none of them illegals will be living there! Great tradeoff.
Marc Fisher: Good question on the vendors. There's plenty of room on the east and south sides of the stadium, but that's not where the crowds will be. Vendors will want to be between the Metro station and the centerfield entrance, and it seems unlikely that the authorities would allow that, given that it's already a tight fit for all the pedestrians.
Alexandria, Va.: Can we please get some CAPS love! They have the best player in the league. We have sold out, I believe 7 of the last 8 home games. We have the best record since Thanksgiving, when the new coach was brought in, we have a current win streak of 4 in a row and 9 out of 10.
The NHL as a whole, has a higher average attendance than the NBA.
It would be nice if the Post at least acknowledged the fact that the CAPS are in a playoff chase and have the best player in the league. Tarik can do A LOT but he cannot do it all.
And thanks for walking around the Verizon Center last night, maybe tomorrow night you can go in it and see how electric the crowd and the game is.
Marc Fisher: Point taken. I too would like to see more on the Caps.
Bethesda, Md.: What particularly galls me about Berliner's home size proposal is that it comes on the heels of the county's budget shortfall and rise in property taxes. I am a county resident, but if the school's start to slip, there won't be much reason for me -- or others like me -- to stay.
Marc Fisher: Ok, that's reasonable, and in addition, probably most of those McMansion owners are even bigger net gains for the taxman, because they not only pay hefty taxes, but many of them don't use the public schools, choosing to send their kids to private schools instead.
GPS meters: Would be even better than time/distance meters to ensure folks aren't swindled. They eliminate the temptation to go the "long way" when business is slow. They would also keep the fare predictable regardless of traffic tie-ups.
Marc Fisher: Exactly--everyone wins. Passengers get lower fares because the meter doesn't tick upwards with every second you sit in traffic, and drivers get the advantage of the flat rate for short hops downtown.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Marc, I came down for the opener Sunday and just wanted to note that I thought Metro ran really well. Maybe it won't be that smooth for games in the future, but the Navy Yard station redesign did seem to help get people downstairs and on to trains.
It was also nice that they ran an extra Red Line train through Gallery Place to meet the Green Line train coming north. Do you know if that will continue?
But on the downside, can we please get rid of Sweet Caroline?
Marc Fisher: Yes, supposedly there will continue to be extra trains not only on the Green Line, but on the other lines where fans are switching to get home. That seems essential to making this work.
And I'm with you on the Sweet Caroline thing. Surely they can get that dancing usher to do his thing to a more palatable tune. And what was with the country song after Zim's walk-off homer? Put a sour note on the whole glorious ending.
Na,TS: What was the deal with carts running out of change? Two times, my $4.50 dog, and $7.50 beer, didn't get those 50 cents in return. Honestly, when they run out of quarters, they should be obligated to round down, not up!
Marc Fisher: Yeah, like that's going to ever happen.
Scoreboard and substitutions: An earlier poster mentioned how the scoreboard didn't reflect Harris being substituted for Dukes and how it makes it hard to keep score. This isn't a new problem for the Nationals; at RFK they seldom announced the double switches in a timely fashion, either. The original PA announcer, who was generally incompetent, probably didn't understand the concept, but later last year they seemed to be doing a little bit better. Hopefully on Sunday it was just a case of some sort of kinks in the operation or something.
I thought it was very interesting to note that the variable-message display above the Nationals' bullpen acts as a closed-caption system that displays the text of everything the PA announcer says. Nice move for the hard-of-hearing.
Finally, what's the story on the large #10 sign above right field? Are the Nationals planning to "retire" that number "for the fans" like the Seattle Seahawks did with #12? (I hope not. Seems cheesy to me.)
Marc Fisher: Sadly, the stadium announcer remains the same old slow, inaccurate and half-hearted operation it was at RFK, at least based on the opener. I'm still hoping that that part of the game experience will be stepped up, but it wasn't sounding good there on Sunday.
No, they shouldn't program the scoreboard or announcer entirely for the benefit of those hardcore fans who score the game, but there should be a basic level of accuracy and completeness, and fans should be able to find out about double switches, passed ball calls and how a batter did on his previous at-bats. These is not being overly demanding.
Washington, D.C.: I really only have one complaint about Metro on Opening Day, but it came at the tail end of the night so it kind of sticks in my craw. We went to 8th St early to catch the NCAA games, made the nice walk to the park, and were planning on taking the Green Line back to U St after the game was over. Got on with the crowds around 11:10 and they thinned out at L'Enfant and pretty much emptied at Gallery Place. However, only AFTER the train left Gallery Place did we get an announcement that this particular Green Line train would be stopping at Convention Center and we all had to get off. That little nugget of information would have been very valuable had we known BEFORE the train left Gallery Place. We are pretty much equidistant from U St and Dupont, and only chose to take the Green Line home to avoid a transfer with the crowd to the Red Line. Ended up cabbing the short ride from Convention Center since we were tired and didn't feel like waiting for the next train. Yes, a minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things, but something that was completely avoidable had the announcement been made literally 15 seconds sooner before the train pulled away from the platform.
Marc Fisher: Yes, I heard from a slew of fans who were confused by Metro's barely communicated decision to stop some Green Line trains after just a few stations and then turn them around to go pick up more fans leaving the ballpark. Metro should alert fans to this on the way TO the park, so folks can plan their return trips accordingly.
Ahh summer: (Not sure if this will make it -- the preemptive Wednesday strike caught me off guard.)
It was wonderful to see the baseball standings return in Monday's sports section. A sure sign summer is around the corner! Also, it was doubly nice to see the Cubs at the top of the list, even if the reason was simply alphabetical.
Marc Fisher: Oh, go ahead and give yourself more credit than that--I'm no Cubs fan, but you can be reasonably certain that your team will make more deserving appearances high in the standings this summer.
And yes, the return of box scores is a glorious sign of spring, every bit as enchanting as the budding of the cherry blossoms. Ours opened up Sunday.
Silver Spring, Md.: We took water, dinner and snacks in...unlike RFK we weren't checked for any of it (though food is approved on the Web site provided you don't store any thing in plastic containers.)
We seldom buy a meal in any ballpark, but bring sandwiches and snacks and indulge in a pretzel or, maybe, a knish!
Marc Fisher: I was surprised and pleased to see the knish well reviewed in today's excellent Food section spread on the ballpark's food. The knish at RFK was awful, so this is an encouraging sign. I'll try to get one next week and report back.
Country song after the homer: I believe your paper reported that "How Do You Like Me Now" is one of Manny Acta's favorites.
Marc Fisher: Yes, I saw that and I am not impressed.
Ballpark food: The article on the Post site's front page regarding the food at the ballpark is dead-on about the buns. When you're eating messy food like Ben's Chili Bowl half-smokes (or the cheesesteak I had a few hours before the game), the LAST thing you want is to have the bun fall apart such that the food falls out. The buns fell apart on both my half-smoke and my cheesesteak. Hopefully they can find a way to fix that one.
Marc Fisher: I wouldn't expect a whole lot of bun surgery in the short term, but I do hope the Centerplate folks are more receptive to fan feedback than were the Aramark managers, who were very nice people but wildly misread the D.C. fan base during their sad tenure at RFK.
Alexandria, Va.: CAPS Facts, I misstated one fact, the CAPS have the 2nd best record since Thanksgiving. My bad...
Marc Fisher: Thanks for the correction.
Strike Out:"K" has always stood for strike out in baseball talk so the Nats have it right!
Marc Fisher: Yes, I think that was the earlier poster's point--it should be "K," not "SO."
Section 114: For the poster who arrived at 6 p.m. and didn't get in til 8... he should have listened to the security folks who were directing people to other gates. It wasn't mandatory, but I strolled down South Capitol, toured the stadium from the outside for a bit and after a 5 minute (tops) walk, I entered through the home plate gate where there were about 4 people ahead of me in my queue. About 10 minutes to get from Navy Yard (after we got to the street level) to clearing security.
Marc Fisher: Good to hear, though I ran into some Post colleagues who made that move and ended up in a far longer queue at the home plate entrance. In any event, we can probably count on not having to deal again with that set of problems at least until next Opening Day.
Sold out but not full attendance : Many of us did show up, but gave up when we had waited for 1.5 hours in the cold and drizzle to get past security. My 3-year-old was getting a cold, and when we walked away and back to Metro, we were joined by a lot of people. The president's being there just ruined it. We got there at 6. That seemed plenty early enough, but apparently not. And the Lerners did nothing. They would have earned a lot of points by coming out, maybe even passing out some peanuts. But we were ignored, no one directed the lines, and there was ONE mention of the ridiculous lines in the news the next day, and it was only in passing. I was beyond disappointed.
Marc Fisher: Wow--you actually turned back home? Sad to hear that. I checked the lines several times and they were really not bad for the first few hours. The crunch overwhelmed in those last 90 minutes or so. Going to presidential events is rarely fun and almost never worth the trouble, no matter who is president.
Washington, D.C.: I was disturbed by the prominent sponsorship of Nationals Park by Exxon Mobil, with a large sign in left field and even the "Exxon Mobil 7th Inning Stretch." Doesn't it seem inappropriate for the nation's first "green" stadium to be sponsored by Big Oil?
Marc Fisher: I don't see the connection--they're an advertiser buying space and no business that depends on advertising should care who buys their space. Their job is merely to provide a forum that is open to all.
Washington, D.C.: Marc...
You probably won't get to this because it's too late, but I was wondering if you knmew where we can find in writing online from the Nats that you CAN bring in food to the ballpark. In the past I have been turned away by power hungry security at RFK, and I want to be able to produce in writing a press release or something from the Nats saying that I can. Any ideas?
Marc Fisher: Your wish is my command:
Print this out and you'll be well-armed---
Southern Prince George's County: I hope to love the National Harbor but I understand it will cost me $10 to park. There is a proposed Potomac Heritage Trail but NIMBY folks oppose the easement granted for this and other development along the Potomac.
Marc Fisher:$10 to park at stores? Wow. That would certainly dampen my desire to visit.
Anonymous: Maybe not your cup of tea, but what do you think of the congressional proposal to help even those that overextended themselves in the mortgage crisis?
Marc Fisher: Sorry, but I can't see any possible justification for the taxpayers bailing out anyone who was foolish or greedy enough to do something that was obviously and patently too good to be true.
Edgewater, Md.: Despite that memorable game, my Opening Night experience was completely ruined by the 2 hours (not 90 minutes, as reported) that I spent trying to get into the park on Sunday night.
I took the shuttle from RFK and arrived at the RF corner of the park around 5:45. Because my seat was behind 1B, I made the fateful decision to get in the line for the 1B Gate. There were hundreds of people in that line, and only 3 metal detectors. I had no time at all to admire the park and barely made it to my seat for the opening pitch.
So you can imagine my outrage when my friend, who had arrived separately at about the same time, told me he had gone straight ahead at the RF corner and entered, after a 5-10 minute delay, at the main CF entrance, which had 18 metal detectors! Why didn't the Nats have people stationed at the RF corner, to direct fans to that much less crowded entrance?
Those of us in the 1B Gate line saw lots of people walking by and asked repeatedly if there was another entrance we could use. In response, we were consistently told that all gates had very long lines. What we were not told was that at least one of them had 6 times as many metal detectors! (18 to 3)
I walk with a cane due to a partial foot amputation and have serious balance problems. It was very difficult standing for 2 hours in line, without even a wall or a fence to lean against. After going through security, I then had to walk up maybe 50 steps to reach the main concourse. It also took us well over an hour to catch the shuttle back to RFK, for most of which time I also had to stand. In checking with others in the bus line, I confirmed that I was not the only one who had had to endure the 2 hour wait to get into the stadium.
While I wish the Nats well, I think you can understand why I have no intention of returning to their ballpark anytime soon.
P.S. I did not get my Opening Night commemorative towel or lanyard ticket holder, either.
Marc Fisher: I get your frustration, but you're taking it out on the wrong folks. That delay was caused entirely by the Secret Service and the presidential visit, not by the Nats.
Washington, D.C.: Marc, I just had to pinch myself this morning, cause the Nats are undefeated (first place) and after the Caps' stellar victory last night they are now tied for first place! It is okay to be excited about our teams competing at a high level during the spring in our nations' capital, isn't it? (Ovechkin MVP!)
Marc Fisher: Ok by me. Very ok.
Na,TS: Scoreboard should also show how a batter fared in their previous at-bats. It's nice to be reminded that a person os 0 for 3, or has already gone 2 for 2, etc.
Marc Fisher: Absolutely. Let's hope that changes soon.
Alexandria, Va.: Just want to say that the parking on Saturday for the Cherry Blossoms -- at least in the morning when I drove in with my dog -- was very easy to navigate! Now, if only they could do something about every 5 feet around the Tidal Basin of somebody setting up a major tripod to improve pedestrian traffic!
Marc Fisher: That has to be a first--an easy experience going to see the blossoms at the Basin? Wow.
RE: Prince William County: The reason you aren't reading anything other than Illegal Immigration with regards to Prince William County is probably because you read this newspaper, and they choose not to report on anything else in that area. If you were to pick up a local county newspaper, you would find a greater variety of stories. A large newspaper like this one has to cover stories over a larger area and cannot report on everything going on in each locality, so they pick the "popular" stories or stories that THEY find most newsworthy. A cynic would say they use a political agenda when choosing stories for publication, but I think much of the time they pick the stories they think will help generate higher readership levels.
Marc Fisher: You'll find great variety in this newspaper's coverage of the county as well, but the big story in Prince William in recent months has been illegal immigration. Whatever your view of the merits of the county's initiative, it is unquestionable that this topic has brought out voters and protesters in a way that no other has in recent memory, and it would be wrong not to reflect that in our coverage.
Marc Fisher: Thanks very much to all for coming along on this out-of-sequence edition of the big show. Back to the usual Thursday noon time next week.
Meantime, the column is back in Thursday's paper, and the blog chugs along every day at washingtonpost.com/rawfisher
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