Every day, I open the sports section and learn that Washington is still in contention for a new baseball team. Every day, I reassure myself that when the National League makes its decision, The Marketing God will look kindly on Washington. After all, we're bigger and richer and younger and a heck of a lot more historic than any other city in the running.
But then I read further, and I learn that Buffalo is probably Washington's chief rival.
Tempting to snicker, isn't it? Here we are, the most visible, powerful, distinctive city in the world. We buy more foreign (translation: expensive) cars than any other city in captivity. We consider a $350,000 house "moderately priced." When J. Press and Nordstrom opened branches here, we said, "What took you guys so long?"
Buffalo? Its list of civic virtues reads like a worn-out Johnny Carson routine: Snow, grime, grit and the occasional belch of a factory that has been cold and dead for 14 years.
But let's take a closer look, we of the fancy Zip codes and the his-and-hers Volvos. Buffalo has a homegrown edge that we can't touch. It's called Buffalo chicken wings.
If you've never eaten one of these, you had better sneak up on your first opportunity with great care. Because Buffalo chicken wings batter your resolve in the same way that potato chips do.
Not only do you want every wing in creation the minute you eat just one, but an amazing metabolic process takes hold the instant you start chomping. You are hungrier after you finish 57 Buffalo chicken wings than you were before you started.
In case you think Buffalo chicken wings are paltry poultry outside of western New York, you may be interested in an interview given to The Washington Post in 1988 by a gentleman named Dominic Bellissimo.
He invented Buffalo chicken wings in 1964. He sells them out of his downtown Buffalo tavern, Frank and Teressa's Anchor Bar. But he also wholesales the wings all over the world.
His average monthly sales? 67,000 pounds. His profits? Our story doesn't say. But I'll bet Brother Bellissimo could afford a Volvo or three.
Now, what does this have to do with baseball?
Buffalo now has a minor league team, the Bisons. They've drawn more than 1 million fans for each of the last three seasons. And what do those fans eat when they go to Bisons games at Pilot Field? You guessed it. Lots of you-guessed-it.
The great minds that run baseball lap up this sort of local color. After all, what do the networks always show on the pregame telecasts whenever the Milwaukee Brewers are playing? Right. Some local yokel quaffing a beer. And what do we always see whenever the Texas Rangers appear on national TV? A blond usherette dressed up in a cowboy hat, of course.
So how hard is it to imagine opening day in 1993? Buffalo Bisons vs. New York Mets. Packed house. And what's the opening shot on CBS? Dominic Bellissimo, of course, with a Bisons cap atop his head, frying up a bunch of wings at home plate and tossing them to the famished, fanatic crowd, wing by delicious wing.
Now compare that to what we could offer here. A shot of the Capitol from the Goodyear blimp. A quick pop of Bob Dole and George Mitchell shaking hands in front of the Washington dugout. An old clip of George Bush playing first base at Yale.
Are you yawning yet? So is the marketing-minded National League.
There's no time to waste. We have a food gap, Washington. If we don't want Dominic and Buffalo to crush our baseball dreams, we need to invent a local delicacy, and fast.
The answer is right under our noses. More precisely, it's right at the corner of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
That's what they make at the Treasury Department, in case you haven't heard. Even if the rest of us don't make as much of it, or enough of it, Washington's best-known product is still the obvious ticket to baseball paradise.
Joe Allbritton, our most prosperous banker, will become Washington's Bellissimo. With great fanfare, he will open a carryout on K Street.
"Joe's Dough," they'll call the place. It'll sell doughy cookies in the shape of dollar bills and doughy crullers with Andrew Jackson's picture on them. For the health conscious, Joe will sell pita dough (stuffed with alfalfa sprouts, of course).
The place will take off the way Rive Gauche did 25 years ago. Bryant Gumbel will drop by for an interview. Sharon Pratt Dixon will start having breakfast there on the way to the office. Duke Zeibert will stop serving those awful onion rolls and start offering up Joe's Dough instead.
By Christmas, the ultimate. A People magazine cover: IF D.C.'S GOT JOE'S DOUGH (AND THEY DOOOOOOO!) WHY NOT A TEAM TOO?
No offense, Dominic. Your chicken wings are irresistible. But so are the tides of baseball history. Mr. Allbritton, would you care to dance?