Today, let’s set aside minor matters like District political corruption or Virginia and Maryland legislative debates so we can focus on something genuinely important: Is it okay for a Redskins fan to root for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday?
This is a hot topic for plenty of sports fans right now, because the annoyingly successful Ravens are in the playoffs while our hapless Redskins are hosting charity events and watching reality TV.
Some Washington fans are tempted to cheer for Baltimore. After all, the Ravens play right up the road and will go to the Super Bowl if they beat the favored New England Patriots.
But, in lots of neighborhoods around Washington, it’s easier to spark a fiery debate over football loyalty than which Republican presidential campaign will be the next to implode. Opinion was passionately divided among Redskins fans I interviewed at sports bars in Howard and Montgomery counties this week.
“A real fan only has one team,” Jerroyd Goode, 37, explained at Jilly’s in Ellicott City. “I grew up with the Redskins, and I’m not going to change.”
But Ben Rapisardi, 26, suggested people like that need professional help.
“There’s something psychologically wrong with you if you’re from Maryland, and you don’t root for the Ravens,” Rapisardi declared at Babes in Silver Spring.
It’s not just talk. There’s actual money involved. As my Post colleague Dan Steinberg reported last week, the Ravens are actively trying to poach supporters from the Redskins to broaden their fan base.
So, where do I stand on this vital question? As longtime readers know, I am one of the few, the proud, the masochistic, with Redskins season tickets.
My logical, cerebral self says: Of course, it’s fine to root for the Ravens. As a local booster, I could argue that it’s good for regional unity to rally around a winner, even one that’s 40 miles up Interstate 95.
But being a sports fan is not an exercise in rationality. Otherwise, why would I still be supporting a team that’s had a winning record in only two of the last 10 seasons?
No, being a fan satisfies some deep need, embedded in our nature, to be part of something bigger. In caveman days — and I pick that comparison deliberately — it was belonging to an extended family or clan. Today, it’s Redskins Nation. We wear the colors. We sing the song. Whether we’re celebrating (occasionally) or despairing (usually), we do it as one.
Given all that, I cannot bring myself to endorse rooting for the Ravens. It would betray my kin.
I realize that’s probably not a strong enough argument to persuade the skeptical. So here are four reasons (rationalizations?) why committed Redskins fans should eschew the Ravens’ blandishments.
→First, you can’t even consider backing Baltimore if you live in the District or Northern Virginia. Only Redskins fans living in the Maryland suburbs (like me) could possibly justify it, citing Free State pride.
●For Marylanders, consider this: Washington has won three Super Bowls. Baltimore has won only two, one with the Ravens and one with the old Baltimore Colts (now in Indianapolis). We Redskins fans have to root against the Ravens to protect our historical advantage.
●Then there’s stadium envy. Baltimore’s is nicer than ours. And guess who helped foot the bill for it with their state tax dollars? Redskins fans in the Maryland suburbs, that’s who. By contrast, when he was owner, the sainted Jack Kent Cooke paid most of the bill for FedEx Field in Prince George’s County out of his own pocket.
●Finally, and this should be decisive for any fence-sitters, Ravens fans wouldn’t root for us if the roles were reversed. For one thing, Baltimore has a chip on its shoulder about Washington. Maybe it’s because we’re the Capital of the Free World, and they have a nice aquarium.
Plus, Ravens fans have an extra reason to resent us, because Cooke helped block Baltimore from getting an expansion team for years after the Colts left town.
Jeff Volmer, president of the Ravens Roost based at Jilly’s in Howard County, estimated that the fan club would vote 70 percent against supporting the Redskins if Washington were in the playoffs and Baltimore’s season was over. Among Ravens fans farther north, he said, it would be 90 percent.
“The closer you get to Baltimore, the more the hatred” of the Redskins, Volmer said. ■
I say we return the favor. So I’ve got one word for any Redskins fan who dares root for the Ravens this Sunday: traitor.
And I’ve got two words for any Ravens fan still reading this column: Go Patriots.
I discuss local issues at 8:51 a.m. Friday on WAMU (88.5 FM). For my previous columns, go to postlocal.com.