Because the Nats are playing the Orioles again, both local sports-talk stations are again debating the age-old question that has puzzled thinkers, rankled fans and earned modest numbers of pageviews for more than a decade now: Can you be both an Orioles fan and a Nationals fan, or is it better to like one team and root against the other? And then there’s the associated question: Do Baltimore people care more about a potential city rivalry than do Washington people?

Here is one argument that yes, they do.

One paper is choosing the path of hostility and venom, and the other is choosing the path of reconciliation and love. I’m happy to be on the side of love.

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Or go back to the recent Bmore Opinionated podcast featuring Tony Kornheiser with hosts Jason La Canfora and Jerry Coleman. My pal Jason, a pretty well-known and noisy Orioles fan and Baltimore lover, brought up the topic of Baltimore vs. Washington.

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“I found it comical because everyone when I lived in Arlington and around there tried to pretend there wasn’t some rivalry and it was just a chip on little old Baltimore’s shoulder,” he said. “It’s kind of perceived here that [Washingtonians] do care, they wish they had the Ravens and not the Redskins. Not saying they want to switch franchises, but [they wish they had] that level of acumen, that level of success. That we have the better ballpark. And that there’s a lot of people there who, rather than just concede that yeah they want us to fail just like we want them to fail, they try to pretend they’re above the fray. But at night, I think they’re doing the same thing I’m doing, which is if the O’s win, I’m flipping over to MASN. And if the Nats are losing, I’m chuckling a little bit, I’ve got to say. If Bryce Harper took it on the collar, I’m laughing.”

Kornheiser, a Washingtonian, felt differently. (Listen to the podcast here.)

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“That’s interesting to me, because I certainly like the Orioles,” he said. “I mean, I like the Orioles. I went there for a number of years. I don’t like the television deal, I don’t like the big foot [move] that Peter Angelos did to the Nats, because I really really like the Nats. But I have no ill will whatsoever for the Orioles. I know [Steve] Bisciotti personally, I know [John] Harbaugh personally, I think it’s a great organization, I think it’s a great ballpark, so I don’t root against [the Ravens] even if I like the Redskins. I don’t root against them. …

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“[In New York], you were either a Mets fan or a Yankee fan, it’s as simple as that. You were either a Knicks fan or a Nets fan, certainly when they were on Long Island. You were either a Giants fan or a Jets fan. Maybe you have that from a Baltimore perspective. [But] I have no ill will towards the Baltimore teams, both of which I think are run very well.”

Another well known ESPN personality, Montgomery County’s Tim Kurkjian, made a nearly identical point Tuesday morning on ESPN 980.

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“I think you can be a fan of both of these teams,” he said. “When I grew up the Senators and the Orioles were in the same league, so you had to choose. And the Orioles just clobbered the Senators every single time they played, it seemed, so you grew up as a Senators fan hating the Orioles because they always killed the home team. But now since they’re in different league, I think there’s a dynamic here that’s unique to baseball.

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“Fans in New York have to pick, Yankees or Mets,” Kurkjian said. “But there are people in our neighborhood in Gaithersburg, one house loves the Nationals, one house loves the Orioles and the other house loves them both. And that’s okay, too. I think it would be great if they played in the World Series one day, because people in the area would have their favorite teams. There’s no real animosity towards either team. Maybe that doesn’t build a great rivalry, but I think it makes the area different than say Chicago or New York, where they have two teams. … Maybe this is the year where people start to choose sides, but I don’t think so. I still think it’s a two-team area, and I think that’s a good thing.”

And yet other D.C. natives think the perceived enmity from Baltimore fans is reason enough not to like the Orioles.

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“I don’t have any malice towards the Orioles,” Danny Rouhier said Monday on 106.7 The Fan. “[But] they hate us. This is what needs to be understood. … They don’t like us. They don’t care for us. They hate us. They resent our very existence. They think that we look down on them, or whatever the case is. You can call it an inferiority complex, you can call it whatever you want, I don’t care. I just know this: Baltimore hates D.C. What’s unique about the marketplace — and this dynamic between the two – is that there are no Nationals fans living in Baltimore, but there are Orioles fans that live here. There’s nothing like that anywhere else in the sporting world.

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“They hate our very existence,” Rouhier went on. “They are bothered by us. That hatred should preclude anybody from giving a rat’s-you-know-what about what goes on up there. … The fact that they hate us so much should be so off-putting that I say you know what, I’m not doing this anymore. That plus the fact that their owner’s one of the most corrupt scums that you’ll ever find in terms of what he did behind the scenes preventing baseball from coming to a market that deserved it for 50 years — to me it’s so off-putting that I can’t imagine not being put off by it.”

His co-host Grant Paulsen, meanwhile, continued to defend the notion of joint fandom.

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“I see no issue why people cannot have two teams here,” he said. “For me, I’ve always loved the Orioles. I’m not going to stop loving the Orioles. I went through a lot of lean years liking the Orioles. I now like the Nats just as much, and Nats fans get so upset at me, when the fact is I still watch more Nationals games than 95 percent of people in this town. … I’ll go to three times as many Nats games as O’s games this year. I might get to 30-some Nationals games this year. I don’t know how many non-season ticket holders can say that. I’m very invested in the Nationals. I just still have a passion for and love the Orioles too. Why is that not okay?”

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That would seem to suggest the cities do not have a seething rivalry. The fact that so many people in Baltimore root for the Capitals or the Wizards would make the same suggestion. As would the fact that I hear far more hatred from D.C. fans for Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or Dallas or New York than I ever do for Baltimore. Baltimore’s fine. It’s whatever, is the general attitude I hear.

“I never personally saw it as a rivalry, because I thought that the transitory nature of living in Washington didn’t really permit rivalries,” Kornheiser said. “I think it’s very possible that Baltimore could resent Washington, because if you consider the I-95 corridor you go Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and sometimes you skip over Baltimore, and if I lived in Baltimore, I would be very resentful about that.

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“But I think if you’re from Baltimore, you should be relatively confident that in terms of city life and restaurants and attractions and all of that other stuff, you have far deeper roots in the corridor than Washington does. So if where you’re going is that Washington sort of gives the back of its hand to Baltimore, I guess you could probably make that sort of case. But I don’t think it’s consciously done, again, because I don’t think 50 percent of the people living in Washington were born and raised in Washington.”

(Disclosure: I am friends with most of the people quoted here. Kornheiser noted in the podcast that his words would probably be transcribed by me, but someone else put me up to it. I am from neither Washington nor Baltimore. And I probably have written this exact item annually.)

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