I led an easy stress free life from 1979-1997. I was an Orioles fan. End of story.
But in 1998, I moved to New York and began to root for the Mets as well. It started off slowly. I always kind of liked the Mets. Maybe it was because they had a history of being the ugly second cousin to the Yankees. Maybe it was because the old Brooklyn Dodgers fans became Mets fans. Maybe it was because of Casey Stengel. Maybe it was because the first game I ever went to other than Baltimore's Memorial Stadium was Shea Stadium.
I'm not a frontrunner. In fact, I get bored when a team I'm rooting for is the best in the league. The 1997 Orioles regular season was too boring for me. There was no adversity. It was too easy. The 1991 Redskins team who dominated the league all season was not nearly as much fun to me as the 1987 team that wasn't all that great (if you take out the 3-0 record that the replacement squad put together) until the playoffs. I like the teams I root for to be in second place all year until making a big push at the very end.
So I'm not a frontrunner, but I am a person who enjoys having a home team to root for. I have taken grief from the peanut gallery about this for years but I see no reason why I can't be an Orioles fan and a Mets fan. I'll always be an Orioles fan but I also like being able to go to the games, watch them regularly on TV, and listen to sports radio that revolves around the home team. The Mets were an exciting bunch during my first four years in New York. They easily sucked me in. The Orioles had become a pathetic shell of themselves and Peter Angelos is an embarrassment.
In 1998, during interleague play, I rooted for the Orioles over the Mets. As soon as the Birds left town, I put my Mets hat (figuratively not literally, I still don't have a Mets cap) back on in enough time to passionately root them on against the Yankees during the next three games.
In 1999, I rooted for the Orioles again but I was conflicted. They were in the midst of another terrible season and the three games did not matter to them. But they did matter to the contending Mets.
By 2000, I had given up any pretense during these interleague games of rooting for Baltimore. Who cares if they won these games? They were destined to only win 70 games anyway so what did it matter? The Mets, on the other hand, really needed every victory they could get. I could live with myself for this transgression. I have two teams, one from my childhood and one that I have adopted. Since they aren't even in the same league, it was easy to root for both. And since the Birds were so abysmal, there really was no conflict. It was only three games each year played in the early part of the season! Now that the interleague schedule has changed, the two teams only play each other once every three years. I still believe that if the two teams played in the World Series, I would root for Baltimore. But I never will truly know until the first pitch of that first game to see which way my heart goes.
Which brings me to the Nationals. I love them! I love the excitement they generate among fans who didn't really ever have a team to root for. I love how excited they make my dad. I can't wait to go to RFK to see a real game with real field dimensions after seeing two exhibition games there in the early 90's during a failed attempt to lure a team to Washington.
As a kid, in between Hardy Boys books, I loved reading about the old Senators that moved to Minnesota. How could you not like Walter Johnson or Gabby Street who in 1908 caught a ball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument? Shirley Povich's columns always were a good reminder that, yes, the Nation's Capital once did have major league baseball. Washington: First in War, First in Peace, Last in the American League.
Even my mom who hates baseball would occasionally reminisce about going to games at old Griffith Stadium as a girl with her dad. I always loved looking at the ticket stub to the All Star game that my grandfather attended at D.C. Stadium (RFK before it was renamed) in 1962.
I always enjoyed listening to my dad talk about the second incarnation of the Senators and all the games he attended from the mid 60's- 1971: Big Frank Howard! Ted Williams bringing some respectability as the manager for a few years. Denny Mclain, former 31 game winner in Detroit, imploding in Washington.
The newspaper description of Frank Howard's monstrous RFK homerun - the seat has been freshly repainted.
My dad would tell me stories about going to games with only 700 fans in attendance. He was there at the last home game (only a few thousand fans bothered to show up) when Frank Howard's homerun gave Washington a late lead against the hated Yankees. The fans stormed the field in glorious agony and destroyed the field. The Senators had to forfeit the game. A perfect ending. My dad was heartbroken when the team left. He lamented about the time the Padres were on the verge of moving to Washington in the mid 70's. It took him eight years before he finally began to embrace the team 50 minutes to the north.
Even though I was raised an Orioles fan, I always loved listening to the stories. I prized my 1971 Topps Cards of a few of the Senators. My two favorites were Del Unser and Elliott Maddox.
So, yes, I am even more excited about the Nationals than I thought I would be. This surprises me. I didn't think I felt such a strong allegiance to the area. I have no desire to live there again. And I grew up an Orioles fan. Yes, I would have been a Senators fan if they had existed but that is besides the point. I am so conflicted. I find myself extremely happy each time the Nats win. After the team has been screwed for so many years in Montreal, they are the utlimate underdogs.
This isn't going to be easy for me. They play the Mets 19 times a year and they are in the same division! Starting next year, they will play the Orioles six games a year and I imagine that that will turn into quite a nice rivarly. It is an embarrassment of riches for me but I'm very worried here. How do I handle this?
This weekend, the Nats come to New York for the first time. Youthlarge and I are going to Sunday's game. Next Saturday, we will go to RFK to see the Mets play the Nats. I will be rooting for the Mets but I wonder how long that will last. Am I such a Washington kind of guy that even after not having a team to root for (a team that I would have rooted for if they had existed and let's remember I was not a Colts fan but a Redskins fan, back when I cared about the gridiron) for 32 years that eventually that love will supersede both my adopted team and the team of my childhood? I'm nervous and excited about where my fandom will lead me over the next few years.
In fact, the only other thing that makes me nervous about this whole Nats thing is that their hat reminds me a little too much of our current president.
Propose a nickname for the Nats here.
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