As the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals plow ahead with their magical seasons, I increasingly find myself wondering how baseball fans near the Beltway are handling the simultaneous and surprising success of both clubs.
After all, the area isn't like Chicago or New York, cities that have long featured two big-league teams, one of which you're normally expected to declare an allegiance toward shortly after birth. The Nationals weren't born until 2005, causing baseball fans in the District, Virginia and parts of Maryland to either:
1. Stick with the Orioles, a team with an established history of World Series titles and Hall of Famers that many had grown up with. This normally should not have been a hard choice for anyone to make, though Peter Angelos' flagging ownership of the franchise opened the door for some fans to ...
2. Jump ship to the Nats, Washington's first baseball team since the Senators moved to Texas in 1972. The rebranded Expos didn't offer much in the way of winning, though they were certainly attractive for fans looking to get in on the bottom floor of something. They were a logical and exciting choice if you were someone who lived closer to Washington and whose only tie to Baltimore was an occasional trip up to Memorial Stadium as a kid. But with both teams struggling in the the mid-to-late 2000s, there was also the choice to ...
3. Root for both because, hey, neither team was ever going to be any good and if one was, there were never going to be any good at the same time.
It's fans in this latter group that I'm currently interested in because I figure those from Bawlmer have stuck with the orange-and-black while the D.C. residents haven't had any problem adopting the Nats as an occasional diversion from tidbits of Redskins news. How are the fans who have kept a toe in both pools handling the possibility of an all-MASN World Series? How do they choose who to watch each night as both push toward division titles?
Before I get to asking one of my friends who counts himself as a fan of both, I should note that our old YSB overlord Jamie Mottram recently wrote about this issue on Mr. Irrelevant. As a native Virginian who lost interest in the O's in a post-Cal world, Jamie's love for baseball was rekindled by the arrivals of the Nationals and the curly W is the only cap he'll wear on his head. Still, he admits to feeling conflicted as he sees the cartoon bird of his youth perched atop the AL East standings.
I suspect I'm not alone in having mixed feelings about the American League portion of the situation. I'm certainly not in a place where I can call myself an Orioles fan any more — that ship sailed (and sank) long ago. Yet I'm impressed with what they're doing (even if there might be a "smoke and mirrors" aspect to it) and hope it continues … even if it would put money in Mr. Angelos' pocket and, God forbid, a smile on his face.
Then there's my friend Ron Whitworth, who comes from a similar background as Jamie but counts himself among the camp that's conflicted on who to root for.
Here's what he writes:
I've been struggling with this since 2005. I grew up a diehard O's fan as that was DC's "home team" at the time. Many (if not most) DC sports fans abandoned the O's when the Nats came along, as Peter Angelos feared, and it didn't take long for O's coverage to practically disappear from the Washington Post.
But I believe you can never abandon your childhood team. I was at the first-ever Nats game and have been a huge fan of the team from the beginning, and never thought I would have to choose between the two teams. I watch and follow the Nats a lot closer than the O's, but I have MLB Extra Innings AND MLB.tv so I can follow them both very well even when they are playing simultaneously. I still consider myself a huge fan of both, but if they met in the World Series, I guess I would sort of be like a Manning or Williams parent. Not sure if I could fully root for or against either one of them ... their regular season meetings have been uncomfortable enough to attend. I guess we'll deal with that if it comes down to it?
There is still a long way for both teams to go if they are to stage an ultimate matchup in the World Series, of course, but perhaps the 2012 season is the catalyst baseball needed to create the type of "A House Divided" dynamic in the Mid-Atlantic region that already exists among fans of, say, the Yankees and Mets or Cubs and White Sox or the Angels and Dodgers.
So with all of that said, we're asking fans of both the O's and Nats: How are you handling this prosperity? Is it necessary to declare an allegiance to just one team? If so, how have you made that choice?
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