The New Civil War in The Old Line State
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Maryland is in the middle of a civil war right now and I’ll bet you didn’t even realize it. No, I am not talking Abraham Lincoln and Gettysburg Address shtick; I am referring to the turf war that is taking place between Nationals and Orioles fans.
The most difficult part of this battle is that, unlike the Redskins and Ravens “rivalry,” we can’t even figure out where the dividing line should be drawn.
In terms of the NFL, it is fair to say that anywhere north of Columbia, Md. is Ravens territory. Is it a coincidence that this is approximately the area where the 106.7 FM signal fades and the donkeys from 105.7 FM can be heard more clearly? I don’t know but I am not going to ask CBS to buy a bigger antenna in my first article.
When it comes to declaring the Mason-Dixon line between Nats and O’s fans the task is much more complicated. You grew up with the enemy; he is in your backyard.
Washington, D.C. did not have professional baseball for 33 years. Most D.C. sports fans grew up in a world where the O’s were the only show in town. As a result, most Nats fans admittedly grew up rooting for the O’s.
When 2005 rolled around and the Expos became the Nats, some D.C. sports fans had a difficult decision to make: Do I stop following the O’s entirely and stand by my D.C. allegiance or do I stay loyal to the team I have been supporting for 30-odd years?
For me the decision was easy, D.C. ‘til I die (which will be sooner than later if the Skins go 3-13 again). However, not everyone in our region agrees with that logic and many people who root for all other D.C. teams stand by the O’s.
In choosing the Nats or the O’s I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Just because you live in Rockville or Arlington it doesn’t mean you have to switch allegiance and root for the hometown team.
I actually respect the consistency of sticking with a team for life. What I cannot stand is D.C.’s fan base cannibalizing itself. We are already a fractured group filled with transients, Johnny-come-latelies and people who spend more time at a game looking at their iPhones than the players.
Baltimore does not face these challenges.
I carry no ill will toward the Orioles, I am fine with pulling for them as long as it does not affect the Nats fate. Am I insane for this? For obvious reasons there are plenty of Redskins fans rooting for the O’s but I challenge you to find me someone who roots for the Ravens and the Nationals. It’s unheard of. If I ever meet that person I will ask, “What kind of sick hybrid fan are you? Do you live in LaPlata and vacation in Pasadena?”
I made the switch to support the Nats instinctively in 2005. My D.C. brethren who stuck with the O’s have been chirping me with the same insults ever since.
You hear the same insults every time you are caught in the crossfire between Nats and O’s fans. “Bandwagon!” “Disloyal!” “You’d still be an O’s fan if they were good in 2005.” Those three are the most common but the last one is my favorite. The Nats made their first playoff appearance two years ago; those first six years were far from fun.
There is no love lost from Baltimore to D.C.
The bottom-line is that Baltimore hates D.C. and D.C. doesn’t care about Baltimore.
Baltimore area fans actively root for the downfall of the Redskins and the Nationals. The only thing this overt hatred can be chalked up to is an inferiority complex. Smaller city, less teams, more free time to make lists like the Baltimore Sun’s “100 reasons why Baltimore is better than D.C.”
Who makes lists like that?!? It sounds like something a love scorned 13 year-old would do after a breakup. Can’t we all just get along?
We all hate Peter Angelos, right? Perhaps we can bond over that. Oh wait, Baltimore fans aren’t willing to give an inch. They refuse to admit that the current O’s success is at all attributable to the Nats existence.
That’s right, the beloved Orioles were putting out a horrible product in the early 2000’s, abysmal attendance following Ripken’s retirement and an even more miserable product on the field. I don’t blame Angelos for trying to keep baseball out of D.C.; when you have a nubby, yet still profitable product, the last thing you want is competition. You don’t have to love his ethics but you have to respect his business acumen.
As the Nats have become a better team the O’s have continued to improve and invest in young talent. So O’s fans, you’re welcome.
Baltimore catches plenty of flack but it is a great city. They have an excellent art and music scene, solid restaurants and museums and you need not sell your first born to put a down payment on a house. However, Baltimore’s hatred for D.C. baseball makes it hard for me to bury the hatchet. I don’t want to compare Bryce Harper to Manny Machado, I don’t want to compare our concession stands or our city’s crime rates. You do you and we will do us.
Once upon a time Baltimore was a city without a football team, now you have championships and glory. D.C.’s baseball fans are hoping for the same fate. Why the need to consistently fire arrows at the District?
Perhaps this generation of O’s fans are grasping by desperation, they know the next generation is going to grow up watching a competitive franchise in their backyard and that dividing line between the two cities will eventually show itself. No doubt the sports landscape 20 years from now will be far different in this area. Until then, choose a side and toe the line.
The next chapter in Battle of the Beltways (does this name give anyone else heartburn?) will take place July 7th at Nationals Park. Get your tickets now but be prepared for an orange and black invasion. We are simply outnumbered … for now.
** At the risk of sounding like a McConaughey Oscar acceptance speech I’d like to wrap this first entry up by thanking 106.7 The Fan, everyone who voted for me (although most of them were either family members or people who owe me money) and lastly the four finalists I was fortunate enough to beat out in the competition. Alex Burgos, Mike “Texter Manley” Gussow, J.J. Regan and Andrew Sensi are each passionate D.C. fans and creative writers; I have no doubt they will be gunning for my job with each grammatical error and profanity-laced tirade I spew on this website.