I attend approximately twenty Nats game a year, so it was riveting to be in an outdoor DC stadium that was truly, and only DC fans. For my friends and I (and the other 145 usual people in the stands), Nats games normally entail drinking beers, pointing out cute girls, making petty bets on which Nationals' player would screw up next, and defending DC from opposing cities' hecklers. The last part there is what killed me. A week and a half ago I was at the Nats/Orioles game and sure enough multiple Flyers fans were in gear yapping away at us. That's right...Flyers fans at a Orioles-Nats game. It angers me to no end, and I have no idea why. A shrink would probably tell me it's twenty years of built up frustration from a city that has never won anything. I would take it a step further in that the problem is exasperated since we're continually meant to think we're contenders when we're realistically pretenders.
Well, fans aren't oblivious and they're not going to keep draining money for no reason. As a result, the opposing fan take-over in DC is as common as Metro delays - by far the worst stadium being Fedex Field. When out-of-towners want to start the trash-talking, I always had it covered. Name any city and I have a comeback that will sit you down real fast. But that all changed at the Giants "Swinging Gate" game last year. Our normal club-level section, where Ken has been for 10 years and myself 4, was all Giants and Cowboys fans. Yes, you heard that right. Tickets were so inexpensive that Cowboys' fans even showed up, in full-gear, and boasting their successes. All the regulars we had enjoyed games with, asked about their family - were long gone. It was a never-ending rain of verbal garbage. As the anti-DC assault continued into the second quarter, I had had enough. I told Ken I was leaving. He complied, "OK...see you at the bar." I replied, "No, I'm taking the Metro home."
Early in the 2nd quarter, a mile walk, twenty-minute wait for the Metro, then another 30 minutes to get back to my apartment...on a Monday Night Football game. On that long walk through the silent Fedex parking lots, I really couldn't put a finger on why I had to leave. As annoying as Giants and Cowboys fans are, they had never gotten to me before. My Jack Handey "deep thoughts" were immediately interrupted by about 12 text messages "Did you just see that? Redskins are the worst ever." I quickly turned my phone off. I couldn't take any more ridiculous news, which turned out to be the Swinging Gate play. It was that next morning it all made sense.
The Redskins were no longer a team I wanted to defend. It's asinine to continually defend something you know is mismanaged and will never work. I had been doing it for ten years and with the loss to the Lions, we all knew this franchise was going backwards. Luckily, Dan Snyder felt the same and canned Cerrato a few days later after the Giants game. But last night, at Nats Park, as I sat back joking with friends and taking in the all-DC scene, I heard a massive "CROSBY-SUCKS...CROSBY-SUCKS" roar three full sections over. Some kid in a Penguins shirt was walking up the aisle. DC fans were standing on both sides of the aisle laying into the guy. Goosebumps? Oh yea. The fact Strasburg sold out Nats Park is a surprise to no one. The fact he sold out the stadium to a rowdy 99% DC fan base...I never saw that coming. There were no suits or golf claps anywhere to be seen. Everyone was on their feet cheering, in Nationals gear. Capitals are back. Nationals are on their way.
Here's hoping this new-found passion for DC continues to Fedex Field...including the Redskins' fan I saw in the Laveranues Coles jersey.
Update: Here's a good capture of the vibe, via DC Sports Bog: