1. I have long craved a full-fledged burgeoning of the sports rivalry between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Burgeon is one of those words that if you say it a few times in a row, it not only loses meaning, it makes the walls move. If ever there was a word that should be classified as a Schedule 1 substance, it is probably "burgeon," followed very closely by the word "nipple." But I digress.
2. As many of you know, the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles faced off in a weekend series up in the Charm City. Watching it on TV, there was plenty of red in the crowd, and when the Orioles visit Nationals Park, I expect there to be plenty of orange in the stands. Baltimore and Washington sports fans have always lived in close proximity to one another in the counties and towns strewn across the I-95 corridor between the two cities. I enjoyed yesterday's game at a friend's house in Annapolis surrounded by what felt like a true 50/50 split of fans. I think the initial word I would use to define this rivalry is
nipple..damn it...collegial. There was no vitriol or hatred, yet the feeling in the room when Max Scherzer took the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning was rather palpable. It might not be Red Sox/Yankees palpable (yet), but it was there.
3. I even got involved in a home version of an old-fashioned standoff for the occasion. I matched up against a gentleman also wearing a short-sleeve button-down shirt. We both started in the seventh inning with only our top button unbuttoned. He unleashed the beast when he loosened the next button...and it was on. We kept our distance at the baptism reception (did I mention it was a baptism reception?) so that people really had no idea what was going on. I matched him button for button until I realized I was sitting in a lounge chair with a vomit-inducing amount of chest hair and gut showing (surrounded by folks dressed pretty nicely for the occasion). It was unclear if all the kids were off playing nicely somewhere or if parents were straight-up keeping them away from me. I stood up from my seated position, and similar to the fastening of suit jacket buttons when standing to accept a prestigious award, I pulled my shirt back together...each button a shameful reminder of my failure. My opponent's wife noticed right away--apparently going half-shirtless at a baptism reception rarely goes unnoticed (thanks a lot bin Laden). The Nats pulled it out and took the series, but sadly, I lost the standoff to a better man than me on that day. Phil, I tip my hat, sir.
4. As much as I want to have the local archnemesis kind of rivalry that some parts of the country enjoy, I think I know that the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. rivalry will never get to that point. On the baseball side of things, too many Nats fans will never, EVER hate the O's (this one included). On the football side of things, the NFL hasn't woken up to the nurturing of true regional rivalries by scheduling annual games. The last time the Redskins and Ravens played each other was in 2012. You may remember that as the game where Haloti Ngata blew up Robert Griffin's leg and Kirk Cousins came in for the save in a very tight game that was part of a seven-game win streak en route to the playoffs.
5. This is the part where I drop my annual, "The NFL schedule ABSOLUTELY has room in it for the NFL to add some flavor." Quickly, the NFL schedule consists of 16 games: six games of home-and-away with divisional opponents, four games against all the members of a single division in the opposite conference (rotating), four games against all the members of a single division within the same conference (rotating) and two games within the conference based on the previous year's finish. While it is fair to suggest that NFL schedules are "imbalanced," clearly there is an accounting for where teams are and how they stack up when determining opponents. Still, I think I would gladly trade one of those games for a chance to play the Ravens annually. That is coming from the fan of a team that would most surely be at a...ummmm...disadvantage. The Ravens would be favorites if we were to play tomorrow, and likely favorites for the foreseeable near term.
6. As much fun as it is to watch the Nats and O's face-off, it is probably only the NFL that can truly cause this rivalry to burgeon. Even a World Series between the two cities could easily turn into the scene from Braveheart where the Scottish infantry clashes with the Irish conscripts in a melee of hugs and high fives (it's possible). I can't see that same scene playing out in the NFL. When Baltimore lost the Colts, that city did not adopt the Redskins in the interim. Far from it. Despite a steady stream of threats to defect to the Ravens, legions of burgundy and gold fans continue to keep the faith. Let's get on this Roger.