I love art. I love theatre. I love the outdoors. I do not, however, love sports, which for someone who works at a gym seems a little weird, but hey, that’s me. At first glance it seems like the rest of D.C. might agree with me on this, but not so. The problem seems to be that team loyalty is for the teams that people grew up with, not the local District teams. It’s a bit of the chicken-and-egg syndrome really. The fact of the matter is most of the D.C. teams aren’t very good. The Redskins…well, they kinda suck, and to be honest, I didn’t even know we had a basketball team for the entire first year I lived here. The Wizards? What? So it’s hard for people to get excited about rooting for the Redskins when they grew up in New York or New England and spent their childhood rooting for the Patriots. If you had the choice to picking rooting for the Patriots or rooting for the Redskins, wouldn’t you want to identify with Tom Brady’s winning studly hair?
But is that why we are so bad in the first place? If people had more of a sense of local pride, would our teams be better invested in? Take Green Bay, for example. Those people get on a waiting list for season tickets when they are babies. The town invests in it, takes pride in it, expects it, loves it. Packers’ fans would be furious to find someone hunkered down in a local bar rooting for another team, but here it’s just normal. I recently went to watch the Georgetown vs. UConn college ball game with some friend at sports bar downtown; they grew up in Connecticut and were rooting against Georgetown. No one cared.
It’s a problem here in D.C. that moves beyond just sports. Yes, some of it can be explained by the fact that the town is so transient, and people move here from everywhere. But New York is the same, and their teams have huge, loyal followings. I think it’s in part because there is somewhat of a lack of local identify and self awareness in D.C., which is indeed reflected in our sports teams. In a town completely geared towards national pride and national government, District residents don’t even have representation in Congress. Does this sense of disenfranchisement leave us to abandon our sense of home, community, and sports teams?
Oh, but wait – there is a flip side to this coin. Our baseball team, the Nationals, is a fledgling team, less than ten years here in the District, with a brand new stadium. Every year we get better, and every year the fan base gets bigger. The Metro gets crazy on game days now. Even more surprising is our hockey team, the Capitals. Among my friends at least, the Caps are the most popular of all the sports teams here. Though they’ve been around since the 70s, it’s only in the last ten years or so that they have really been a team to meddle with. Who would have thought that in a town located below the Mason-Dixon line, that hockey of all things would be the go-to sport?
I went to my first Caps game earlier this week. The experience was enhanced by the fact that my friend was able to get us a few free seats in the box suites with the comfy chairs and awesome views… but the stadium was pretty much packed, even up into the nose bleeds. I don’t know why I was surprised; I guess I just didn’t know what to expect. I felt out of place being the only one not wearing a jersey and full-on gear. Hmm. It also helps that they play in the Verizon Center, which along with our bastardized version of Chinatown, has become the closest thing we’ll get to Times Square. (I use the term “bastard” as a reference to the unholy union of Irish pubs in Chinatown that publish their names in Chinese so as to fit the aesthetic. So wrong.) But attending this game proved to me that perhaps I can be a D.C. sports fan after all. In fact, I am eager for the Nationals’ park to open again so I can go to my first baseball game in years. And I would go back and watch the Caps play again any time. Well, any time someone offers me a free ticket again. Hey, let’s not go crazy now, I’m an artsy chick after all. We don’t pay for anything unless it’s a gently used pair of Italian boots we got from the hipster consignment shop. But I have hope for D.C. sports yet. Community revitalization can start in the strangest of ways, even in sports.