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Those Amazin' Nats and Why They Should Be America's Team

   Today's column highlights the one big flaw in the rebirth of baseball in Washington, but not even the worst food on the planet could undermine the excitement and inspiration that this team is creating throughout this area and, increasingly, across the nation as well.
   When I saw Mr. Achenbach at the Palisades Fourth of July parade yesterday, he argued that what's most amazin' about these Nats is that they have achieved this extraordinary record without stars, without mega-salaries, without any of the trappings of contemporary baseball that we have come to loathe. He is, of course, largely right. But the Nats do have star players, and they were unfairly snubbed by the All-Star selection gods. Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen deserve to be on the All-Star team as much as any of the first basemen and outfielders who are on the team. But fine--this is a team that is accustomed to being underestimated, and that's a significant part of what keeps them going.
   This is the perfect team for Washington: While the rest of the country thinks of us as a cynical burg teeming with transient, rootless cosmopolitans, in fact, this is a hokey piece of small-town America yearning to be treated just the way the rest of the country is treated. So we have charming Fourth of July neighborhood parades coming out our ears--Palisades, Takoma Park, Waterford, Herndon--and we have the greatest fireworks show in the country and we have flag-lined streets in both the red and the blue parts of town. And now we have a baseball team whose players actually give fans autographs, talk to fans (find me another major league park where that happens), and even applaud the fans when we give them our now almost routine end-of-game extended standing O.
   This is a team whose very existence is a huge and bold thumbing of our collective noses at so many American evils: Peter Angelos, the Greedy Lords of Baseball, the insidious impact of big money on the national pastime, the colonial arrogance of Americans who refuse to permit Washingtonians the same voting rights that other Americans enjoy.
   The Nationals' story is even more compelling than those of the Cubs and the Red Sox. It is a story of a city that was spurned and rejected not once, but twice by Major League Baseball, a city that was used for decades as a negotiating tactic and a rhetorical device ("if you don't give us what we want, we'll move [NAME THAT TEAM] to Washington"). Now, through an extraordinary turn of events, we have that team, and it has responded by turning abject mediocrity into the 2nd or 3rd best record in all of baseball.
   Now that would be one helluva story for TV viewers across the land to watch--if only Nats games were televised. But that's another story for another day.

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 5, 2005; 11:30 AM ET
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"the colonial arrogance of Americans who refuse to permit Washingtonians the same voting rights that other Americans enjoy."

And they had the nerve to read the Declaration of Independence downtown yesterday. Apparently no one in the crowd at the Archives (I was there) appreciated the irony of complaining about taxation without representation in the District of Columbia. I yelled out, but I was the only one.

Posted by: jarmuschguy | July 5, 2005 11:46 AM | Report abuse

jarmuschguy: I guess that's why your wife wouldn't let you scream hysterically during the mock evacuation -- she figured you'd already had your quota. Feel free to let out a good yell now, if you want. We won't mind.

Posted by: Achenfan | July 5, 2005 11:54 AM | Report abuse

we have the greatest fireworks show in the country

Actually, no.

Although I live in Denver, I've spent quite a few recent 4ths in DC at the fireworks (both pre- and post 9/11). There is no question that the environment of the display can't be rivaled. Being nestled among the monuments, the Folklife festival, and picnicing on the Mall (albeit substantially reduced in this age of omnipresent "security" concerns) present an atmosphere where it's actually possible to think about our country and what the Fourth of July really means (and it wasn't the freedom to shop at Wallmart 24/7).

That said, the actual fireworks in the sky are pretty "meh". The locals here in Denver (there is life outside the Beltway) put on a show that's just as good with a fraction of the hassle--and you don't have to listen to all of the cheesy and/or politically correct pop renditions of patriotic songs.

I don't know how the fireworks are accounted for in the latest Omnibus Spending Bill, but it's safe to say that that's one area of government expenditure that needs some sort of inflation indexing.

I'm sure we can bury it under "enhanced mortar-based signalling and display" and give a fat contract to the Carlyle Group. It's an entitlement damnit.

Posted by: AW | July 5, 2005 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I moved to Iowa (unfortunately) right before the Nats came to town. I was absolutely stoked to watch them on WGN this weekend putting it to the Cubs. What a breath of fresh air their story is to the putrid stench that baseball began emitting in the last few years.

Posted by: Eric | July 5, 2005 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I LOVE my Nationals. I had no idea I even liked baseball until they moved in down the street from me. Now, I have to see them all the time, and if they don't call, I start to wonder what I did to make them go away. Should I not have brought my mother to meet them after only a few weeks? Maybe if I had made them more home-cooked meals rather than leaving them eat the cardboard Italian sausages at the ballpark, they wouldn't have left. Is my sweetheart Ryan Church jealous that I've been paying so much attention to Schneider and Guillen? These thoughts torment me, but they always come back.

Posted by: TA | July 5, 2005 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Being a new englander and also a baseball fan, i admire the nats and have enjoyed following them. They are particularly refreshing to a native new yorker living with a bunch of bostonians, where being a baseball fan means a lot of excess emotional baggage. Seriously, i have friends who aren't even allowed to talk baseball anymore because they become violent (red sox fans - of course).

Posted by: LP | July 5, 2005 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I wear an Expos baseball cap that I caught at my son's all star game as old and outdated stuff was tossed to the crowd. I can tell true baseball fans when they point out, "Dude, your team went to Washington."

I spent part of the weekend at a minor league baseball game. When I had to take my youngest to the washroom (four times... he isn't going to Wrigley or Cellular One any time soon), I tossed the scorebook at my oldest son and told him to tell me what happened while I was gone. Impressed the socks off the people sharing our area in the cheap seats.

Taking six or seven of eight from the Cubs... leading their division at last glance... I may just have to remain a closeted fan, wearing an outdated hat. After all, I still have to live in this town.

Posted by: Dave R in Chicago | July 5, 2005 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Baseball. That's really playing it safe, Marc.

Posted by: June Gordon | July 5, 2005 8:21 PM | Report abuse

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