Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: dcsportsbog and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Redskins and Sports  |  RSS

Why Bill Nye Loves the Nats

"So here's the thing, here's the great truth," Bill Nye the Science Guy told me over the phone the other day. 'A couple years ago there was this big idea to have Arnold Schwarzenegger run for president. They said they were gonna modify the United States Constitution. Ok, that's a fine idea, but let me tell you, Arnold Schwarzenegger is still going to root for Austria in the World Cup.

"Now, I've lived in Seattle," he continued, "and I've lived in Los Angeles. I'm a Mariners fan, and I'm a Dodger fan. But deep down," he whispered, "I'm a Nationals fan, since I grew up in Washington. And there's nothing you can do about that."

See, at some point, you toss the rational science out the window and go with your silly heart. And really, enough with the big-shot politicians getting famous, moving here and then still rooting for teams from Chicago. Here's to the celebrities who moved away from D.C., got famous but still root for four quadrants, even when it doesn't make sense.

"II was so excited to get a team," Nye said of the Nats' arrival. "That's the weird, crazy thing about human brains. I still surprise myself. I'm talking about what I feel maybe more than what I think....It's your hometown, your civic pride, and these people become a bit of your family. You know their names, you know what they look like, you recognize them by how they walk, you share their joys and sorrows. I guess that's what being a loyal fan is. You want to see them do well, you're disappointed when they don't do well. Gosh, I'm just thinking about going to D.C. Stadium, and it was just so new and exciting, this polished new ballpark. I saw the Beatles play there, the actual physical Beatles."

So yeah, before Nye was a Boeing engineer, before he was television's bow-tie wearing Science Guy, before he became the host of Planet Green's "Stuff Happens," Nye was a baseball-loving kid in Northwest, delivering The Washington Post and following the Senators. He has vivid memories of one season when they spent several weeks in second place, carries around images of Frank Howard and that painted-white RFK seat on his cell phone, and can describe in detail the "sudden, shocking" throwing motion of one-time catcher Paul Casanova. I confessed that Casanova was before my time.

"You're making my point," Nye replied. "Like, Bill, get over it; Bill, they're still playing baseball. I acknowledge that I'm living in the past."

Soon, the Senators left town, and so did Nye, to school and then his career. He never latched onto the Orioles, and spent some time resenting all of baseball. When the Orioles got really good, he resented the Birds even more. Nye was in Seattle when the Mariners arrived, became a partial-plan holder, went to their fantasy camps and still loves the players he followed then.

But when the Nats showed up in his hometown, that was something different. Because Nye is a fourth-generation Washingtonian. He was obsessed with the Redskins as a kid, and says the star of the defunct minor-league hockey Washington Chiefs "was an inspiration to me." Which is why he watches MASN broadcasts on satellite in Southern California, catches the team when they're in L.A. or San Diego and shrugs off the W-L record because "they've always been losers."

"Hey, what's going to happen with Nick Johnson?" Nye asked me, in the middle of all this.

So isn't this wrong somehow? A guy famous for his science admitting an irrational attachment to a team from a city where he hasn't lived for years?

"Well, yeah, it's emotional," he said, "but I'll claim there are good evolutionary reasons for it. The things that happen to you when you're young shape your whole life. People who learn music, who learn algebra, who learn science, who get a love of the Washington Senators, that happens to you before the age of 10. It must have to do with the rate that human brains needed to come into usefulness. So that stuff that happens to you when you're young influences your whole life. Try to learn a foreign language when you're a adult. You can't do it. Try to switch your baseball team when you're an adult? Maybe. Good luck with that.

"But I claim I have a healthy relationship with it," he added. "I don't start throwing up when they lose. I press on."

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 25, 2009; 3:13 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Today Show vs. Kornheiser/Wilbon
Next: Norman Chad's Anthem For America


Square One > Bill Nye the Science Guy

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | March 25, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

So isn't this wrong somehow? A guy famous for his science admitting an irrational attachment to a team from a city where he hasn't lived for years?

No, it's no different than the people who have lived in Washington for two or three decades but are still fans of the Steelers or the Flyers or the Red Sox because that's where they grew up, is it?

OK, there is some difference because D.C. went 34 years without a team, but he's acting just like some D.C. fans--but not enough, in my opinion--acted. Instead of settling for the Orioles, he held a torch for a real D.C. baseball team for years--and when they finally came, they were his team again. For all those people who live in the D.C. area but grew up being an Orioles fan--and haven't become fans of the Nationals because they say they'd never "give up on their team" even if there now is a team in their hometown--this guy is the mirror image. He was a fan of the Washington baseball team, and he was never going to give up on his team. Nothing strange at all.

Posted by: TheFingerman | March 25, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Square One > Bill Nye the Science Guy > 3-2-1 Contact

Posted by: GiannicolusJones | March 25, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

King's to you, GiannicolusJones.

King's to you.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | March 25, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

TheFingerman, its really, and I mean REALLY hard for those of us who grew up in the Maryland suburbs to abandon the Orioles. Its doubly so for those of us who only grew up with the Orioles, which happened to coincide with Cal Jr's playing years. We had nothing else; we're Marylanders, there was baseball in Baltimore, and we watched and worshipped Ripken. There's a really irrational emotional attachment.

(I at least have the excuse that I lived in Baltimore for ten years before moving to MoCo as a child)

I watch the Nats, I cheer for the Nats (except when they play the Orioles...), heck, I'm even one of the 4,000 people known to listen to them on the raio and watch on TV. As a Oriole fan, its pretty easy to root for the Nats since they're National Leauge. But to cast DC-area Oriole fans as some sort of traitors to the Nationals, and the city in general, is a little harsh, don't you think? No one questions that I grew up and remain a Redskin fan first, even though, as noted, I am a native of Baltimore and therefore should have dumped the 'Skins immediately and become a Ravens fan.

You'll notice that Bill Nye was lucky enough to fall in love with the Senators; those of us under 35 or so didn't have that luxuray.

Posted by: RedBirdie | March 25, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Now I like Bill Nye even more than I did before. Good for you, science guy. Go Nats!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 25, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I'm not a regular Bog reader so I have to it normal for Steinberg to chat on the phone with quirky TV personalities? I felt like there was maybe some back story there.

Posted by: petey5 | March 25, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

RedBirdie: I never said you were a traitor--that's pretty harsh. In the past four years, I've realized that there are plenty of Washington-area people--more than I thought--who became fans of the Orioles because there was no baseball team in Washington, their feelings are strong and heartfelt and they're not going to give that up--and that's fine. I may wish those fans had adopted the Nats, but it's just not going to happen.

I was just saying that for me personally, I don't find Bill Nye's feelings weird at all. Growing up in the Maryland surburbs, and being one year old when the Senators left, I followed the Orioles a little bit as a young kid, but by my teen years began to resent them because they were keeping a team out of Washington. The Angelos years made me resent them even more for so openly blocking a team in D.C.But I admit I'm kind of strange.

One interesting question, though, in this same vein: The Redskins had some great teams in the 80s and 90s, when the Colts were not around and before the Ravens retired. And yet I don't get the impression that many Baltimoreans adopted the Redskins in the same way that Washingtonians adopted the Orioles. Why exactly is that? Something about football compared to baseball? Something different about the two cities? I just think it's an interesting thing to think about.

Posted by: TheFingerman | March 26, 2009 1:18 AM | Report abuse

This makes perfect sense.

I'm a DC homeboy who delivered the Washington Post for 4 years, remembers catcher Paul Casanova and who's been based in Nairobi Kenya for 20 years.

It was thrilling when a new team came to the city, and now I follow the Nats relentlessly over the net. Unfortunately, not much live game ops in this town.

Go figure.

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 26, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

I remember him doing a few shows at the air and space museum when I was a kid (lets round up to 20 years ago). A good dude. But yea, Dan, is calling ex-locals just a part of the job now? When do we get to hear the interview with Warren Beatty about the caps? Sandra Bullock on the mystics?

Posted by: alex35332 | March 26, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Alex35332, Sandy Bullock is likely to be a Nats fan. One night, back in the last century, while in town to visit her family she was hanging out for an evening with old friends at the late, lamented, Whitey's (a fun but now-defunct dive in Arlington County where lots of people growing up in Arlington would drink beer while underaged) and I remember how starstruck Sandy was when she realized the big guy a couple of tables over was Frank Howard. Yeah, before the bar closed and he moved from Arlington to Middleburg (I don't know which happened first), Hondo would sometimes hang out and enjoy the beer and broasted chicken at Whitey's, too. I told you it was a fun dive.

Posted by: greggwiggins | March 26, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I totally buy it. Grew up in the Wn'L hood myself, though by the time I was at that HS I had teachers who went to school with her. Had one teacher who claimed his brother dated her.

Posted by: alex35332 | March 26, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Isn't is acceptable to love both Square One AND Bill Nye? They let us watch Bill Nye in science class, but we never got to watch Square One in math class!

P.S. I am so thrilled Bill Nye loves the Nats. I saw him in Bethesda when I was a teenager and when we told him we loved him he responded "science rules!" I just wish I had a digital camera then...

Posted by: EmGu | March 26, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Alex35332: "by the time I was at that HS I had teachers who went to school with her."

Thanks. Kid.

Just like that checkout clerk when I went through the line at an Alexandria Giant last week; she was looking at a T.C. Williams yearbook from 1983 and pronouncing it "ancient."

Does the Internet give Seniors' Discounts?

Posted by: greggwiggins | March 26, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company