The political press and Strasburg
Like any good D.C. sports fan, Bret Baier manages to get himself into the grandest Washington events. The host of Fox News's Special Report was at the Nats' first game in RFK Stadium. He was at the George Mason-U. Conn. miracle at the Verizon Center. And he thoroughly planned on attending Stephen Strasburg's debut, until the Nats announced when it would actually occur.
"Ohhhhhhh," Baier remembered saying. "Primary Day."
This meant that Baier - once a Braves fan and now a Nats supporter after a decade living in this city - would be in New York, anchoring his network's primary coverage when Strasburg took the mound. And that meant he'd be following the debut of K Street from his phone during commercial breaks.
"There was so much pent-up anxiety about his start, so many expectations," Baier said Wednesday night while watching the Nats beat the Pirates in a considerably tamer environment. "It was a big deal. I definitely wanted to be here."
He wasn't the only political reporter in town fighting that particular battle. NBC's Chuck Todd spent the night issuing both political alerts and Strasburg updates on his Twitter account, at one point observing that Strasburg might finish his work before the Arkansas primary was even decided.
"Proof that Nationals owners don't quite understand how Washington works, scheduled Strasburg's 1st start on HUGE primary day," Todd wrote earlier. "Bad form."
Jonathan Karl, ABC News's senior Congressional reporter, was stationed in Las Vegas, covering another key primary.
"I was one of those freaks that was trying to game out when he was gonna play; I was all set for June 4," said Karl, who had earlier maneuvered to cover one of Strasburg's Syracuse starts for his network. "When I saw June 8, I just knew that I was in trouble. I just knew it was gonna be devastating."
Meet the Press host David Gregory actually attended the game, wearing a Strasburg jersey. He told me he followed the primary results on his phone, but that "many more people were talking to me about Strasburg than primary results."
Baier and many of his colleagues, though, were stationed on a television set, talking about screwballs instead of sliders. The 39-year old was raised on Dale Murphy and Bob Horner, and said he'll always have a spot for those Braves in his heart, but being here for the arrival of the Nats started to change his allegiances.
"You kind of want to pull for the hometown teams and see them do well," he explained. "The teams haven't been that great since I've been here, but that's the hope."
He and his panelists usually discuss sports during segment breaks - Baier calls Charles Krauthammer, who sits to his right, the panel's first baseman, and he said even contentious on-air debates fade away when the panelists talk sports.
From the Strasburg buzz among the Yankees and Mets fans on the crew in New York, Baier knew that "this game transcended Washington sports." One friend sent him a crowd shot from Nats Park with two words: "Cool, huh?" And at the end of the night, Baier asked his panel what the day's most important storyline had been.
"Stephen Strasburg," replied William Kristol.
"I totally agree," Baier remembered responding, "but let's talk politics."
Friday, though, the last segment of Special Report will focus on sports. Guy named Strasburg.
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