It's All About the Grays: Area, Homestead, Vincent
What this polarized world needs now is more grays, and here in the global capital of gray areas (we haven't even settled on the proper spelling of the word grey), we've got a wonderful confluence of grays that will make centrists feel all warm and goozhy inside:
Stay with me now as we wrap baseball, the law, D.C. politics and race into one little blog item:
As a big old New York newspaper with the initials NYT reported Tuesday, the Washington Nationals, desperately craving a monopoly on all the mishegas in baseball, now stand to lose their name, thanks to a legal battle with a crafty Cincinnati company that managed to file for control of the Nationals trademark way back in 2002, well before the Nats actually existed.
Back then, the company, Bygone Sports, apparently was hoping to make a buck by selling retro sports clothing and memorabilia harkening back to the midcentury period when the Washington Senators were widely known as (and for a time legally named) the Nationals. But if you follow the links on Bygone's site, you quickly begin to wonder whether Bygone exists for any purpose other than to make life miserable for the Nats, who are professional sports' finest magnet for misery. Bygone appears to be basically one guy, a lawyer, of course.
And last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that Bygone owns the rights to sell merchandise with the Nationals name, and Major League Baseball does not. Not that merchandising rights are that important to MLB; nah, they responded to the decision by saying that they will move to strip the Nats of their name and try something different if they can't reach an amicable resolution with Bygone.
Bygone, of course, would be thrilled to be paid to go away. As The Post's Tom Heath reports in today's editions, at some point early on in the dispute, Bygone was willing to be gone for $250,000. What do you want to bet that sum now wouldn't cover even the lowliest associate's work on the trademark case? If there's one thing baseball doesn't traffic much in, it's amicable resolutions. So start thinking of new names--or rather, old names. Back to the Senators, anyone? Or my second favorite, the Homestead Grays.
It's hard to know whom to root for in this dispute. Fans who've come to cherish the Nats would hate to lose the name, and the odds against politicians coming to their senses about the rich history of the Senators name are not good. On the other hand, it's always heartening to see MLB get whacked for the owners' general greed and bumbling. But the sad bottom line here is that the inevitable result is the most depressing one: The lawyers will win and the fans will pay. Someone will settle with someone else and the ticketbuyer will foot the bill for all the new beach houses and Jags purchased with the winnings.
Baseball--and Gray--continues to dominate city politics, too. As WTOP's irrepressible Mark Plotkin reported Tuesday evening, D.C. Council member Vincent Gray, who won election to the Ward 7 seat in 2004 in good part on the basis of his opposition to paying for a new baseball stadium, will announce this week that he is running for the citywide council at-large seat being vacated by council chairman Linda Cropp, who is running for mayor.
Gray, you may recall, was one of the Switcheroo Quartet who flipped from anti-stadium to pro-stadium on that wild night earlier this month when the council approved the Nationals lease on the proposed ballpark along the Anacostia River.
Now, Gray seems to be calculating that he, like Cropp, can persuade voters that he is both for and against the baseball deal, that he deserves credit for saving the city from losing the Nats and that he should be thanked for getting the District a better deal than it previously had negotiated with MLB. It's pure hogwash, of course, but it's a campaign of some sort.
The more persuasive calculation is, typically for D.C. politics, racial. Gray sees Kathy Patterson, the only other major candidate in the at-large contest, as particularly vulnerable to a challenge because she is white. Patterson, the Ward 3 member of the council, is best known in white parts of town, and although she has gotten a nice lift recently from the success of her proposal to boost spending on school renovations, the consensus among black politicians in what is still a solidly majority-black city is that a strong black candidate beats a white candidate just about every time.
But don't start laying bets on Gray quite yet. The field may be far from finished in that contest. At least two of the mayoral candidates whose campaigns are thus far lagging--council member Vincent Orange (not Gray) and former phone company executive Marie Johns (very gray)--could well drop back and shoot instead for a citywide council seat. And that, by the crude racial calculus that too often passes for political strategy in this city, could revive Patterson's hopes.
Or, heavens forbid, the council race could turn on....issues and competence and vision.
Well, even in a gray world, we can hope, can't we?
By Marc Fisher |
February 22, 2006; 7:15 AM ET
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