Slow-Cooked or Instant: Planting Nats' Traditions
We won't ever have a Subway Series in these parts. Not because the Nats and the O's are destined to live lives of permanent mediocrity, but because we're never going to have a subway connection between Washington and Baltimore. At best, we'll get a Mag-Lev Match-Up, and that only if the newfangled train technology somehow wins megabillions in federal aid, which isn't happening in my lifetime.
We aren't likely to have the deeply divided emotions of Chicago families split by their devotions to the Cubbies or the White Sox, divisions shaped by generations of living patterns and class identities. Despite our relative proximity, Baltimore and Washington live very separate existences. Only in the realm of Maryland politics does the rivalry really become a powerful force, and that too is a recent phenomenon and one that has not yet reached its full flowering (but it's a demographic sure shot that it will, and when it does, it's bye-bye to Baltimore's dominance over state politics.)
But the games between the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals, which started last weekend at RFK Stadium and continue next month in Bawlmer, could well develop into the friendly but meaningful rivalry of the sort enjoyed by the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's. That will take time to develop, though the obnoxious antics of O's owner Peter Angelos is certainly helping to foment a good flow of hate up I-95 to match the longstanding jealousies the Baltimoreans have toward the District.
But will kids ever beg their parents to take them to the Battle of the Beltway? (And why would a rivalry between Washington and Baltimore teams be named for a road that doesn't connect the two cities? I know, these things generally require a certain alliteration, but isn't the Baltimore-Washington Parkway the better concrete inspiration for the matchup between the Nationals and the Orioles?)
The only possible answer is Maybe someday. But the promotions folks at RFK Stadium aren't interested in someday, so they're trying to hype the thing now. And that's their job, but if they insist on doing this, could they please try to get it right? Do not, for example, choose to put up on the big video screen in right field as your Fan of the Game, as the Nats' front office did Friday night, a guy in an Orioles cap. That's just counterproductive. (Side note to the Lerners: When you do your grand reopening of RFK in July, please replace the scoreboard operator who routinely forgets to update the lineup and who this weekend several times had Nats pitchers pitching to Nats batters.)
The Nats' promotions effort, led by the charming and wonderfully inventive Carleen Martin, this week begins a drive to create instant traditions for the one-year-old franchise. Two very funny ads, produced by the same Minneapolis ad agency that has given us several other creative spots this season, seek to inspire fans to think of their own peculiarily Nats cheers, songs, food items or between-innings entertainment. (Please, please, please can we ditch the country music on the RFK public address system and get some Chuck Brown or EU going? This is Washington, not Baltimore, not Winchester.) The sample instant traditions include a winged golf cart to bring the relievers in from the bullpen (I still pine for the days when the Yankees used a pinstriped Toyota for that purpose) and a fabulous hot dog launcher that would get me up out of my seat in a way that the T-shirt launcher never does.
The winner of the contest will win season tickets to next year's games and a place in the Nationals Fan Hall of Fame.
Watch the videos:
Ok, fine, I love the launcher. But if you really want to get a tradition going at RFK, put Bustin' Loose on for the 7th inning stretch. WInd me up, Chuck.
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