D.C. is becoming a baseball town

D.C. is becoming a baseball town
December 24, 2012, 9:15 am
Share This Post

You may have heard something about the local football team playing a fairly important game next Sunday night, with a division title on the line in the latest reincarnation of one of the league's great rivalries.

Indeed, Redskins vs. Cowboys for the NFC East crown might just be the biggest game in the history of FedEx Field, certainly the biggest game of this millennium, and will be the talk of town all week.

There's very little news the Nationals could make this week that would trump anything that comes out of Redskins Park. Adam LaRoche could re-sign. Michael Morse could be traded. Bryce Harper could answer a clown question. It probably wouldn't matter. The Redskins, fairly or unfairly, will get top billing all week.

Let's face it: Washington is a football town, first and foremost. The same could be said for almost any major city in America, where the local NFL team is the unquestioned king and most-popular team. (The only exceptions to the rule, I'd argue, would be St. Louis, New York and Los Angeles, the latter of which is aided by the fact it doesn't have an NFL team.

That doesn't, however, mean D.C. hasn't made significant strides toward becoming a baseball town, nor that the Nationals aren't becoming more and more woven into the fabric of this city.

For evidence of that, you can look at late September, as the pennant race reached its apex and the Nationals seized top billing in the area. It really peaked in October, with the National League Division Series capturing the attention of the entire region, especially during the three games played against the Cardinals on South Capitol Street.

It's easy to see how the goodwill built up during that playoff run remains and has taken a permanent stranglehold on the local populace. Walk into any restaurant, any grocery store, any shopping mall in the metro area and see how long it takes before you spot someone wearing a curly W cap, shirt or jacket.

Bet you didn't encounter that nearly as often last winter.

Baseball in Washington is more popular now than it's ever been, and that popularity is only going to continue to grow in 2013 with the Nationals coming off a 98-win season and knowing they're among the select few clubs favored to win the World Series.

Ticket sales will be up. So will television ratings. And so will random sightings of fans in Nationals gear. This team is starting to become woven into the fabric of the region.

For three long decades, doubts persisted about Washington's ability to support another baseball team. And even after the Nationals arrived and squandered an early opportunity to capture our attention with six consecutive losing seasons after a surprise pennant race in their inaugural campaign of 2005, some of those doubts remained.

There should be no question anymore about Washington's ability to support a ballclub. We saw firsthand what kind of support a first-place team could garner: 30,000 fans a night in person, nearly 400,000 local households watching a playoff game on TV.

Will support for D.C. baseball ever top support for D.C. football? Almost certainly not. The Redskins have been an integral part of this city for 80 years and they've won three Super Bowl titles in the last 30. And, as previously stated, there's hardly a city left in America that doesn't put the NFL on a pedestal far removed from any other sports league.

But as Washington prepares for its biggest football game in a long time and perhaps the return of the postseason, the increased presence of baseball in the area shouldn't be forgotten.

Yes, D.C. is and always will be a football town. But there's nothing preventing it from also becoming a baseball town.

As a matter of fact, the last four months seem to prove it already has.