A Philadelphia Phillies fan holds up a sign on Thursday during the Phillies and Washington Nationals game at Nationals Park. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
If we don't like it when fans of other teams fill Nationals Park, it's up to one group of people to make sure it doesn't happen: Us.
I've always supported the home team and my home is Washington D.C. During the period of time when we didn't have baseball, we did what we had to do. Most flocked to the Baltimore Orioles. Some hopped the nearest bandwagon to the New York Yankees. I chose the Chicago Cubs as I love an underdog and have family in Aurora, Ill. As soon as we had a team to root for here in the area, I dropped the lovable losers, bought the red and blue curly "W" hats from in Springfield Mall. I became a Nationals fan. It's the way I'm built. I'm also built like a man that loves funnel cake. I digress.
I mention this because I understand that some members of this community didn't sit around and wait for baseball to come back. They took it upon themselves to find another squad to root for, so they could take a more active role during baseball season. For that reason and several more, I am writing this to defend the influx of Phillies fans that saturated Nationals Park on Thursday night.
I had never seen it for myself. Our radio show broadcasted live from the main concourse on Thursday for the final game of the Nationals' first series against Philadelphia. I had heard the stories. Busloads filled with thousands of Philly fans creating a pocket of "brotherly love" in the Nation's Capital. I was still shocked at the sheer number of fans walking by our booth that were not rooting for the home team. It was staggering. I estimated 80 percent Phillies Phaithful.
I have been at Redskins games that were infested by terrible towels, Wizards games that were polluted with "Kobe Fans" and even a Stanley Cup Final where octopuses rained from the sky. All were annoying and disheartening. I'm not sure I have ever encountered that many fans of the opposition in my life.
The difference on Thursday was that these were not transplants from Pennsylvania living in Maryland. These weren't bandwagon fans driving in from Reston. These were folks driving three hours to watch their team because it's too damn hard to get a ticket where they are from. These are fans of a team that -- as repugnant as it may sound to Washingtonians -- we should aspire to be. Home-grown players. Smart free agent acquisitions. Dominant pitching. Sounds like a recipe for winning.
Do I like having our ballpark taken over? No. Do I like the way some of these Philly fans act when they are in our house? Certainly not. That said, I must acknowledge that they have what we hope to one day have. They are buying tickets to a game that we won't. My friends won't drive 30 minutes to support our hometown team. Can I REALLY be that angry at someone that would drive three hours to support theirs?
I know some of this falls on the shoulders of the Nats. In the past they have short-sightedly recruited other teams' fans to fill our park. They have failed to put a good product on the field and lost more than they have won. However, I do believe they turned over a new leaf and have shown they are moving in the right direction. Great young talent like Ryan Zimmerman and Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Smart free agent aquisitions like Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche combined with the purging of those players that wouldn't buy in (Nyjer Morgan). This franchise has shown us that they want to win, and want to win the right way. With patience and intelligence, something that has worked for other teams in this area.
So the next time you find yourself cursing under your breath about the Phillies and their "invasion," take a moment to think about who is really responsible. Is it the passionate fan, following their winning franchise on the road? Is it the home team that is doing everything in its power to turn over a new leaf by the Anacostia River? Or is it the bourgeois, front-running attitude that seems to dwell in this area in regards to sports?
Do the Nationals have to win the division four years in a row to sell out all their home games like the Capitals? Do they have to win three championships in a 10-year span like the Redskins? Or are we as DC sports fans savvy enough to recognize there are some good things happening at Nationals Park? It's high time we were AHEAD of the curve on one of our teams, instead of always behind it.