Sunday, May 29, 2005

All baseball fans are silly. Some are sillier than others.

Apparently some Washington Post readers are upset that the Post is continuing to cover the Orioles as a local team along with the Nationals. Here’s the editorial note. This has engendered a huge amount of discussion at the Post’s site.

Can I point out some reasons why the people who want the Post to stop covering the Orioles are being silly?

1) The Baltimore-Washington area is now listed by the Census Bureau as a Combined Metropolitan Statistical area. In other words, both the Orioles and the Nationals are “local” everywhere from York, PA to somewhere in Virginia. In a lot of Maryland suburban areas, it’s pretty hard to tell whether it’s a suburb of Baltimore or a suburb of Washington. In this sense, this is pretty similar to the Bay Area, where I imagine all the papers cover both the A’s and the Giants.

2) Even if many old-time Baltimoreans and old-time Washingtonians feel differently, many newcomers (and even many of us natives) can’t get caught up in any kind of Washington-Baltimore rivalry. For those folks who do want a Washington-Baltimore rivalry, you need the Post to continue to cover the Orioles so you can get all worked up about how much you dislike the Orioles and Peter Angelos. If the Post covered the Orioles as much (or rather as little) as they covered the Kansas City Royals, how could you keep the rivalry alive?

3) You can’t undo decades of loyalty to a baseball team. Pretty much everyone under the age of 40 who grew up in the DC area grew up with the Orioles. If some of those folks want to switch loyalty to the Nationals or root for both (one in the AL, one in the NL), I don’t begrudge them. But we’re talking an entire generation of Washingtonian Orioles fans.

4) Some of the people who want the Post to stop covering the Orioles have pointed out that the Baltimore Sun doesn’t cover the Nationals. I don’t know if that’s true since I don’t read the Sun much, but it’s not much of an argument. All it means is that the publishers of the Sun have decided not to compete with the Post as a paper for the entire region. This doesn’t mean the Post isn’t allowed to try to be a paper for the whole region.

Yet I wonder: my guess is that baseball fans over 40 in the DC area tend to be “returning” to the Nationals and that people under 40 are split among those who are staying with the Orioles and have no interest in the Nationals, those who are going to root for both, and those who are going to root only for the Nationals. If I’m right and if the sentiment among the Nationals fans is really anti-Orioles coverage, the Post may decide to ditch the Orioles. Generations X and Y have basically abandoned the printed newspaper (sadly).

Finally, a personal note: I’m one of those DC kids who always rooted for the Orioles-- partly because the Senators were gone and the Orioles were marketing themselves as DC’s team and partly because my father was from Baltimore and loved the Orioles. I’m not a fair weather fan: I rooted for them not only in 1979 and 1983 and 1997, but also in 1988 and 1991 and all the other bad years. I also grew up reading the Washington Post. If the Post stops covering the Orioles, I’ll think that will be a shame for the Orioles fans in the Post circulation area. I imagine the Post will lose some readers to the Sun. But it won’t affect me out here in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette land. I’ll start reading the Baltimore Sun sports section on-line.

But if the kind of pettiness vis-à-vis the Orioles that I saw from many of the Nationals fans on the Post discussion forum is going to be typical, I won’t be neutral to mildly positive about the Nationals: I’ll actively root against them. So there.


Z said...

Make that "somewhere in WEST Virginia" - yes, it has sprawled THAT far.

Adam said...

Ah, yes. But which baseball team do West Virginians root for? Should the Post also be covering the Pirates?