The year is 2010. Recently acquired pitcher Roy Halladay has just put on another dazzling performance, crushing the Washington Nationals in their own stadium (often referred to by Phils fans as “Citizens Bank Park South”) and earning his team their fourth straight National League East division title. Still rocking a decent buzz since the seventh inning stretch, you take a look around and begin to feel wildly confused. You think, “This is not my beautiful town… or my beautiful park,” yet you are surrounded by fans of your like, linked by kin and Chase Utley jerseys. “My God, how did I get here?“
After a brief gathering around the pitcher’s mound, the players swiftly make their way back into the locker room, tipping their hats to fans offering a deafening “Let’s go Phillies” chant. But not long after, the cheers are cut short, as the lights shut off and the stadium staff begin to shoo everyone out of their seats, effectively squashing any hint of a celebration. Trust that The Washington Nationals organization appreciates your patronage. They accept your choice to brave the dreadful DC traffic, slap down 25 yankee dollars for a ticket and cheer on the visiting team. That’s because you, as a Phillies fan, have the ability to turn their otherwise sparsely attended ballpark into a packed house; they’re just far too embarrassed to allow it.
The Nats exist in the shadow of Philadelphia sports and now, especially now, they know it.
It doesn’t take a momentous occasion to get Phillies fans to Nationals Park, so you’ll find a sizable away crowd at any Phillies/Nats game in DC. In a recent act of pride-saving desperation, the Nationals organization has put a “Take Back the Park” initiative into effect, allowing only Nationals season ticket holders (all 15 of them) and residents of the Greater DC area a chance at tickets for the first Phillies-Nationals series of the season.
Please; as if you aren’t just going to call your undergrad bros at Georgetown to get the tickets for you. I get it, the Nats would love to be in the Phillies’ position; we’ve got five straight NL East division titles, two NL pennants and a World Series win in the past five seasons. Not to mention, we’re sporting a 204-game sellout streak for regular season games at Citizen’s Bank Park. Those numbers sound good to any team, but the Nats have taken jealousy to a whole new level.
They routinely pick through our trash bin, signing players we no longer have a use for (Jayson Werth, Chad Durbin, Brad “Lights Out” Lidge) and sometimes paying way too much for them. Now this? Must they make themselves so obvious? Will anybody be surprised if this whole operation falls flat and Phils fans continue to bombard DC regardless?
I know I wouldn’t, but how embarrassing will it be if the Nats’ head office really gets its wish? I think next season we’d end up seeing a pre-sale on Nats tickets for the baseball fans they once kicked out of their stadium years ago. That’s a true “come to Jesus” moment that I’d love to see.
Am I being elitist? Positively. A word for the Nationals organization: Don’t hate greatness, it just makes you look foolish. You can’t force your fans to show support when they know they’re going to witness a better team out there. You know how you get fans to love your team? Play better, win more often and most importantly, keep it classy.
But as long as the Nats are in the same division as the Phillies, that isn’t going to happen, so they’re better off biting the bullet and embracing the ticket sales instead of shunning their biggest fan base: Philadelphia. As some cave-dwelling person at the dawn of man so eloquently put it: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.