Saturday, January 29, 2005


Cubs, Orioles Close On Sosa Deal.

Say it ain't so, Sammy.

No sooner do I get Nationals tickets, and Sammy Sosa is likely to come play for the Orioles.

Now, until this year, I was friendly to the Orioles. Ever since the Senators left, they were the closest thing to a "local" team Washington had. If you wanted to cheer on a team at all, you had to watch O's games. And I did cheer-- the later years of Cal Ripken, Jr. The Mike Mussina years. The competitive years, and the declining years.

Plus, in Camden Yards they have an incredible ballpark, just a wonderful place to see a game. You can't hate a team like that.

Until now, that is.

You see, the essence of fan loyalty lies in the second word: loyalty. Anyone can be a fan. I was a fan of the Orioles.

I'll go to my grave as loyal to the Chicago White Sox. Even when the Cubs have all the romance, and get all the press, and actually bothered to keep their beautiful ballpark. If push comes to shove, I can be a Cubs fan for a short period of time; the 2003 National League Championship Series comes to mind. But they'll never be the White Sox.

The problem with loyalty, however, is that it's automatic and unquestioning. The team can be awful, they can be hideous, they can be ridiculous. They can be the Montreal Expos, and now the Washington Nationals.

The good news about the Nationals is they will have something in Washington that the Expos never had in Montreal, and I'm not just talking about cash to keep free agents. The Nats have instant loyalty from a whole slew of people eager to have baseball again in this town.

So what if they suck? I come from Chicago. Without the intervention of Gods in mortal form-- Ditka, Jordan-- my teams have *always* sucked. I'm used to that.

The only team in Washington with a winning tradition-- the Redskins-- abandoned that winning tradition almost immediately after I showed up. Thirteen years later, I'm a stronger Redskins fan than ever before. I hate myself for it, but I can't help it.

So it goes with the Nats.

Okay, you're probably wondering: what does Sammy Sosa going to the Orioles have to do with the Washington Nationals?

Nothing, and everything.

Nothing, because the O's and Nats are in different leagues. They don't meet each other in interleague play next year. They're not even having an exhibition game this season. It will be some time before anything "official" can be done to generate a rivalry.

Unofficially, however, the rivalry has begun in earnest.

It's aided immeasurably by the presence of one of baseball's true villains, Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Aside from being a cheapskate and a slimy businessman, Angelos is infamous in Washington for his decades of conspiracy aimed at preventing a major league baseball team from coming to Washington. It'll hurt O's ticket sales, he said. It'll ruin his TV revenue, he argued.

I'm no expert, but I think there may be two basic facts hurting Orioles revenue: a lousy team, and reliance on a fan base from another city. A city with a completely different character, mind you.

You want to talk about optimism? The Nats have sold 17,000 full season tickets. FULL SEASON. That's a lot of faith in a team that hasn't even shown up yet.

In fact, now that I'm proud owner of season tickets, it's interesting what I hear, and speculate just how hot good seats will be in this town. Who woulda thunk it? A waiting list for baseball tickets.

So, if Peter Angeles wants to spend cash on a busted legend like Sammy Sosa, he can be my guest. I'll be happy with my crappy team of no-names and second-hands. Because they're *my* team, not some Baltimoron's.

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