Since late yesterday afternoon we’ve received numerous accounts of what WaPost’s Dan Steinberg has termed ‘The Philly Invasion’ on Opening Day at Nationals Stadium on Monday. One emailer told us that in her section of the stadium, packed with more than 100 seamheads, there weren’t 10 people rooting for the home team. Overall, this reader observed, the stadium seemed packed with “75 to 80 percent” support for the visitors.
Where have we seen this sad scene before?
Actually, in the olden days of hockey at Capital Centre, with weaker Caps’ clubs, we never saw anything approaching that level of invasion, even with Susan O’Malley at the marketing helm. But years ago, given the proximity of the Caps’ old barn to the Interstate, as well as the fierce Patrick division rivalries among the Mid-Atlantic franchises, there were many nights when Enemy Orange made life miserable for the home faithful. They arrived by the busloads, often drunk, and taunted and tormented. We lived through it.
A couple of points about yesterday’s discouraging development (and we’re not even going to mention the home team pitching). The Phillies are today that city’s flagship franchise, travelers to the past two World Series, and winner of it in 2008. The rest of the town’s teams are forgettable. So there’s a lot of front-runners’ support steamrolling the turnstiling on the road. But more importantly, no local team can have an executive overtly reaching out, arms wide open, and embracing the enemy, as Nationals’ President Stan Kasten has. O’Malley and he must have attended the same MBA program. Sports Business Daily chronicled this Benedict Arnold act; so too has Steinz.
If you build it, they will come: the onus isn’t on local fans to blindly support local teams no matter the malfeasance with which they’re managed; it’s on ownership and management of the franchises To Do What Ted Did. The Nationals arrived from Montreal a solid if unspectacular club, and not long after they fired Frank Robinson and jettisoned quality talent they went into the toilet. They watched a city build a state-of-the-art stadium for them and have shown their appreciation ever since by fielding godawful teams there, since day one. And as salt in the wound, the team president, channeling his inner O’Malley, seeks “great atmosphere” in the form of hordes of enemy fans filling the home seats.
It’s revolting. Take note, too, of the management of the Redskins and Orioles up the road a bit, and how in recent years their seats have increasingly been filled by the Enemy. Our Running Presidents yesterday must have thought they were back at the Constitutional Convention.
Let’s not forget another distinctive factor at work here, which Steinz notes with snazzy snark: “[Philly’s] fans evidently don’t have work responsibilities.”