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May 20, 2006

Notes on a friendly neighborhood baseball game

For Orioles fans, this was the instant, take-home message of Friday night's 5-1 win over the host Nationals:

"We may suck, but at least we suck less than you [the Nats]."

Honestly, though, it was a beautiful night in the neighborhood, and even more so if you were an O's fan. Although Nationals supporters clearly had the edge in numbers at RFK yesterday, a sizeable contingent cheered the Orioles as if Baltimore was the home team and not the visitors. (Nats fans now understand how it feels when throngs of Yankee and Red Sox followers invade Camden Yards every year.) These Baltimoreans (or Baltimorons, depending on your point of view) came to Washington with a chip on their shoulder, as if they wanted to prove that their loyalty to the Birds was not the Johnny-come-lately kind, that it was not a love "like a red, red rose / That's newly sprung in June," but a diehard devotion forged by season after season of ups and (more recently) downs. In other words, these faithful followers of the Orioles weren't the kind to change their feathers just because another baseball team set up camp in D.C. with a bigger bird as its mascot. (Have you seen the Nationals' mascot, Screech? Eech!) Proudly wearing their orange-and-black gear, Oriole fans made sure the "O" was accentuated in the last couplet of the national anthem. They filled the stadium with persistent cries of "Let's go, O's" throughout the game. They roared enthusiastically whenever the Orioles scored. They made sure they were seen as well as heard. Sometimes it seemed like they were trying a little too hard to be noticed, like a neglected middle child.

Meanwhile, the genteel Nats fans, seemingly unaccustomed to such an intrusion, failed to garner much of a response—their attempts at a "Let's go, Nats" riposte were generally overpowered by the visiting fans' cries. And the home team gave them little to cheer for on this evening, as the Orioles' Kris Benson quieted the Nats' bats in a complete-game five-hitter. Only a late upper-deck smash by Alfonso Soriano kept Washington from being blanked in the runs column.

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