Thursday, August 15, 2013
Shifting allegiances in Washington
By David Gregory
"Meet the Press" host David Gregory pinch hits for Buster Olney today.
Buster Olney is on vacation this week, so guest columnists are writing the lead of his column in his absence. So far, D-backs reliever Brad Ziegler wrote about MLBPA head Michael Weiner; Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle discussed what it's like to play for the A's; ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. discussed his love of baseball; and super-agent Scott Boras offered up his opinions regarding how to fix the draft and free agency. Today, NBC News reporter and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd and NBC "Meet the Press" host David Gregory take over.
This may be a summer of discontent in baseball, but my angst is not about whether my heart is still with America’s pastime, but where my heart is as a fan.
Since 1988 I’ve left my heart in Los Angeles. That’s where I grew up rooting for the great Dodgers teams featuring Steve Garvey (my all-time favorite), Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Fernando, etc. The mere sound of Vin Scully’s voice is enough to make me feel like I’m 11 again -- even when I’m listening on my iPad!
My Dodgers memories run deep. I remember Rick Monday’s game-winning home run against the Expos during that amazing run to the championship in 1981. Or catching my first foul ball on Opening Day 1982 (Cey hit it). And my heartbreak when Garvey left for the Padres as a free agent. That, however, did not keep me from studying his box score each morning before school. Even when I went to college in Washington, my Dodgers were with me: I was in a bar with family in Virginia when Kirk Gibson hit THE home run of the ages.
But this year, even as the Dodgers are tearing it up this second half, I feel less connected to the team. And it bothers me. All the more so when I don’t seem to share in the joy friends from L.A. have when they email marking the strength of the team this year.
What has happened to me? It seems to run counter to proper baseball ethics to lose your passion for your boyhood team, particularly as they succeed.
I’ve taken a stab at some explanations. I've said this team features more free agents than homegrown talent. I've considered that living 3,000 miles away factors in, because most games start at 10 p.m. ET. I know that makes me sound really old, but it is harder to follow them day in and day out. Yet all of that is pretty thin, I admit.
The real reasons are community and children.
I have three kids -- my oldest is 11 and is a true fan, just as I encouraged him to be. I have two boys and a girl and they are all fans. My girl, a little less so, but with two brothers she still has a Bryce Harper Fathead above her bed. And that’s the point: The Nationals are our family team. We live in a community that so badly wanted its own team and then we finally got one. We toiled in the vineyards of fandom too, spending hot sweaty nights in RFK when the team was virtually unwatchable. Now, we have a contender. The Nats have underperformed this year, I know, but they are a strong team, clearly capable of more. And as a family we have built memories around the Nats, such as when I took my oldest to Stephen Strasburg’s dazzling debut, or when my kids last year saw Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run the night I was covering the vice presidential debate.
My biggest confession: When the Dodgers come to play the Nats, I stay basically neutral. I know, it’s awful.
My kids were recently at an overnight camp. When they called, they wanted to know how many games back the Nats were, not how many in a row the Dodgers had won. Their enthusiasm has inspired my own for the Nats. I’m living vicariously through the fandom of my own kids, and losing touch with my own childhood passion for the Dodgers.
I recently asked my dad about this phenomenon. He grew up in the Bronx a die-hard Yankees fan. He saw DiMaggio play. He went West. And guess what? When my sister Stephanie and I became fans, we were Dodgers fans. And so was he. Oh, the moments we had together when the Dodgers won. His boyhood passion for the Yanks became a part of his history.
Mine isn’t history, but it has taken a back seat. Maybe there is help for me. But for now, I’m a homer. Absence from L.A., it seems, has made my heart grow fonder ... for another team.