While many expected the world-famous Boston Red Sox to stride into D.C. and sweep the lowly Nationals, the Nats managed to escape with some respect, bringing their offense alive in the series finale Thursday against veteran and future hall of famer John Smoltz in his season and Red Sox debuts. Game 1 of the series was a classic Nats failure, with the bullpen throwing away an otherwise solid outing from John Lannan in an 11-3 BoSox drubbing. Game 2, a John Lester/Craig Stammen matchup, was slightly more competitive, with the Nats falling 6-4, a differential that we've seen many times before and will likely see many times again in this long and painful season.
Regardless of the play on the field, the Nats managed to draw record-breaking crowds in all three games of the series. Rob Dibble, Nats color commentary man and resident idiot, attributed this to the hype given by the Nats' marketing team (if you are on their email list you have received no less than 4 messages per week since the season began about this series) as well as the decision to open up extra grandstand seats and standing room areas that are not typically available (as they are not needed) for most other games at Nats park. Listening to Dibble explain his theories on why the Nats were drawing so well against the Red Sox was amusing, but in many ways was like trying to understand rocket science. Like many of the things Rob Dibble says, listening to this pointless rambling caused MASN viewers to laugh, shake their heads, and turn down the volume on their televisions a little bit.
My theory of why the Nats drew so well is simple. Let me begin by disclosing my utter hatred towards the Red Sox. I understand and appreciate the impressiveness of what they have accomplished in the last five years, but thats about it. They have cultivated farm system talent into a perennial contending team and have established a legion of fans rivaling those of the Yankees and Cubs, seemingly overnight. Having said all this, my sharp disdain for the Red Sox rivals how I feel about Duke basketball, the New England Patriots, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
We all know that DC is a transient down. Political staffers and government appointees come and go with changing administrations, others tire of the humidity, traffic, and cost of living, while still others feel that larger cities such as New York and Chicago offer more diverse experiences. Regardless of all this, one thing has been constant in D.C. over the last five years. A steady increase of New England (and in particular Red Sox) fans. There are bars that proclaim themselves to be "Red Sox" bars, hanging banners and offering specials during Red Sox games. Not a day goes by that you don't see someone on the Metro or the streets of D.C. wearing some sort of Red Sox garb.
The only thing I can think of to explain this is that there is a general view that being a Red Sox fan is cool, even if you aren't really a fan. We all know that there are plenty of tools in D.C., and at my latest estimation, roughly 97% of said tools are Red Sox "fans". Were they there for the many years that the Red Sox were terrible? Probably not. Do they remember anything prior to 2004, when the BoSox came back from a 3 game deficit to beat the Yankees? Nope. If you asked 10 D.C. area fans who their favorite all time BoSox player was, I'm guessing the responses would go like this: Papelbohn, Pedroia, Ortiz, Youklis, Youklis, Ortiz, Pedroia, Beckett, Ortiz, Lowell). Ted Williams? Carlton Fisk? Jim Rice, Johnny Pesky? Carl Yastremski? Anyone heard of them?
While I rest my case on die hard fans who have suffered in the bad times and celebrated during the good, I guarantee that had you been at Nats park this week, the majority of so-called "Red Sox nation" knows little of what happened with "their team" prior to the year 2000. Could they name anybody else on those late 1980's Red Sox teams besides Jim Rice, Roger Clemens, and Wade Boggs and Mike Greenwell? It would be an interesting experiment to try sometime.
My thought is that the majority of DC's "red sox nation" consists of girls who think a pink red sox hat looks cute and guys who like sporting a warn BoSox baseball cap while drinking at an Irish bar because its cool to do so. Lets just be thankful that the closest the Red Sox will get to D.C. over the next several years is Baltimore, and even that seems dangerously too close in my mind.