WASHINGTON - Washington, D.C. is an industry town. And in most industry towns, the matters of business are all encompassing. Generally, the folks who work in The District are on the clock 24/7 even when Congress is not in session and the Congressmen and their staffs are back in their home districts.
Of course, this year is different. The Industry here in Washington is diving into its quadrennial pageant complete with costumes and hype and everything else that goes with the thing called a presidential election. As a result they force the rest of us to follow along, too, which is good. Who doesn't want to understand and participate in the nation's sovereignty?
Because Congress is busy at the work of making laws and whatnot just a short little drive up Capitol Street from the brand, spanking new Nationals Park, and because the candidates for president are positioning themselves just so, big crowds have been few and far between for Nats' games this season. Last night the announced attendance was a little more than 25,000, which is below the season average of 28,983. That average is 17th in Major League Baseball (better than Baltimore) and is higher than only three teams in the National League (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Florida).
If you build it and bilk the taxpaying citizens of The District, they will come?
Nope, not likely.
Anyway, one of the more noticeable traits of the new taxpayer-funded ballpark in Washington is the open space. In the left-field portico, the corridors and even on the streets circling the park, the plazas are wide and open. That's nice. It also mirrors Pierre Charles L'Enfant's and Andrew Ellicott's vision of The District with its wide avenues, open spaces and parklands, and low buildings that don't suffocate the city and its landmarks.
The view of the city from left field with the monuments along The Mall with the Capitol as an anchor is as good as it gets and is a stark reminder of exactly where you are.
Yet a good indicator at how encompassing the industry is in D.C. was pretty evident within seconds of walking into the new Nationals Park. For instance, in the spacious visitors' clubhouse one of the half dozen or so high-definition televisions hanging from the ceiling was tuned to Chris Matthews' "Hard Ball."
Nope, that's not a show about baseball.
More telling, sadly (or not depending upon one's perspective, I guess), was that the largest advertisement visible on the outfield fence was one from Exxon/Mobil. There are a couple of D.C. axioms that explain a lot. One explains the only ways in which a political career can be destroyed, such as "being caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl."
The other established truth is that in order to find the basis of something, one must "follow the money."
For now there is no corporate naming rights slapped on Nationals Park, which is refreshing and, frankly, awesome. But is it just a matter of time until the Nats games are played at Exxon/Mobil Field?
That would suck.
Anyway, my knee-jerk reaction o the park was that it was "flavorless." I was wrong. It's quintessentially D.C. based on some of the reasons listed above. Plus, it's really easy to get to and drive away from - 295 is right there. It's kind of like the South Philadelphia sports complex in that regard, only there is no Schuylkill Expressway to fight with and there is more to do in Washington before and after the games and when the team is in the off-season for that matter.
However, Nats Park cribbed some of the ideas from Citizens Bank Park with the local fooderies selling the concessions. Ben's Chili Bowl, Five Guys Burgers and Hard Times Café have stands, which is like Tony Luke's and Chickie's & Pete's at CBP.
In a nutshell, Nationals Park is a good place to watch a game. It's also just another place to work. Better yet, it's easier to get to than Philly.
Otherwise, the Phillies haven't hit as many home runs in D.C. Actually, the Phillies haven't done a whole lot of hitting, period, lately. Yesterday's loss to extend the season-worst losing skid to three games was exacerbated by the team's inability to hit with runners in scoring position when they went 0-for-12.
Silver lining time: the team might not be all that bad if it loses three games for the first time on May 19.
Anyway, for more on Nationals Park, check out the primer in The Washington Post. They have a lot of good stuff there.