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.
I don’t really have anything too insightful today, so I’ll just riff on a few things that caught my eye in my daily spins around the World Wide Web. Sadly, most of my reading is relegated to a bunch of newspapers and research on things like Samuel Beckett’s short stories and why I’m not smart enough to read Ulysses… you know important things.
Anyway, here we go:
* Admittedly, I’m not a fan of Salon.com “sports” columnist King Kaufman. It’s nothing personal and sometimes I believe he has decent insight, but because he doesn’t go in the clubhouse or locker room and never has to face the subjects he writes about, well, what’s the point?
Regardless, I am a semi-regular reader of his work, which means I must like something about it. Like this story where Kaufman applauds the voters of Seattle for not agreeing to corporate welfare – why should taxpayers foot the bill for stadiums and arenas they will likely be priced out of?
Certainly my point of view is trite, but no one has ever answered the question. Why do regular folks have to foot the bill for multi-millionaires just for the pleasure to watch a game or to line someone else's pockets?
Take, for instance, the situation in my hometown where a business group and some local government types want to build a convention center and hotel next the town square. Sure, they keep repeating about how it’s a guaranteed success and will re-shape the town, but for some reason they can’t do it without a handout from the taxpayers.
If it’s supposed to be such as success as they say it is, how come they can’t put out their own money for the project?
Again, it’s trite and basic, but how come no one will answer why they need my money?
* Rich Hofmann is the columnist with all of the answers… well, not really, but of everyone in the Philadelphia sports media, Rich is far and away the smartest guy out there (sorry, Marcus). I’m not sure if that’s a compliment for Rich or a knock on me for not getting out there and meeting more people, but it’s always a treat to read what kind of stuff ol’ Rich comes up with.
The idea, of course, is “protection” for Ryan Howard in the middle of the lineup. But really, how much protection does Howard need? He hit 58 home runs with 149 RBIs – what difference would someone like Alfonso Soriano make?
How about this: Howard could strike out less than 181 times next season. If he does that he’ll be such a huge threat that the Phillies will have to get him some “protection” because no one will want to pitch to him.
I imagine the sushi in Fukuoka is a lot different than the stuff we get at the Ginmiya House here in Lancaster.
* Slate, the online magazine, examines if U2 or REM were the top ‘80s band. Without even reading the story I’ll say it’s U2 and not because I think they are particularly good or Bono is the noble rocker or whatever. It’s because REM is awful.
REM’s awfulness didn’t used to be the case, of course. In fact, there were a handful of years at the end of the 1980s to the early ‘90s when they were as important as any band out there. They were almost to the same level as The Clash or The Ramones in terms of influence of other bands, but then it all went terribly wrong.
What happened? Well, for starters it seems as if they started believing their press clippings. Seriously, how huge are the egos in that band if they honestly believed they could replace their drummer with a machine? Were they kidding? Why didn’t they just do the honorable thing and break up?
The Beatles broke up and their music became more important. The same goes for The Clash and a few other lesser-known bands of that ilk. Yes, if REM was a self-respecting band aware of its legacy they would have broken up when they were still relevant. Instead, for the past decade they’ve been just another corporate rock band putting out records every other year because they have a contract and an incorporated structure.
In other words, REM is a corporation and there is nothing particularly inspiring or interesting about bands that become that hypocritical.
In other words, U2 wins by default despite the fact that they are actually viable even though they are nothing more than a greatest-hits group.
* Mike Radano hasn't updated his blog in quite a while. What gives?
* Finally, Philadelphian and “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley died of complications of leukemia today. I was never a regular viewer of “60 Minutes” though I really like the show, however, I always thought Ed Bradley was extremely cool.
Actually, Bradley was one of those famous people that if I ever got to chance to meet I had a question or topic of conversation at the ready – jazz and John Coltrane. As a DJ spinning records at WDAS back in the ‘60s, I’m sure Bradley would have been illuminating on the subject.
Unfortunately, the opportunity never happened.
Nevertheless, the beauty of this age of history is that Bradley’s legacy will always be available for us to watch. For that, we’re lucky.