Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Straining for the uprights.

Gollygosh but this Amy Sullivan has got her head wedged pretty far up her ass. In a weird attempt to suggest that Washington teams don't have any fans--a real stretch when you consider how much abuse we're willing to take from Dan Snyder, how kaka stupid the area gets over the most mediocre of Maryland teams, how for a solid month the entire area ate, drank and slept George Mason hoops, the enormous cachet that even high school hoops has in the area, and the daily public self-flagellations of Nationals fans--who think their shitty, shitty team is the greatest thing since the Red Sea got parted. When Sullivan sticks to her own type, namely transplants and the permanent out-of-town sorts that pollute Capitol Hill and K Street, she maybe has a point--though a very dull one. THIS JUST IN--people who grow up supporting a home team tend to continue supporting them! *

That's the basic problem with Sullivan's premise. She doesn't know any actual Washingtonians. Instead, she's mistaken that landless species of in-town exile with the Real Deal.

In Washington, however, the immigrants don't assimilate. That's a big reason why the city, despite its size and power, feels so artificial. It's like one giant hotel where people stop off for a temporary stay, sometimes for the length of an administration, sometimes for decades, but almost always with some intention of leaving.
It's worth pointing out that the Redskins enjoy an epic-long waitlist for season tickets in spite of these non-assimilated immigrants. And despite her claims to the contrary, the city is pretty much apeshit over Gilbert Arenas and his fellow Wizards, and despite the fact that the team's only recently emerged from a coccoon of mediocrity, Washingtonians have always desired the chance see winning days come for the Wizards. I guess Sullivan missed the city-wide orgasm that took place during the entire tenure of Michael Jordan. She should really try to assimilate or something.

The funny thing is, there is a story buried deep within Sullivan's relentlessly banal prose. As Ryan Avent of DCist puts it:

But this piece does show the real tragedy of Washington life ? that so many of the people who write about the city live and work in the insular politico-journo community that fails to assimilate itself into the city, no matter how long they're here. It's a shame that these are the people who shape the public view of this town, these permanent tourists, stuck between the Mall and the Hill.
Well, it's the real tragedy of a certain subset of guest workers, anyway. Washingtonians, as far as sports fandom, are getting along just fine. And that's the real story. The people Sullivan describes at length in an attempt to pass off as genuine Washingtonians are the sad ones. Rootless, homeless--alienated and perversely proud of it. Amy Sullivan would be well served to, say, go back to Marshall Wittman of the DLC--who wears his Dallas colors with pride, I might add--as to why his 26 years in Washington haven't, frankly, amounted to a hill of beans. I'm guessing the man might cry.

*Sullivan hits a little close to home namechecking the St. Louis Cardinals. I grew up a Cardinals fan because there was no baseball team in Washington. And fuck the Orioles--playing with a DH is and never will be something I call baseball. Why am I not a Nats fan? Because I'm a Cardinals fan. Duh. That said, I've never ever rooted against the Skins or the Wizards and I nevrr will. That goes quadruple for the DC United.


Jodasm said...

Every major city has transplants, and those transplants often maintain team loyalties. I was just in Chicago and Tigers fans pretty obviously made up at least a quarter of the crowd at Wrigley Field. I'm sure some made the drive for the game, but most that I talked to were folks who grew up in Michigan and moved to Chicago after college. Even if you accept her premise as true I don't really think it makes DC unique from any other city.

PK said...

I agree with jodasm. I lived in San Francisco for years, and there was a sports bar for every NFL and college sports team. The "professional classes" of every major city are pretty much made up of transplants - in fact, the one guy at our company who grew up in San Francisco was something of a celebrity, even though he had gone to college in LA and didn't seem to actually know anything more about SF than the rest of us. It would be just as ridiculous to note that web programmers and bankers in San Francisco were inexplicably not into the Golden State Warriors.

Actually, scratch that. NOBODY is into the Warriors.