Monday, April 5, 2010

Not a bad start.

It was a beautiful day in Washington, D.C., (our nation's capital) for the season opener between the Phillies and the lowly Nationals. It was a major chore to get to the parking lot. We left New Jersey at around 8:40 and didn't park the car until nearly noon. They don't get many sell-out's in Washington, and the narrow streets and bad traffic patterns don't help. Combine that with the black helicopters and enhanced police presence because of our day's special guest, and you have the makings of a major pain. But, it's baseball, and after a winter of discontent, baseball is a welcome sight no matter how long we had to wait to see it.
It looked like a home game for the Phillies, with busloads (some estimates were 100 buses) of fans and thousands more like us driving down for the afternoon.
The first thing we saw as we neared the ballpark was a parade of Phillies fans, complete with a 4-piece band playing "Happy Days are Here Again." It looked like about 500 people decked out in red, drinking beer (at 11:30am) and screaming like maniacs. They had been pent-up in buses for about three hours and took their energy to the street.
Generally, when I leave the area and associate with the hoi polloi, I want nothing other than to not be embarrassed by wearing my team's colors. Phillies fans (and Philadelphia sports fans in general) have a bad reputation. Confined in a bus for 3 hours, drinking for breakfast and warm temperatures could have combined to make life difficult, but most of them were just happy to be outdoors without a snow shovel, so the crowd was pretty tame.

Security was tight, as President Obama was throwing out the first ball. We had to empty our pockets and be wanded and walk through metal detectors. We didn't get into the ballpark until nearly 12:30. The line stretched around one side of the ballpark.
The president's throw was high and wide, but at least he didn't bounce it. He'll take a fair amount of heat for wearing a White Sox cap with his complimentary Nationals jacket, but he's the president and he gets to do what he wants. I do have a hard time deciding whether he's from Hawaii or Illinois. It seems to be determined by where he is at the time. Today, he was from Illinois. During the Phillies' White House visit after their 2008 championship he buddied-up to Shane Victorino, who is actually from Hawaii.

Our seats were in the Club Box level. We spent the extra money because we were fearful of April weather. As it turned out, it was nearly 80 degrees and sunny. Even so, the inside part was air conditioned, so I think it was worth the price.
During the 7th inning we were treated with the now customary singing of "God Bless America" by 2010 Miss America Caressa Cameron, who happens to be from Virginia. If you had dangled me by my feet over the scoreboard and threatened to drop me if I didn't tell you who the reigning Miss America is, I would surely plunge to my death.
I suppose the "GBA" tradition is ingrained in the game now. They've been singing it since the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks and it doesn't appear to be stopping any time soon. Besides, who is going to be the one to stop it? You're a Communist (or worse) if you suggest that teams stop singing the song now, so I suppose we're stuck with it. Don't call me a Communist (or worse), I just find it odd that we have continued to do it. I also find it odd that we continue to crown Miss America's, but I digress.

Tens of Nationals fans were seen streaming for the exits in the fifth inning as the Phillies jumped out to an 11-1 lead. Most of them just seemed happy to be out of the house.
Part of the day's conversation revolved around the Eagles trading Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins. One disgruntled Eagles fan had placed a McNabb #5 jersey in a urinal. Quite a statement.
Nationals Park is a nice enough place. There is a lot of concrete and it's closed-in on all sides. You have to be on the first base side to get a glimpse of the Capital Building off in the distance. The neighborhood looks like Yucca Flat after the blast, but it also looks like they're working on some things. One minor problem is that there isn't anything to do other than go to the ballpark and go home. There is a METRO stop close by, and the next time I go I'm not driving. Getting there and back by car is a chore. Getting around in D.C. is hard enough as it is without adding-in 40,000 baseball fans.
There are townhouses about a thousand feet from the ballpark selling for $600,000. They're close enough so that you can walk to all the Nationals games. Townhouses a mile away are selling for significantly more.