Why is Washington D.C. a mediocre sports town?

Dan is running a little late, but will be here momentarily ... 

Hey everyone, thanks for all the questions and thanks for showing up. Apologies for running late; I'm working on yet another story based on this poll we did, and I had a call I had to finish.

Anyhow, a few people have sent me messages criticizing either the nature of the poll or the tenor of the results. For the record, the project wasn't my idea; I was just in charge of writing up the results, which I found fairly interesting. "Mediocre," used in the title of this chat, is kind of a loaded word, and "average" might be better.

But the general sense I got, both from the numbers and from a whole bunch of interviews, was that this is a unique sports town, with some huge advantages and some large disadvantages, which make it sort of average all in all.

Ok, questions.

Don't let the ghost of Jack Kent Cooke hear you say that. Granted it seems mediocre and that's because we haven't won championships in a long time except for DC United. But we do have a serious buzz over the Washington Capitals (Alexander Ovechkin), Wizards (John Wall), and Nationals (Stephen Strasburg). They are anything but mediocre. Do you agree? :)

I guess it depends on how you define "serious buzz." Within the baseball and hockey industries, certainly the Nats and Caps qualify. Don't think the Wizards are there. And Chinatown certainly buzzes on Caps game nights, which is cool. On the other hand, I almost never hear anyone talking about the Nats outside of my own little sports Internet world. And I can't tell you how many times I've had to ask a bartender to put on a Nats game in recent years. That doesn't happen in a lot of places.

It's just about impossible to decide how much of this is because of wins-losses, and how much because of something else.

It is the transient nature of the area. I moved here from Jersey, and there wasn't any way I was going to become a Redskins' fan. No matter how long I live here. Plus you have the fickleness of Washington's fans. Just take a look at Cindy Boren's chat. The Skins lose two games and the season is over, time to start rooting for a different team. They're quick to jump on the Super Bowl bandwagon and quick to start calling for heads the second a pick-six is thrown.

Which, let's be honest, isn't rocket science. But to me, there's a difference between saying "transient transient transient" and having a comprehensive public opinion survey done by professionals.

Are Washington fans more fickle than those in other cities? Another impossible question. I wish we had similar data from other sports towns, but we couldn't find anything quite like this, and we didn't have the resources to do this beyond Washington. I do think the NFL, with its dramatic momentum shifts and 16-game schedule, is particularly given to fickleness, in all cities.

I, for one, won't root for the local football team because of its shockingly offensive name. I'm blown away that that moniker has managed to hang on so long. Is there any hope of it being changed? Or any hope that the Washington Post will step up and say it will no longer print that awful epithet?

I think we all regret not asking people about the name in our poll. I know we had it as a possible question, and it got lost somewhere along the way. too bad.

I have not heard any discussion at all of us not using it, nor of the team changing it. My impression is that while some people (like you) are extremely offended by it, those are a pretty tiny minority. Wish we had asked.

Bigger question is why, if DC is a mediocre sports town towards its own teams, does The Post spend so much print of covering the local teams and not spreading out among the other teams? Given there are probably just as many Dallas, Philly, and Pittsburgh fans in the metro area, maybe The Post needs a little coverage for the many transients.

I think this is a fine question. Certainly our coverage is far more provincial than that in the New York Times.

On the other hand, they have national circulation and a mission to cover the country. We have almost entirely regional circulation and a mission to be for and about Washington. And while "Washington" in a sports sense might include Dallas and Philly and Pitt fans (although not "probably just as many," not close to that), we don't have the resources to be always sending people to Dallas and Philly and Pitt.

But I agree with your general point. There are almost certainly more Cowboys fans here than, say, Georgetown basketball fans. Or Wizards fans, really. Not sure how best we should handle that fact.

Dan, As a hockey fan, I was pleasantly surprised that the interest in the NHL was fairly close to the interest in both MLB and NBA. I believe they were at 32 and 31 and NHL at 26--so really about 15-20 percent less interest in the NHL than two leagues who traditionally have received exponentially coverage in the local media when the home team isn't playing. You surprised by that?

I was surprised by this, yes. And bear in mind the poll has a margin of error of something like +/- 4 percent.

Again, it's not my role to decide what we cover, but given that interest (which might be spurred merely by the Caps being great, but which still exists), I don't think there's an excuse to not cover things like the Stanley Cup Finals. We have two people at the World Series. In the past, we've had two people at the NBA Finals. I think we should send at least one to the SCF.

The media shouldn't control fan interest, in my opinion, but if the interest is there, the media can certainly help it grow.

I don't think DC is a mediocre sports town per se. It's largely just a Redskins town, which also has other professional sports that don't have the same level of zealous fans. Don't get me wrong, there are surely some hard core Caps and Nats fans around (I consider myself pretty devoted to the Nationals), but nothing on the same level as the Redskins, which sets the bar higher than most.

I think this is largely true. And we've all heard the reasons -- the Wizards have been awful for almost 30 years, there was no baseball team for even longer, and hockey in Washington was an uphill battle for years.

It's still worth asking what makes this massive market so much different from some of the other surrounding cities, I think. And the fact that so many fans expressed a clear preference for pro sports over college (55-10) was also interesting to me.

This is not a question, but more of an observation/commentary on DC sports and DC fans. In a city that has been fortunate enough to have had Shirley Povich, Glenn Brenner, Warner Wolf, George Michael, Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon, and many more, I would venture to say that DC has some of the smartest and best informed sports fans in the country. If you look at the current national sports coverage in print, radio, TV, and blogs, you will often see people that were originally from Washington, DC. The notion that we do not know our sports is absolutely incorrect, even though Wilbon loves to bash DC sports fans. Yes, we are a transient city. People come and go, but this is beginning to change as more people are staying and having families. The DC area is a great place to live, and the children of these families will begin to root for the home teams (especially if they are winning teams - that's what happened to me in the 80s with the Skins). You can see it happening with the Caps, and hopefully things will turn around for the Nats, the Wizards, DC United, and the Skins. DC is not a mediocre sports town. Our teams may be mediocre, but not our fans. There is no other sports town that can bring together a greater milieu of race, socio-economic status, and political ideology. - Proud DC Homer

I guess it depends on how you define fandome. Your last sentence is probably true -- few other towns, in any case. But I'm not sure if diversity of race, status and ideology is commontly thought of as the hallmarks of great sports towndom.

If that's what you want, though, then absolutely, D.C. is tremendous. I wouldn't be able to get away with doing much of what I do in a lot of other places.

Growing up in Connecticut, where our only sports team left a couple of decades ago and thus being allowed to choose between being a Boston guy or a New York guy (I ended up a mix- Mets, Giants, Celtics and Rangers) I view DC as a place that should be a Sports town but isn't. The final piece of the puzzle was when the Nats came to town, as in my mind in order to be a "Sports Town" you need to have all four major sports there. Where the city fails is that it only really cares about one sport, and I give you no more evidence than the Washington Post sports chats. All year round people ask questions about the Redskins. Spring training starts- people are asking who's going to get drafted. Caps make the playoffs and people are asking who's going to be the starting QB. It's all about the Skins and that sort of view kills the other sports. Even though the fan experience at FedEx is lousy (too many drunks, too many seats located in other counties and too much of a headache to get there) and the owner smacks around fans worse than Ike Turner, people still ignore the other sports in town. When the fans start really getting behind all of their sports (Wiz, Caps, Nats, Mystics and DC United) then it'll be a sports town, but not unti then.

See, some see the Redskins obsession as a sign of how great Washington fandom is/can be, while others (and not just you) see it as a huge failing of the region. 

Dunno. I think having a team that is shockingly relevant and on peoples' minds is actually a really good thing. It's the challenge of the other teams to get to a similar place. The Redskins have the huge, and unreplicatable advantage of having been great, at a time when there was no regional competition (in either Baltimore or Carolina). The Nats are bracketed by the fan bases for the Orioles and Braves. The Caps could never own the Carolinas, to the extent that any hockey team can. The Wizards....well, they need to be great.

The Caps have at least made a dent into the online sports media market here.

In relation to your question, I think the fans are passionate and loyal but the local teams keep letting them down, especially the local NFL team. I don't consider myself an expert on the game, but it seems as clear as day to me, especially after watching the game against the Panthers with their rookie quarterback, that what the Redskins need to propel them to victory or to at least a higher level of play is a young, franchise quarterback, like Carolina's Newton or Minnesota's Ponder. It's too late for this season but I don't understand why Coach Shanahan persists in hiring either washed up veterans or inexperienced players with little or no success in the game as his starting quarterbacks. It's very perplexing. To illustrate your point, I come from abroad and settled here 2 years ago and really wanted to support the local teams, especially the local NFL team. But since I am not really from here it was kind of easy to get attached to another team but I still want to see the Redskins do well, at least for the sake of their fans. This season started so well, it's a pity to watch it unravel this way.

You see? How could you not think it great that a chat about a longterm fan descriptive project yields a question about Mike Shanahan and Christian Ponder. That's great. That's passion.

I'm a die hard DC Sports fan, fan of the Skins, Caps, Wiz, Nats, United and my college rooting interest is with a team 3 and a half hours to the south, East Carolina. Have purchased season ticket packages for the Skins, Caps, Wiz, Nats, and ECU football for the past 15 plus years. What is your opinion for the lack of success among the professional teams in this area? Growing up here in the 70s, 80s, 90s was cool with the Skins, Bullets making their run in the late 70s and even with Weber and the crew in the late 90s, and the Caps making several good and exciting playoff appearances. What happened to this being a great sports town is my question? It sickens me to see Dallas flags flying around the area.

Well, if you're a fairweather fan of a team that plays 2,000 miles away, it's probably easy to fly that flag when the hometeam has been bad. If the Skins were good, you'd see fewer Dallas flags.

 

I actually talked to Doc Walker about this today. "You can go from nobody to somebody just by putting a star on your hat and walking around here," he told me. "For those that lack self-confidence and want some attention, it’s the easiest way to do it."

Ha!

Anyhow, at some point, I think ownership needs to accept some responsibility for repeated failings over years and years. And I mean more about the Pollin-led Wizards than the Snyder-led Redskins, although both would qualify.

 

The fact that many of the federal employees come from outside the region is part of the problem for the local teams, but the full answer may be more complicated. My memory of the first Joe Gibbs era was that most of the Redskins support came from the suburbs and rural areas, not from the District. Many of these fans were probably priced out of home games in the 1990. Plus, as the suburbs have grown, this may have displaced many longtime fans with transplants still loyal to the teams in their old homes. Pittsburgh has supplied many transplants to this area, and the Steelers had a large fan base here even before their return to the Super Bowl in the past few years. (The Cowboys fan base here is probably an anomaly, since most of those fans I've encountered tend to be contrarian, and would probably root for the Yankees if they lived in Massachusetts.) What do you think of my theory?

I think there's definitely something here. Our poll included places like Prince Williams, Charles County, Manassas and Loudoun, but not places like St. Mary's, Calvert, Anne Arundel, Howard, Stafford, Fauquier, Frederick, Carroll, etc. I'd bet a large number of traditional sports fans live in those areas.

I take issue with your "mediocre sports town" stuff. Fans of the local teams are as passionate and loyal as in any town, especially when you consider how bad the product has been for the past 20 years. And local fans can hardly help it that there are a lot of carpetbaggers here that retain their original team loyalties. Not sure what the cheap shot at fans of the local team accomplished for your paper.

Hey, I know you!

Well, I certainly didn't use the word "mediocre" in print.

But if you want an accurate view of Washington's sports community, you have to include the "carpetbaggers." Doing so is not a cheap shot at the hundreds of thousands of local fans. It's just attempting to provide an accurate snapshot at who the sports fans in our community are.

Do you think its fair to downgrade Washington, DC fans just because there are a bunch of out-of-towners living among us to water everything down? Terrible cities like Philadelphia don't have to worry about anyone wanting to move and live there.

Well, I don't think I, or the paper, am downgrading Washington fans. We're pointing out that they can sometimes feel like minorities in their own town, though, because of these other factors.

Whether or not you think Philly is a terrible city, it certainly is a city with a different sports culture than ours.

Dan -- One of the things I think you may have missed in your fine article is the different mindset of those people moving to the DC area. When I was a kid growing up here, my Dad, who moved from rural Illinois, WANTED to be a Washingtonian and get away from his poor, small-town roots. He WANTED to root for the Skins and Senators, because DC became his home, and it was ok to work for the government and be a Washingtonian. Today's transplants have a different mind-set: they like to bash Washington, and love to strut the fact that they aren't from here. Basically, it's no longer "cool" -- so to speak -- to be a Washingtonian and root for the local teams. Very different than when my Dad moved here in the 60s. (And very different from New York, who has a ton of transplants, too, but those transplants desperately try to transform themselves into New Yorkers.)

I don't have any proof from our poll that this is true, but it's an interesting thought. The fact that more than 4 in 10 Washingtonians surveyed said they plan to leave the area within a decade is fascinting to me.

Now, when I first got to Washington, I'd have said the same thing. I'm at 13 years and counting. But even if you don't leave -- as long as your heart says you will/might leave, it might be hard to get attached to local institutions, like the sports team.

That's why you should all go get the D.C. flag tattooed on your upper arms.

People do often seem to flaunt their out-of-townness here.

In regard to the Joe House quote in your article: I agree, the opposing fans taking over stadiums/arenas thing does seem to be a more recent development. I think it has to do with how D.C. has become such a job magnet for young adults. When I went to Caps games in the 80s, there were occasionally significant contingents of Flyers fans, but they were mostly from Philly and had come down on buses. In recent years (granted this doesn't apply to Stan Kasten's invites to Philly residents), it seems that many of the opposing team fans at games--I mostly attend Caps and Nats games, so can't speak for Skins or Wiz--are people who live in D.C. but still have loyalty to where they grew up. And unlike 20 or 30 years ago, it is much easier to be a fan of a team in a different city. Back then, you might occasionally see your team on a national telecast, and maybe you picked up the USA Today to get notes on your home team. Now, with the Internet, you can read everything written about your home team--and you can even buy the cable package and watch every game the Flyers or Phillies, etc. play. So people who come here and don't think of it as their new "home" but just as a place they are living don't have to follow the Washington teams by default--they just keep their old allegiances.

This is absolutely true. Whether it affects the proportion of people who transfer allegiances, I'm not sure, but it's absolutely a zillion times easier to be a fan of a St. Louis team whether you're living in St. Louis or Washington or Afghanistan. Hard to imagine this doesn't impact the equation pretty significantly.

So the poll shows there are a lot of transients here who continue to root for their home team. Hardly earth shattering news. And why does that make DC a "mediocre" sports town? Redskins are one of the most valuable teams in the world with their loyal and passionate fan base. Caps are selling out everynight and putting DC on the map as a hockey town. Nats are will come on strong with Stras and Harper and a really good team down the road. Wiz are hurting but that is due to bad ownership prior to Leonsis taking over. Not sure I get the "mediocre" part in that. Cheap shot by the Post and what purpose are you serving?

Wait, how many questions did you submit?

 

I agree, this isn't earth shattering news. I tried to present it in a fair way: this is what we found, and this is what people think about Washington as a sports town. I tried not to take cheap shots.  The word "mediocre" was, far as I know, only used in the promotion of this chat.

But even with a team like the Caps, you'll acknowledge that things like TV ratings and talk-radio chatter still indicate them to be a fairly small community of fans. Growing exponentially, yes, but will that growth last if the team stops winning? And the fact that the Nats are making progress on the field....has that been felt in the community? Where I have to ask a bartender in downtown washington to change the channel from the Goonies to the Nats game? I think these are fair questions.

How many D.C. sport fans were actually born and raised there?-I would bet unlike other U.S.cities,that percentage is small.

Not sure this is answering your exact question, but 87 percent of D.C. natives say they're sports fans. 85 percent of natives of the surrounding counties in MD/VA say the same. And 81 percent of area residents who grew up elsewhere call themselves sports fans.

So, the results of your poll are quite interesting. They would seem to confirm that the local NFL team gets more coverage than it deserves. Or am I misreading the results somehow?

Well....I guess it depends how you judge. 60 percent of local sports fans say they care about the NFL; 33 percent a great deal. That compares to, say, 31 percent for NBA, 32 percent for MLB, and 26 percent for NHL. And none of those got more than 13 percent for "a great deal."

So the regular audience for NFL news is far, far larger than for anything else, and should be courted and massaged and catered to.

On the other hand, if there are really half as many people who care about the NBA/NHL/MLB....well, the local teams likely don't get half as much coverage as the Skins.

I work in D.C. but I've lived in Northern VA my whole life. I see far more Nats gear in Fairfax than I ever see in the city, and most of the people I know are lifelong Skins fans. Do you think the loyalty to local teams increase once you cross the river?

If you're talking about "the city" as being K Street and the Hill during weekday afternoons, then probably. But overall, the numbers weren't appreciably different when divided up by DC/VA/MD.

More people in the Maryland burbs said they cared about the NFL than in Virginia. DC and the MD burbs crushed the VA  burbs in NBA interest. MD and VA had more hockey fans than DC. And more people in DC said they cared about baseball than in the burbs. (These are for the leagues, not particular teams.)

Great research. It's been my observation that DC is more an event town than a sports town. Opening Day or Strasburg premiering, let's go to tthe game. A random game in June, not so much. The Skins play only 8 home games a year, and each is an event, so let's go. The Wiz or the Caps, let's go if they are winners. If they're losers, no buzz. There is little multi-genreational connection to a team, such as "My father or grandfather used to take me to the game to root for X". But, as a "mega-fan", I Iove living here because I see all four major sports, and rooting for my local team is put in perspective.It's not a blood sport where one has violent arguments. So, don't feel bad that we're not NYC, Philly or Boston. We get our main civic identity from things other than sports. We're "the most powerful city in the world" and you're not.

A lot of people would agree with your summary.

My editor was really big into the "event town" theory. I feel like Opening Day or the debut of Strasburg would be a huge event in any city, so I didn't go big with that. Some of the people I interviewed agreed with the theory, and some didn't.

But I absolutely agree that our main civic identity does not come from sports in the same way it would in, say, Pittsburgh.

Like many, I'm an outsider who never warmed to the Skins. I wrote this little ditty sung to the tune of "Hail to the Redskins":

I hate the Redskins

Hate them a lot

I hate the Redskins

My favorite team they're NOT

Catchy.

I think more out of towners now living here have animus toward the Redskins than toward other local teams. Not sure why.

You can mark me down as another person who finds the NFL team's name completely offensive. Are there going to be any protests in Toronto next week? Canadians seem to be more sensitive to these sorts of things...

Have not heard of any.

When I think of the things that damage DC's sports fan base and its reputation, a few issues do come to mind. Let me know what you think about these topicss:

First was the loss of the Skins to PG county (and it looks like DCU will be out of here eventually) all due to a lack of political ability to find locations for stadiums and get them built. You think that the Yankees would ever be allowed to move to the burbs?

Second is the lack of any college team in the area that truly represents Washington. Virginians can't stand Maryland, people from Maryland don't want to hear about VT or UVA, and the city itself lacks any FBS football team, and that's where college sports count.

Third is I think this city is too willing to cater to fans of non local teams. I get annoyed when I see a sporting goods store in DC with Cowboys gear in the window, and downright angry when the store at Nats Park is selling Yankees and Red Sox gear.

Some people actually suggested to me that P.G. County became more attached to the Redskins when the Stadium opened. Maybe it hurt them in Virginia or D.C., not sure. But it's not like the Cowboys were hurt from being in Irving, right?

The college thing is absolutely true. Look, we live in a tri-state/district area. That has an impact.

And I'm not sure if the latter is "too willing" or "common sense." If people didn't buy it, stores wouldn't sell it.

Two completely anecdotal observations:

1. I've been to every Opening Day for the Nats except two - 2005 for somewhat obvious reaons, and 2010. 2010 was the year the Phillies fans grabbed all the tickets. A group of friends and I took a half-day off and went to a local sports bar. Waitstaff had no idea why we were there, and had to be asked to put the game on. Even made fun of us for ordering beer. Sure it was noon on a Monday but it was opening day!!

2. On the other hand, I grew up in NY, and when I was a kid very few people beyond the diehards paid attention to the Yankees when they were average to terrible. And I can remember crowds of regularly about 15K at Yankee stadium. Of course this changed in '95 when they made the playoffs. So even in a historically good sports town there is an element of "if you build it they will come."

Both ring true.

Stan Kasten and others made the point to me that both the Red Sox and Yankees have gone through long periods of fan dormancy. Red Sox games did not always sell out. And it's easy to root for a winner.

I'm not sure to what extent, and how many losing/winning seasons change things, but all towns have a bandwagon angle. They'd have to.

Fans are frontrunners almost everywhere. Theoretically, that makes ownership/management work harder to sell tickets. How was Boston's ticket sales/TV ratings when the Bruins, Patriots and even Red Sox were mediocre or worse? How were the Penguins ticket sales/TV ratings when they were last? The only shame in frontrunning is not admitting to it. Philly is probably the least frontrunning town and they have all of 1 championship in memory. Ted Leonsis got smart, then lucky, and made the Caps a hot ticket. I think the Nats are doing the same, though more slowly. We'll see if Leonsis can do it with the Wiz.

I think this is pretty correct.

Cleveland manages to root for the Browns through lots of bad seasons. Willing to accept other examples.

Instead of placing a team here MLB should have had a regular season Yankees-Red Sox series scheduled here every year followed by the Cubs-Cardinals, Giants-Dodgers etc. MLB could treat DC the way the NFL treats London and sometimes Mexico City. I think the Negro League was very successful having teams from different cities square off in a third city.

See, this is more insulting to D.C. sports fans than anything I wrote.

The Nats did poorly on television this year, but their actual in-game attendance was not bad at all.

I'd actually argue that a lot of people outside DC talk about DC sports. I have spotted Caps gear in Vermont, I've been asked by friends in CO about the Nats and have had friends who visit from Canada insist on going to a Nats game. There are often lots of shots of famous people outside DC wearings Nats or Caps gear and lord knows that you can't walk down the street without seeing the Curly W or the Eagle of the Caps. But slapping the label "mediocre" seems rather cruel. Certainly in this transient town, people will root for the team of their youth, but every single person I know who follows their home town teams also knows a great deal about the DC teams and keeps two sets of jerseys.

I'm not sure if I'd agree with you. A lot of famous people wear lots of stuff. And I absolutely think you see less Curly W and Weagle here than you would in other cities. I was on the 90 bus on the Sunday of the Redskins opener and I saw gear for the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, New York Giants, Cowboys, Patriots, and Redskins. That I can remember.

And if every sports fan you know has two sets of jerseys, you know a pretty distinct sort of sports fan. I know plenty who do not. 

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I think D.C. sports has had a mediocre feel in recent years. I link the apathy that this area has developed to its coaches, GMs, owners, and high profile players of the four, or five if you include soccer, major sports teams. Winning consistently will provide a buzz that this town needs. But also, even if the teams don't win consistently I would like to see more passion, better drafting, and developing a relationship with the whole metro area to improve!

All that would be nice, but yeah, win some games.

Since 2000, we've seen, what, one playoff series win for the Wiz, one playoff win for the Redskins, no winning seasons for the Nats, and two playoff series wins for the Caps? Is that right? That's not enough.

Once upon a time, I guess I qualified. Came to DC for college and never left. While I had a rooting interest in a couple of NY teams when I got here, that's been over and done with for years. This is my home and DC teams are my teams. I don't understand how someone who left, say, Pittsburgh (or anywhere) 30 years ago can still call them the home team.

Yeah, it's up to each person. I've been here for 13 years, and I still like to see good things happen to my hometown, Buffalo. But I identify myself with Washington, and sort of get irritated at those who cling to other places. I guess I'm trying to have it both ways.

Don't you think that DC has been one of the unluckiest sports towns in the entire country? Isn't on-field performance from teams largely random and cyclical? So it stands to reason that a town might just have a really bad string of bad luck which would lead to being a "mediocre" sports town during that time. Let's look.... Caps - by far the most (only) consistent local team. Selling out every game. Wizards - second worst non-recent expansion team in the league in the last 30 years Redskins - worst owner in the NFL. Completely random but the fanbase is still one of the NFL's best for some reason Nats - DC didn't have a team for 30+ years because they flat out couldn't win. Now that's bad luck. I think the city has had something like 4 winning baseball seasons since 1937. It's going to take time to build the fanbase - especially with the Orioles being a viable option for those 30+ years.

The teams have been rotten, that's for sure.

I don't know about luck. Have the Wizards been bad because of bad luck? That's an awful lot of years of bad luck. Seems to me you could find some common denominators that might be more convincing than "bad luck."

How much do you think the results could change in the next ten years? The Caps certainly seem to be at the high point of their franchise and still have a relatively young team (and hopefully they can bring home a cup or two in the next ten years) and the Nats are building a solid, young core. If the Redskins continue to consistently field a below average team (it is insulting to the term mediocre to associate it with the Skins in the last few years), will their crown as #1 team in the metro area ever be threatened? Oh, and congrats on writing an above the fold front page article.

Not totally sure about this question. The Redskins went to four Super Bowls in 11 years and won three. They also built their fanbase at a time when they had geographic freedom and little local competition. Even if the Caps win a Cup, there's a limit to the size of their fan base, I'd think. Could they get far, far bigger than they are? Sure. I just don't see how they could replicate a franchise with fans of all races and a fanbase spreading over five or six states.

But obviously I agree that the Nats are on the rise and the Caps are by a million miles the best team in town.

See, I hate the Redskins (besides their racist nickname) precisely because they get jammed down everyone's throat by the media in this town.

Other people have said this to me. I'm not sure that's a great reason to hate the team. Hate the media, not the team.

For anyone who doubts the mediocrity of DC as a sports town, you've found the perfect illustration of it. Not only are the Nats not on the TV, but they are often tuned instead to CNN or Fox News, often with no sound or captioning. Then, when you ask a bartender to change it, the ensuing fumbling with the remote and the "what channel is it on?"is just brutal.

Yes.

Has this poster ever been to the great state of California? Really, really, there is no other place as diverse as DC? Really? How about San Diego, LA and San Francisco just to name 3 places off the top of my head.

Actually, I think San Fran/Oakland might be the best comparison to D.C. Has had some very successful teams, has had some very stinky teams, is represented by every sport although the teams play many miles from each other, has plenty of other diversions and plenty of transplants but can really get insane about a team with sustained success.

I can't think of a better comparison, anyhow.

The problem is you define fan greatness as someone who is so fanatic that they drink a case of beer before the game in the parking lot, yell obscenities all game long, and then almost [vomit] on my kids. In that way, the Redskins fans are as great as any Philadelphia fans.

A bottle of Jack would work, too.

No, you make a good point. The people we often think of as "great fans" often have some drawbacks, too, to generalize horribly.

What word did you want to use instead of [vomit]?

This is actually one of the things Stan Kasten said he loved about Washington fans; the relative lack of poor behavior, without reaching all the way down to apathy.

Another way that it is easier to maintain your loyalty is that bar owners have discovered there is money to be made in being the place to watch a specific team. Fans get the hometown experience by being surrounded by like minded fans, usually decked out in team colors.

Also true, although much less of a factor for any sport besides the weekly football extravaganza.

You mentioned you're doing a follow-up article. I was wondering if there was going to be a demographic breakdown (age, race, gender). There was a bit of age breakdown in the original article, but I would have been interested in more. (For example, I've heard anecdotally that some black native DC-ers are Cowboys fans due to the racism of the Redskins franchise for so long. Would love to know if a poll shows that to be true.)

Read the paper all week! Like, especially Thursday!

You mention that the sports media should help interest grow if it's there. I agree--but in too many cases here, the local sports media just defaults to the Redskins because they seem to know less about those other sports than the fans. You mention talk radio chatter--980 brings on Alan May, etc, regularly only because the hosts on that station literally can't talk about the Caps without help. Then they can say they talked about the Caps for 10 minutes and go back to talking about the Redskins. I could say the same thing about some of the Post columnists....

And some Post bloggers....

Yeah, I don't know how you get past chicken/egg on this one. You'd be insane if you ran a sports-talk station in DC and hired people who were great on hockey and meh on football. Same at The Post. But if the Caps become ascendent, you need people at least comfortable in bringing some basic analysis to that game. I feel comfortable saying that D.C. is weak on that, in all media (TV/Radio/Print). Well, not in blogs, I guess.

What does "mediocre sports town" mean? Does it mean the teams are mediocre, or the fans are mediocre? If you're talking about team performance, then the vast majority of major American cities are mediocre sports towns. What cities have multiple championships in the past decade or two? New York, Boston, Detroit --  unless I'm missing something that's it.

Well, a combination of teams, fans, and the general sporty attitude about town.

Maybe we're too fixated on this "mediocre" word.

I think enough Philly and Chicago teams have been successful, though, combined with enough fan interest, that no one would call them mediocre. Aside from the fan stuff, both cities have multiple deep playoff runs from teams in multiple sports. Year-round focus on successful teams.

I know why, Dan. Because this town and its media are absurd with their bandwagon fandom. We out-of-towners think it's nuts that the biggest sports story in April is a football player with a cold rather than Strasburg or a run for the finals in any other local sport. The stores are empty on game day -- good time to shop. You hear about a game all the week before and all the week after. Geez! Plus, the offensive name, which I don't use. Plus the traffic, the overpriced tickets and food and drink and rude owner and horrible parking I hear about. Whereas I can walk into a Nats game for $10 and have a great view and a great time. Enough with the overhyped local NFL team.

Well, I guess here are some answers.

I've grown to love the Redskins hype. I wake up on Sundays all giddy with anticipation. The NFL's once-a-week thing really, really works for me. The build-up and reaction is almost as fun as the game.

Also, I don't think the food and drinks are any less overpriced at the Nats game.

But clearly, for an in-person experience, i'd take Nats Park over FedEx Field 100 times out of 100.

I can't help be reminded of the bit by George Carlin where he questions the phrase "Proud to be an American" -- unless you immigrated here and gained your citizenship, you haven't accomplished anything to be proud of -- you had no control over where your parents lived when you were born. You can be "happy" or "lucky" to be an American. What's the relevance? Well, people choose their favorite teams for a variety of reasons, many of them MORE valid than "Well, that was the team that was geographically closest to my town of birth."

Fair enough.

And I have to get out of here, so I'll leave you on that philosophical note. Thanks for all the questions, and please explore all the other elements of this project we have over our Web site, and that we'll continue to unveil this week.

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Dan Steinberg
Washington Post staff writer and D.C. Sports Bogger.

E-mail: sportsbog@washpost.com.
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