Rooting for the Home Team


July 2, 2011, Washington, DC: One of the wonderful things about living on Capitol Hill, especially in the summer, is the neighborhood's proximity to the Washington Nationals ballpark. And one of the wonderful things about the Nationals, (a blessing in disguise) is that they are not the Yankees or the Red Sox. Here on the Hill, we can decide at 7:02 pm to go to a 7 o'clock ballgame, and we can hop on our bikes, arrive at the park, and get a $10 ticket. Nope, this isn't the Bronx.

So that's how we arrived at the ballpark tonight, rooting for our home team on 4th of July weekend as they took on the PIttsburgh Pirates.

Hometown sports allegiances are an interesting consideration. How much do they remain part of the fabric of our city lives? And do they still matter to nomads like me?

In his book, "The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Creativity and Everyday Life", writer and researcher Richard Florida says hometown sports allegiances don't matter much to people who move around a lot.

"When people move frequently to pursue careers and lifestyle interests, it becomes harder to sustain the home-town allegiances built in youth," Florida writes.

I see it differently. The baseball teams of my hometowns have always been a presence, a marker, a part of my geography. They've given me a defining sense of place and time. And now my teams have come full circle: My original hometown team has moved to a new city, my city, and become the Nationals. The teams of my hometowns give me a sense of belonging. Instead of having an allegiance towards none of them, I have a bit of an allegiance towards each.

Here's the lineup.

In 1979, the year I was born in Montreal, the Expos have their best season to date, finishing 2nd in the National League East. As a child in St. Louis, I'm close by as the 1981 St. Louis Cardinals pull out the best record in the NL East, but finish 2nd in each half of a strike-plagued season and are left out of the playoffs. Around the time I move to Toronto, the 1981 Toronto Blue Jays finish last in their division and start the 1982 season with a new manager and no place to go but up. From my hometown of Arlington, Va., I see the nearby Baltimore Orioles win the '83 World Series. We move to Baltimore a few years later and remain there until 1991, just missing the Orioles' 1992 debut at their new ballpark, Camden Yards. Moving to Connecticut, I root for the New York Mets while my family selects its permanent allegiance to the Yankees. College in New York City coincides with the 2000 "Subway Series" between the Mets and the Yankees. The Mets lose the World Series to their rivals across town. One year after moving to San Francisco, I watch the 2002 San Francisco Giants advance to the World Series, losing to the Anaheim Angels in Game 7. At the start of baseball season 2003, I move to Chicago's North Side, where the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. Suddenly, 2003 looks like their year. But the curse holds steady and the team fails to make it to the World Series after a devastating loss in the NLCS to the Florida Marlins.

By fall of 2004, I am living in Washington, DC in an apartment full of boys from Boston, my future husband among them. It's a big year. His home team ascends to the Series and the Red Sox win it all for the first time in 86 years. The Montreal Expos announce they are moving to Washington, DC. They become the Washington Nationals at the start of the 2005 season. Again they become my hometown team.