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Yes, really. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

Local NFL executive Dan Snyder's list of friends keeps getting better. His latest ally? Conservative commentator and occasional conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck, who said on his Blaze online channel Tuesday that he'll be sitting in Snyder's box at FedEx Field on Sunday when Washington plays the Tennessee Titans.

Beck, he told his production crew and cohosts, is apparently inspired by the example set last Sunday in Arizona by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, who attempted to lend Snyder some Native American credibility in the fight over the Washington team's dictionary-defined racial slur of a name. (Shelly, it was widely pointed out, supports Snyder over the wishes of his own tribal council, which voted 9-2 this year to officially oppose the name of Snyder's team, a position that potentially contributed to his fourth-place finish in a recent primary to keep his job.)

"You know who’s going to be in the owner’s box Sunday wearing a Redskins hat?" Beck gleefully asked his cohosts.

Beck's going all-in for Snyder, even if he admits to not knowing a whit about football. “I don’t know anything about him," he said. "Somebody give me some research on him so I know about him, because I’m certainly not going to be able to talk to him about [football].”

But how will the potential scene of the NFL's most stubborn owner and a political commentator who sometimes raves about how well-intentioned government programs like AmeriCorps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are fronts for "Obama's civilian army" play out? Even Beck's cronies have their misgivings.

"He's gotta know bringing you into the owner's box is not a good idea, but he's doing it anyway," one of his co-hosts said.

Beck was not deterred. "I love the guy," he said.

(h/t DC Sports Bog)

Watch the full clip below:

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 10:41 AM/ET, 10/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Maybe not everyone who left early is a bad fan. We consider the reasons people left before the final out. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

So, there's been some reaction to Monday's assessment of people who left Saturday night's Division Series game between the Nationals and the San Francisco Giants before the last out of the improbable 18th inning. And a lot of it seems to be angry that I dismissed thousands of people as inferior fans without considering their reasons for leaving Nationals Park before the end of that gut-punching marathon game.

Perhaps I should have enumerated up front the potential reasons people would cite for leaving the game early. But now that there are so many comments on yesterday's article, there is a heap of excuses—mostly masked as scathing criticism—for why some people felt it necessary to exit before the final out. Some of them might even be valid. So let's adjudicate them:

"People were cold."

FOUL! Saturday evening's forecast clearly advised temperatures in the low 60s at the start of the game, gradually dipping down into the 50s over the course of the evening, with a moderate breeze. You were warned, and you should have checked a weather report and grabbed a jacket—or at least a sweatshirt—before heading out.

"People had kids waiting at home."

FAIR! Saturday's game started at 5:37 PM, so if you came to the game without your kids, you were probably expecting you'd be back home between 9 and 9:30. Cell phone coverage can be spotty in packed stadiums, so even calling home and telling your kids you might be a little late is a dodgy bet. And it's not fair leaving the babysitter on the hook for extra innings.

"People had jobs [on Sunday morning]."

FAIR! Some people work Sunday mornings, and they need their rest Saturday night. It's always a bummer to leave any game before the end, but career responsibilities, sadly, trump baseball allegiances.

People had jobs at nationally broadcast public-affairs talk shows.

FOUL! You're not getting off that easy, Chuck Todd! You do that "Play Ball!" announcement at the start, you'd better stay for the whole thing.

Screenshot via the author's phone.

"People had kids with them."

FOUL! As mentioned several times in the original article, many of the people who did stick around for the entire game were parents who brought their grade-school-aged kids to witness historic, postseason baseball. It's one of those moments that bonds parents to children and that passes on the sport's reputation as the national past-time. Quitting early during the salad days would set a terrible example for fandom later in life.

"People were just plain exhausted and didn't want to drive home in an even more tired state at some unknowable hour later."

OFFICIAL REVIEW! This is trickier. The Nationals say about 60 percent of their home crowds come in from Northern Virginia, another 25 percent come from Maryland, while the rest lives in DC. While drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, a lot of fans from all three jurisdictions relied on Metro to get to and from the game. I biked, and while the ride back was unpleasant and depressing, it was unavoidable. Also, if you've got a problem with biking to a baseball game, there's probably a Washington Post Metro columnist who can help you out with that one.

You had to catch Metro.

FOUL! I don't think I saw this explicitly in any of the feedback, but even if you just thought it, you're out. It was Saturday, when Metro stays open until 3 AM, plenty late enough to accommodate another six or seven innings.

You had to feed the dog.

CALL TO THE BULLPEN! Few things are more unpleasant than coming home to a dog whose owner has been away longer than expected. This was only the second game of the series. If you left early to feed Fido and make sure he didn't leave a bunch of surprises on your carpet, that was fair on Saturday. If this had been an elimination game, though...

FOUL! This is an objectively true statement. Nobody can legally require you to stay inside a baseball stadium, but there were nine innings of free baseball. Extra innings are when baseball is at its most thrilling. The visitors are always a threat; the home team always comes up with the promise of immediate salvation. Also, playoff tickets are expensive. Why wouldn't you want to stretch your dollars as much as possible?

FAIR! Major League Baseball clubs are for-profit enterprises that encourage us to submit our fealty and money. But isn't that the essence of all sports fandom? We wish for civic pride, and to obtain it we contract the job to billionaires who then sell us back tickets to our publicly financed stadiums at great markups. If this town wants to back up its claim of being full of committed sports fans, its residents need to show actual commitment, and not just to that psychodrama of an NFL franchise in Landover. There's a legitimately good baseball team here! Why not make a run at being as manic as Phillies fans, but 100 times as classy?

"People left the house planning to watch one baseball game not two."

YOU'RE OUT! Again, I say: Free baseball!

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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Posted at 05:53 PM/ET, 10/07/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
True fans stuck it out through the cold, bitter end. By Benjamin Freed
Nationals Park in the 12th inning. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

When did I realize the insane lengths to which people will support the Washington Nationals? Probably when I found myself in a snaking line to buy a cup of tea to warm my bones in the chilly air rushing through Nationals Park on Saturday night. Yeah, that’s right. In the land of hot dogs and beer, decaffeinated English breakfast was the concession of choice.

And that was only in the tenth inning.

If, like me, you were in the stands for the entirety of Saturday night’s 18-inning bummer of a game between the Nationals and San Francisco Giants, your fingers probably thawed out completely about, oh, right now. Take your wind-blistered hands and pat yourself on the back for sticking it out—you’re evidence that Washington’s baseball team has truly committed fans.

And then flip a chapped bird to people like Will Leitch, who writes on Bloomberg Politics that “With Congress at 15 percent approval ratings and the President in the low forties, it’s a wonder the Nationals aren’t as hated as the Yankees.”

Unfortunately for Leitch, most people who were in their seats or standing-room areas by 5:37 PM on Saturday were still there for the final, heartbreaking frame nearly six-and-a-half hours later. Maybe one-third of the reported 44,035 people who attended the game left before the end.

Everyone in that chunk of the crowd should be ashamed of themselves, though. For starters, they give Leitch’s hypothesis—that national contempt of the federal government should translate into distaste or apathy for Washington’s baseball team—undeserved legs. The Nationals certainly got a popularity bump in 2012 when they became a National League powerhouse, but true fandom is forged in pain, not success. And Nationals Park was hurting just after midnight Sunday, when Jayson Werth flied out for the final out of the 18th inning.

Among the people who left before the end: Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, whom the Nationals invited to announce “Play Ball!” to the rest of the stadium at the game’s start. On one hand, Todd­—who admitted on Sunday’s broadcast that he only stayed for ten innings—might be excused because he had a show to tape in the morning. Then again, these are playoff games. These are the days when you’re supposed to sit through every agonizing moment, waiting for exhilaration or defeat. At least Todd was bold enough to admit he abandoned the Nationals.

Fortunately, not everyone had to be tucked in early like the Meet the Press host. It’s tough to guess how many folks were still there through the second nine frames, but most stuck it out. From our perch in a standing-room only area on the third deck, a little down the first-base line, a friend and I could see a light trickle of red-clad bodies making for the center-field gate. The stream was constant, but at least it never surged. We stayed. Parents with elementary-school-aged children stayed. My editor’s 85-year-old father stayed.

Eighteen innings and mostly still there. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

If you scan late-late-inning photos of the Nationals Park crowd, don’t look at those empty rows at the very top and think those people left. Most likely, they moved down toward the fronts of their sections as their lamer compatriots bolted. There was one spot in the stadium that started looking embarassingly empty as the night dragged on: the Diamond Club seats, directly behind home plate and in the direct line of the main television cameras. Perhaps the people in the super-premium seats were able to flee the biting air and warm themselves in a plush, heated room, but it made for ugly optics from high above.

The tenth-inning tea wasn’t much help. We were in need of another hot beverage by the 12th, but by then there was a run on hot chocolate, coffee, and even cups. The concession stands were replenished by the 16th inning, but all that was left were watery cups of industrial Swiss Miss knockoff.

Still, most weathered it all, only to be let down in the end. The Nationals, down 0-2 in the National League Division Series, need to pull off three wins in a row this week, starting tonight. If you made it through all 18 innings of Saturday night’s game, feel free to use it as bragging rights for the rest of the series. If you left before the final out, you have only yourself to blame for the perpetuation of the theory that Washingtonians make for lazy baseball fans.

The only upside to people leaving? Around the start of the 11th inning, my friend got a text message from another friend of his, saying the people he was sitting next to in Section 418 had bailed, and that we should come up and join him. It was still cold, windy, and miserable, but it beat another three hours of standing through the elements.

To the pair whose seats we took: your fandom is inferior, but thanks for the chairs, you chumps.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 04:43 PM/ET, 10/06/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Useful information to help you get the most out of your baseball-fan experience. By Tanya Pai
Photograph by Flickr user Geoff Livingston.

Before baseball season even began, it was clear the Nationals were going to make it to the playoffs this year—just look at the numbers. Whether you’re a fair-weather fan or wear your Natitude 365 days a year, it’s an occasion to celebrate. Read on for dining guides, insider Nats Park tips, and more ways to make it a playoff season to remember.

Find out how to park for cheap(er), where to sit for the best chance at catching foul balls, and more tips in our Insider’s Guide to Nationals Park.

Baseball game dining options have been expanding steadily, both in and out of the ballpark. Check out our list of 12 new options, including gluten-free stadium stands, upscale Italian spots, and more.

More concerned about sticking to your diet? Here are a few places that offer healthier gametime offerings.

If you’re nowhere near the stadium, try one of these spots offering sweet playoff food and drink specials.

Good to know: In a move that has students crying, “Whither my tuition?,” American University has decided it will pay for Metro to stay open late if playoff games run late.

Jason Aldean, Ellie Goulding, (gulp) Pitbull: The team’s walk-up song choices certainly run the gamut.

Didn’t get tickets to this weekend’s games? You can always snag some in return for a threesome. (Please do not actually do this.)

Posted at 04:00 PM/ET, 10/03/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
It's a whole new ball game for the Terps. By Priscilla Alvarez
Photograph of Buckeyes helmet courtesy of Ohio State Athletics. Photograph of Terrapins helmet courtesy of University of Maryland Athletics.

As the University of Maryland preps for its first Big Ten football home game—against Ohio State October 4—here’s a statistical look at the changes occasioned by switching to the new conference.

0: Terps Sellouts last year

2: Sellouts expected this year (Ohio State and Michigan State)

70: RV parking spaces added

6.5: Average driving time, in hours, to last year’s ACC away games

(Longest: 12 hours, 16 minutes, to Florida State in Tallahassee)

8: Average driving time, in hours, to this year’s Big 10 away games

(Longest: 12 hours, 26 minutes, to the University of Wisconsin-Madison)


This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:31 AM/ET, 10/03/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus another way to win Nationals playoff tickets. By Alison Kitchens
Have you seen this guy? Photograph by Flickr user Mrs. Gemstone.

Washington Nationals fans woke up to a nice surprise this morning—the team announced over Twitter that almost 100 Jayson Werth gnomes are hiding around DC, Maryland, and Virginia today, some of which have special prizes attached. Gnomes have been found around Old Town, Dupont Circle, American University, and a handful of other locations so far, but, from the looks of the tweets, there are still plenty of tiny Werths left to find. Sounds like it's time for a coffee break.

If you're not lucky enough to find a gnome with playoff tickets attached, there's still a way to win some. Create a postseason sign for the team and upload it to Twitter or Instagram before Thursday, October 2, at 1 PM.

Find Alison Kitchens on Twitter at @alison_lynn

Posted at 09:32 AM/ET, 10/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Still looking for tickets? You can do better than this. By Benjamin Freed
#Natitude? Photograph via Shutterstock.

The Washington Nationals sold out tickets to the National League Division Series in 17 minutes last week, throwing hordes of fans to the secondary market. Tickets for the first game, on Friday, start at $73.90 on StubHub, but there are some offers that the prim-and-proper ticket vendor won't carry, like this one, which is currently available on Craigslist's Northern Virginia site:

I have two Diamond Club tickets for Fridays opening playoff game. The tickets include all you can drink beer & wine as well as all you can eat gourmet food. I am willing to part with these tickets to you and a friend in exchange for a threesome (two women only). I am not some old gross dude, actually 24 and athletic. I just cant go to the game and don't really need the extra money, and have always wanted to take place in a threesome. Please send 2-3 photos of you and your friend, so I can see what we're working with.

This is a no strings attached deal.

You read that right. Some dude is offering premium tickets in exchange for horny adolescent wish fulfillment, but, don't worry, he swears he's actually athletic and totally not gross. (Not that he backed up this claim with a photograph of himself in the ad.) Diamond Club seats, located behind home plate, were $225 each when playoff tickets went on sale. This guy must be of some means if he doesn't care about getting back his $450. He doesn't say why he's skipping the Nationals game, but we're guessing it's not to attend Yom Kippur services.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 12:03 PM/ET, 09/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Kiss's Gene Simmons says it's time for Dan Snyder to make a change.

Another day, another person opining about the Redskins’ name. As the controversy grows, people with no connection to local politics or pro football have decided the world needs to hear their opinion, too. Here’s a roster of likely and not-so-likely recent commentators who say the name is offensive.

Click on the chart to view a larger version.

This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 04:20 PM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
How were previous Washington no-hitters covered? With much less ink. By Benjamin Freed
Image courtesy the Newseum.

The top half of the front page of today’s Washington Post is devoted to the dazzling no-hitter Jordan Zimmermann threw Sunday to close out the Nationals’ regular season. There’s a large photo of Zimmermann’s teammates crowding him, another shot of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr. making that improbable diving catch to end the game, and an appreciative essay by Nationals head cheerleader Thomas Boswell, who can die happy now that he’s witnessed a no-hitter, the first for the Nationals since they moved here in 2005 and only the third ever recorded by a DC baseball team.

Chalk up the Post’s giddyness to playoff excitement and an 81-year drought since the last time a Washington pitcher hurled a no-no, but these kinds of feats didn’t always earn coverage splashed across the front page. Senators lefty Bobby Burke’s August 8, 1931, no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox made it above the fold on the front of the following day’s Post, but only briefly. The Post marveled at Burke’s achievement, but the more astonishing statistic might be that only 3,000 people were inside Griffith Stadium to witness it. (Yesterday’s Nationals-Marlins game had a reported attendance of 35,085.)

Screenshot via DC Public Library.

That’s still better press than what Walter Johnson’s July 1, 1920, no-hitter got. Johnson, the greatest pitcher ever to play for a Washington baseball team, blanked the Red Sox at Fenway Park, allowing his only base runner to reach on a fielding error. Just like Zimmermann yesterday, the "Big Train" only faced one batter over the minimum of 27. The Post gushed over Johnson’s game, but the coverage was buried on page 10 of 16.

Screenshot via DC Public Library.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 10:28 AM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
It was less uncomfortable than the team's 45-14 drubbing by the Giants. By Benjamin Freed

True to the toxicity of the Washington NFL team's name, even a Daily Show segment about the controversy over the franchise's name and logo was controversial days before it aired, with fans who participated in the sketch griping to the Washington Post that the Comedy Central series was "disingenuous" and left them feeling "defamed." On Thursday night, it finally aired.

Jon Stewart prefaced the clip by reminding viewers that The Daily Show won't air something if its subjects are deceived. "If we find out that someone in a piece was intentionally misled, or if there comments were intentionally misrepresented, we do not air that piece," he said. "We would not air that piece. So that being said, I hope you enjoy the following piece."

But that doesn't mean the burgundy-and-gold diehards featured in correspondent Jason Jones's sketch come off well—they mostly seem like boors spouting off Dan Snyder's talking points. The flipside of the segment is eight Native American activists—including Amanda Blackhorse, the lead plaintiff in the case that led to the US Patent and Trademark Office's invalidation of the football team's trademarks—giving the usual reminders about why the team's name is offensive.

The segment's filming turned pear-shaped when Jones brought in the activists to confront the fans—an instance that led one of the fans to call the police after feeling threatened by the encounter, according to the Post. The Daily Show only wound up showing a few handshakes between the groups and none of the audio. Still, at least two of the fans interviewed come away saying they'd still unquestionably support Washington's football team even if it gets a new name. (Perhaps they should check out these fan-generated redesigns.)

Compared to the other thing that happened to Washington's football team last night, The Daily Show wasn't really that bad.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 09:52 AM/ET, 09/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()