Every year, the Washington Nationals play a series against the Baltimore Orioles. The teams’ stadiums are less than 50 miles apart (we live within the city limits of Washington, but can get to the Orioles’ Camden Yards in Baltimore quicker that we can get to Nationals Stadium – but that’s another story for another day), and the series has been labelled “The Battle of the Beltways Series” (both cities are ringed by circular Beltways – the Beltways are less than 30 miles apart, I think). The idea has been to create a local rivalry. I think that’s a mistake – and I look forward to the Baltimore-Washington series less than any other.
Why? A number of reasons.
First, the teams are in different leagues – the Nats in the National and the Orioles in the American. I think it is difficult to have a rivalry between teams in different leagues.
Second, there are a lot of people in this area (and I assume in Baltimore) who like both teams. Before the Nats came here from Montreal in 2005, the Orioles were the local team, and Washington was filled with Oriole fans. Most, but not all, have transferred their primary allegiance, but many, if not most, have retained a soft spot for the Orioles. Thus, the series forces fans to take sides, when they really don’t want to.
Third, because the cities are so close to each other, the crowd at each game is pretty well divided between the two teams – a home town fan faces tens of thousands of opposing fans in their own stadium. Never a comfortable feeling.
Rather than create a healthy rivalry between the two teams, the series upsets the equilibrium of the neighborhood. No one is benefited.
Now, if the Orioles and Nationals ever get to the World Series…….that series will be a real rivalry, when it matters, forcing fans to look deeply within themselves to determine who they really are, and whom they are for. But until then, I would suggest that the Battle of the Beltway Series is a big mistake.
(To make it clear, I say that as a 100% Nats fan. I am speaking not only for myself, but for the greater good.)