By: Kevin Semanick
June 20, 2005
This is a part of Kevin's series to seek sporting events in different states. Currently this is just a trial run. He is looking for a weekly print or online magazine column to publish his ordeals. After his project Kevin would also like to write and find a publisher for his 50 states in 50 weeks sports journey.
My plan is to attend and even participate in 50 sporting events varying so much it will make Wide World of Sports look boring. The goal is to vagabond through every state in the union within a year. Through this journey, I hope to highlight the differences among the peoples and communities that dot the map. More importantly, I want to show how the North American (there has to be a few stops in Canada and Mexico) population celebrates sports.
There are many assumptions that have to be challenged. Are the New England states crazy about winter sports? I'll find out when I play golf on ice and compete in a snowshoe race.
Does Alaska have any sports that aren't played on ice or snow? Yes, the Midnight Sun Baseball Classic is probably the coolest baseball game besides the World Series.
Can the Midwesterners of Drake Relays have a better track meet than Penn Relays? That'll be answered as I compete in the hurdles in Iowa, while I miss the Philadelphia tradition for the first time in fifteen years.
Since I've already decided that my 52 weeks will be spent visiting America's fifty states and its neighboring two countries, there seemed to be no location I could visit for this writing sample of a pilot that wouldn't spoil the rest of the series, that is until I got bored late on a Friday night.
I jumped in my car to visit my friend Jen who lives in the District of Columbia, that mysterious ill-planned almost home-plate shaped city nestled between Maryland and Virginia. It's the perfect place for this project to start, our nations capital. And best of all it's neither a state nor a country. It's place that is like historical colonial America, "taxation without representation."
If you have any trouble finding D.C. right on I-95, just call Orioles owner Peter Aneglos or his legal team when you get to Baltimore, it's only a few minutes further. I can't blame him for being annoyed at the pesky Nationals. I'm a Phillies fan, and I too wish they would go away, so we could claim the top spot in the division.
The whole weekend I was in D.C., I just couldn't understand how there were Nationals fans. Maybe I was still bothered by opening day in Philly, when the ushers had to separate us from fights with stiff Washingtonians wearing suits to the ballpark. I think the part that confuses and then frustrates me the most is that these "diehard"� Nationals fans obviously weren't Expos fans last year.
I would have loved to see the Nationals lose at RFK on the first night of my trip on Friday, but they did their losing in Arlington, Texas. And that's the problem with a journey like this: it's impossible to see everything everywhere at the same time. I won't even have a car once the real journey begins and I definitely won't have a private jet, just my legs, a few bucks, and the kindness of strangers.
For everything I miss, I'll gain valuable insight through the unexpected. And let's be honest, the unexpected is interesting, everything else is not. So I didn't go to a ballgame that Friday night, but instead got to watch it at a bar in downtown, called the Angry Inch, which would probably be similar to christening your boat the Bloated Knot. And naming stuff is the only reason to buy bars, buy boats, form a band, and of course have a baby. And they chose Angry Inch?
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised then that I got into quite a heated debate with the bouncer at said bar. He was wearing a Nationals hat. I was instantly aggravated, "Oh you're an Expos fan." As if he couldn't even make the connection that they're the same organization with a different name the bouncer retorts, "No, I'm a Nationals fan." He didn't miss a heartbeat either when he said he never once saw an Expos game. Since I wanted to get in the bar, I let the conversation drop, although I'm pretty sure he was a passive Orioles fan last year and only became a Nationals fan because they were winning.
While actually in the bar, I saw a couple more people with the red hats stenciled with a cursive "W." After seeing the highlights of the Rangers victory on Sportscenter, I turned to the one kid about my age and laughed in his face. It was satisfying. If the noise hadn't been two-hundred decibels too high, I would have asked him if he were a Orioles or Expos fan last year, but I'm pretty sure he was just wearing the hat because he thought it looked good on him. It didn't.
They unknowingly deserve this treatment and criticism though. They haven't been through the curses Chicago and Boston have been forced to face. They haven't had to be titleless for the last two decades like Philadelphia. And they most certainly never suffered like Montreal. Finally, they can't argue back with me because the Nationals don't even play in one of the fifty states. Then again the organization never has either, residing in Montreal, Puerto Rico, and now Washington D.C. At least this time, it looks like they have finally found a home and a growing fan base.
Other Places visited this week:
While in D.C. we took a hike through Rock Creek Park. The place was aptly named, as we hopped over rocks to cross the creek. The rocks were slanted, slippery, and separated enough to make it quite a challenge and rewarding. None of us fell in, except my one foot got soaked when I took a stupid leap. We also saw some dear with fuzzy antlers. A highly recommended trip if you're in the area and have already visited every monument and museum in the downtown.
Saturday evening before heading out to the Georgetown bars, we stopped in Annapolis, the Maryland state capital. The city is a mixture of historic downtown and bay breeze. It's the first time in my life, I've ever tried crabs. They're a lot of work, using three different utensils to scrape the meat out, but worth it for the delectable taste. Dining outside was also a necessary element of the dining experience. The only negative of the trip was witnessing the many yacht clubs, tucked in shirts, and popped collars. All I can say is stop popping the collars.
Gas and Tolls: $40
Alcohol: $60 (Saturday night in Georgetown was a bit expensive)
Crabs: $30 and worth every penny
Shelter: Free thanks to my friend Jen
About the Author: Kevin Semanick