By Joey Kamide
I’ve lived here just outside D.C. in the Virginia suburbs now for just over 20 years, and in that time have become an avid Redskins fan, followed the Wizards through the Wes Unseld era, the Juwan and Webber era, the Jordan era and their self-entitled “Big 3” era, have picked up about four Nats hats since they came here in 2005 and have even tuned into this Ovie guy and the Capitals over the past couple of years.
Despite the lack of championships in recent years and notorious bad decision making by the powers that be with most of those respective franchises, I’ve always considered D.C. to be a pretty decent sports town.
Until I visited Boston for the first time last weekend with my brother and step father.
Finally, after 25 years of bleeding Celtics green, enduring the deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, the real Big 3 growing old and retiring, the debacle that was Rick Pitino’s tenure as coach and numerous losing seasons prior to KG and gang ending their 22-year championship drought in 2008, I was making my trek to Beantown.
What I found there is history, passion and knowledge about their sports teams that isn’t found in our area, unless you are speaking to the most diehard of Redskins fans.
Celtics green was everywhere on Saturday at their game against the Nets (which, against the worst team in the NBA, they lost, perhaps an indication that I’m meant to be a fan from afar), and I don’t think I saw a single New Jersey fan inside the Garden or at any of the bars before or afterwards. This a far cry from what we see at Washington sporting events, which many times are dominated by fans donning the colors of teams from New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.
In a city loaded with history, the Garden fits right in. Literally dozens of championship banners courtesy of the Celtics (10 NBA titles in 11 years through the late 50s and 60s!) and Bruins as well as numerous retired numbers hang from the rafters, the parquet floor at this Garden contains pieces from its legendary predecessor and murals throughout the concourse serve as reminders of their legends of years past.
At the Verizon Center? A banner from the ‘78 Bullets title team, a couple Georgetown banners and a Capitals banner from when they won the Eastern Conference nearly a decade ago. Oh, and don’t forget about the banners reflecting that the Mystics led the WNBA in attendance for like five years in a row!
After the Celtics-Nets game, a short walk to the Irish pubs, including to the well-known Black Rose, we found bars full of ticked off Celts fans who for hours could be heard debating what in the heck was wrong with them, should Doc Rivers get canned, whether or not they’re too old to compete for another title and what the missing piece might be. After Wizards games, you’re more likely to be engaged by someone in a conversation on health care, Beltway traffic, politics or what their stance is on our troops being in the middle east.
On Day Two of our trip, we hopped on the T and headed to take a tour of Fenway, which is under construction while getting some new seats installed, being prepped for a new field to be laid down after hosting a number of outdoor hockey games this winter and, as our tour guide who recently graduated from Northeastern (we George Mason fans won’t hold it against her, even after Saturday’s last-second heartbreaker at Patriot Center) put it, is the oldest and most historical stadium still in existence (Is old Yankee Stadium already torn down?).
The stories on how the Green Monster came to be, of the red seat in the right field bleachers where Ted Williams hit his 502-foot home run, of upgrades to the stadium since it was originally build in 1912 and how some guy still has to come out between innings to update National League scores because there isn’t enough room in the Monster to do it from the inside were fantastic.
Then came the chance to stand on top of the Monster in its new seats built a few years back, sit in the largest press box in baseball, tour through the back of the stadium and see the Cy Young awards (named for, you got it, the former Red Sox pitcher), team Hall of Fame plaques and the uniforms the team has worn through the years was intriguing.
All the while listening to the guide tell stories of how crazy the city went when the Sox won the World Series in 2004 to end the 86-year Curse of the Bambino. My brother, a Yankees fan, probably shuttered when recalling that year and the big egg his Bronx Bombers laid up 3-games-to-none in the ALCS. He then, on the way out, mentioned the differences between what we just did and taking a tour of Nationals Park when we got home, a tour my step father accurately pointed out could be done in a boorish 15 minutes.
I really don’t even need to mention the Patriots and their three recent Super Bowls for Boston to trump D.C. as the better sports town, it’s already a landslide winner. Even with our Mystics attendance banners.
Who’s up for a road trip this summer?