Memo to Andrew Feffer (COO, Washington Nationals): On behalf of Phillies fans everywhere, I’d like to congratulate you on the “Take Back Our Park” campaign you launched in an effort to rid your home turf of Halladay jerseys, Phanatic hats and audible applause this weekend. Sports rivalries in Philadelphia traditionally involve cities with a rich athletic history, like Boston and New York, interstate foes from Pittsburgh, or the stinkin’ Dallas Cowboys. The animosity we feel is borne from decades of hard-fought contests. Your efforts mark the first time we’ve seen a team—one that’s eight years old and has yet to reach the playoffs—actually beg us to despise it. So far, you’re off to a great start.
The opening shot across the bow came in February, with your advance ticket sale for this series that only accepted credit cards from Washington, Maryland or Virginia. You were quoted with just the right amount of passion and G-rated outrage we’d expect from a town where C-SPAN gets more viewers than most of your games. “Forget you, Philly,” you declared. “Frankly, I’m tired of seeing the Phillies fans in our ballpark in Washington more than anything.” One might think the fact that your team has yet to finish a season with a record above .500 would exhaust you the most, but I digress. You continued: “We sat down as a group and we said, ‘You know what? It’s time to take our park back.’” In response to your rallying cry, the devoted Nats fan base immediately posted more than 9,000 tickets for sale. That, I’m told, is what the kids call an “epic fail.”
Still, your efforts inspired me (and many other Phils die-hards) to immediately contact everyone I know in the D.C. area. A high-school friend of mine, who we’ll call “Henry” for his safety, scored us four seats for Saturday’s game. Local talk radio and sports blogs are leading the charge south—94WIP’s Angelo Cataldi is sending a caravan of (possibly drunk and/or stoned) fans to the game tomorrow, and the sports blog Crossing Broad still has tickets available for its Sunday night raid. If you arrive at Nationals Park this weekend and feel like a Roman watching hordes of red-clad Visigoths storming your gates, you have only yourself to blame.
Of course, this pickle you’re in is a bit ironic, since back when your park opened in 2008, the Nats ran promotions in the Philadelphia market that encouraged us to drive down I-95 and fill some seats. Now, after years of watching thousands of us turn your yard into “Citizens Bank Park South,” it appears that Dr. Frankenstein is having second thoughts about his little experiment. You’re offering up to eight free tickets to another Nats game for anyone willing to buy a pair for this weekend. And in an act of desperation the likes of which we haven’t seen since you gave Jayson Werth $126 million, you sent a letter to season-ticket holders to guilt them into donating unused seats to the military. As of yesterday, StubHub had more than 5,000 tickets still up for grabs for these three games. I’m not sure how many of those sellers would identify as Nats fans—at least publicly—but it seems that even patriotism and on-your-knees begging isn’t helping your cause.
As if we needed any more encouragement, your team called up Bryce Harper, the rookie phenom who’s best known for minor-league hot-dogging and his Ultimate Warrior eye black. If there’s one thing we despise, it’s a guy who’s accomplished nothing thus far, yet has likely looked over prototypes for his plaque in Cooperstown. So even if you didn’t already light a fire under our collective behinds, Harper’s presence alone would be enough to inspire a healthy dose of venom this weekend.
Then came the icing on our hate-cake. You signed your military giveaway letter, “With Natitude.” With all due respect, we’ve seen a field-crashing fan tasered to the cheers of a sold-out CBP crowd. We’ve watched Yankees pitchers rattled by the noise of a playoff game in our house. We know Pat Burrell has some kinky threads in his closet, but we’re welcoming him back in retirement anyway. Mr. Feffer, you don’t know from attitude, and if you did, you wouldn’t sign off with a lame pun.
In closing, I’m looking forward to wearing my Phillies gear to Saturday’s game and cheering loudly, along with an army of my brethren. In your goal to keep your park Philadelphia-fan free, you failed miserably. But look on the bright side. You’ve succeeded in creating a rivalry. At least for one weekend.
Yours in moderate but increasing dislike, Richard Rys