Baltimore Orioles: Can you root for the O’s and the Washington Nationals?

Dec 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Baltimore Orioles mascot steals the Washington Nationals mascot
Dec 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Baltimore Orioles mascot steals the Washington Nationals mascot /

Is it right or wrong to have two teams? Can fans of the mid-Atlantic region justifiably root for both the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals?

The Baltimore Orioles haven’t been alone in the mid-Atlantic region since 2005 when the Washington Nationals moved into the area. One year later, the two teams began playing the “Battle of the Beltways” each year. At first each team would visit the other over a three-game weekend series. However of late MLB has gone to a format in which each team visits the other twice over a four-day span – and that’s true of all regional rivalries now.

If you go to New York, you’re either a Yankees or Mets fan. The same is true in Chicago with the ChiSox and Cubs, as well as in Los Angeles with the Angels and Dodgers. Neither side seems to really care for the other, however what they both do seem to agree on is that “hybrid fans” who claim to love both teams are personae non gratae. In other words, you have to pick one!

As I look down over Nationals Park to ready myself for tonight’s game, it dawns on me that the series between the Orioles and Washington isn’t as comparable to those others as one might think. All of those rivalries are in the same city as opposed to Baltimore and Washington being two distinct cities with distinct cultures. Granted the two parks are separated by only about 30 miles, but they’re vastly different places.

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  • But the idea here isn’t to talk about what makes the cities and teams different or the same. But unlike in the aforementioned places, we do see folks at Beltway Series games with the split hats/shirts, or the Orioles’ shirt and Washington hat. It isn’t something you’d ever see in NY or Chicago, but we see it here. Is that okay?

    Like the region it seems, my answer is split…! Or rather, let’s say there’s a qualifier on the first part. It is in fact “okay” to feel that way and to root for both teams with equal fervor, if that’s what you have to do to stay into baseball. The whole idea if for the sport itself to continue to thrive as America’s pastime. So if split loyalties are what you have to do to stay focused on the game, go for it.

    However in reality, I would argue that it’s NOT okay. You pick one team as a kid or whenever you start following a sport. Now if another team moves closer to where you live or something along those lines, I would say that it’s okay to cease rooting for the one team and start rooting for the other. Does that mean you can’t follow the first team at all? Not necessarily – but the point is that it shouldn’t be with the same fervor. (Incidentally, for the most part I’m not into people thinking it’s okay to even cease being a fan of a team for one reason or another. But a team moving closer to you is one exception to that.) 

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    In Washington’s case, there are a lot of Orioles fans due in part to the fact that DC went 34 years without a team. However there’s also the proximity factor as well. But I would argue that it goes well beyond just the Orioles. I’ve met lots of people in the DC area who grew up rooting for other teams all together (Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, etc), but who now claim they still have that initial loyalty – while having the same amount of loyalty to the Nationals. Again, whatever makes you happy I suppose. But you’d never see this in places like NY or Chicago. Fans on both sides would gang up on someone with a split shirt or cap!

    Incidentally, this isn’t a reflection on Washington fans or anything along those lines – I can already see the throngs of seething Nationals fans lining up to complain about a Baltimore writer targeting them. There’s still a novelty of sorts with baseball in DC. The kids who are growing up going to Nationals Park now are the ones who will carry that tradition onward. The city didn’t have a team for a long time – it’s natural that it would be tough for people to figure out what they want to do at a certain point.

    Next: Baltimore Orioles hold on for dear life to earn a curly W in DC

    The Orioles were Washington’s de facto team for some time. But if you grew up a Cubs fan, it might be hard to shove that aside and start rooting for the Nats. Nevertheless, the point is that as opposed to saying since I like both teams equally I’m going to be happy no matter who wins…yay!, you should pick one team and stick with them. But if ardently following two teams and living and dying with them keeps you involved in baseball, go for it.