The Washington Redskins won the NFC East for the first time since 1999. This came on the heels of a season in which the Washington Nationals won their first NL East title ever. After eight years of struggling to create a solid fan base, excitement for the Nationals may become diminished by the Redskins success.
As far as sports towns go, the Redskins are who Washington fans have always been most passionate about. They have been in D.C. since 1937 and established a fan base that is truly one of the best in the NFL. Redskin fans have been there through the good and bad. They have waited 20 years to return to football relevance and with the help of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III seem well on their way to achieving it. This may be good for the Redskins, but bad for the Nationals.
The Nationals did not begin playing in Washington until 2005. Before their arrival, Major League Baseball had been absent from the city for 34 years. The original Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. An expansion Senators team that was created to replace them became the Texas Rangers in 1972.
While the city lived without baseball, fans turned their full focus to the Redskins who just happened to go to their first Super Bowl in 1972. The team followed this up by going to four more Super Bowls and winning three between 1982 and 1991. By the time that hall of fame coach Joe Gibbs retired after his first stint in 1993, baseball was a distant memory.
When the Nationals arrived, they had to convince a city that had lost two teams and a generation of fans to come out to the ballpark. It has not been an easy thing to do. Even though they were every bit as bad as the Nationals, the Redskins still owned the town and the Washington Capitals of the NHL had become very popular as well. The Nationals have had to build from the ground up and it seemed like 2012 was finally the year when Washington fans embraced them as theirs. The team’s success translated to record attendance and expectations for 2013 are filled with optimism.
That optimism will now have to wait until the Redskins finish their playoff run. They have, once again, established themselves as Washington’s favorite team and are the talk of the town. Unfortunately for the Nationals, this will be the case even during the upcoming months when baseball returns. Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder has always had a knack for keeping the team in the news during its off season and one can only imagine this will not change now that they are winning.
If the Nationals ever had a window of opportunity to catch up with or surpass the Redskins it is gone for now. Not even a World Series victory would put them above the burgundy and gold.
It has taken the Nationals eight years to finally win Washington fans over. The shame of it is that the Redskins almost immediately stole all of their thunder.