People around D.C. may be tired of hearing it asked, but will fans and media of the Washington Nationals give them the same attention that they do their other sports teams in 2013? With the Nationals predicted to challenge for a World Series title, will they garner headline space usually reserved for the Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals and even the Washington Wizards?
The Nationals are a unique situation in that they play in a city that did not have MLB for more than three decades. During the period from 1971 to 2004, the NFL, NHL and NBA teams in Washington fought for their place in the local media pecking order. The NFL’s Redskins emerged as the front runners right away. The NBA Wizards, once known as Bullets, were a close second in the 1970’s before giving way to the NHL Capitals in the 1980’s. When the Nationals arrived in 2005, they had to find a way to compete for fans and media with these three established professional teams.
In 2010, the Nationals began to gain some ground with the arrival of ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg. He was the first player chosen by the team who was ticketed for super stardom. When Strasburg was called up to pitch in 2010, his debut was a sellout and broadcast nationally. It was the first time that the Nationals became national news.
2012 saw the Nationals make a serious move by winning 98 games and making their first post season appearance. The Nationals made people forget about the NHL lockout and the NBA. They also took away some headlines from the Redskins and their rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Everyone loves a winner and people who had never followed the team cheered on the Nats in their playoff series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
However, when the Nationals were defeated by the Cardinals in five games talk around town immediately returned to the Redskins. By the first Sunday after the Nationals season ended it was all but forgotten. Even the NHL lockout took precedent over the Nationals.
This was to be expected as the Redskins and Capitals are the two most popular teams in Washington. The Nationals may not be on a par with either of those teams, but have surpassed the Wizards and moved into the three spot. The Redskins are far and away number one and the Capitals will be second as long as they win. If the Nationals continue to win, there is a very good chance that they could steal some of the Capitals ‘rock the red’ fans for themselves.
2013 may be the season that the Nationals move up to second. The Capitals are struggling and hockey fans may still be bitter over the lockout. The Wizards are playing better, but still losing. If neither team is playing meaningful games come April, the Nationals will have the local media to themselves until Redskins training camp starts in late July. Another serious post season run could make Nats Park the place to be in D.C.
After nine yeas of trailing the pack, the Nationals may finally be on the verge of becoming one of Washington’s favorite sons. The team is in place. Now it is up to the fans and media to prove that they care abut baseball and the Nationals.