Last Friday night, I found myself surrounded by native Chicagoans and fellow D.C. transplants at a bar near Union Station when a group of Braves fans walked in. I hadn't been able to watch the Nats-Braves game that night and didn't check my iPhone for any scores, so I decided to do the easy thing and ask those Braves fans, "Who won the game?" They cheerfully obliged my question by saying, "The Braves," with a smile on their faces.
My group grabbed a table by a few folks donning Nationals caps shortly after and I took that as my cue to talk baseball since that'd likely be my only chance of the night. But instead of talking baseball, the biggest points of conversation - per the decision of my peers - were the Racing Presidents.
I'll admit to not knowing this group of people too well, we had only just met through mutual friends at a concert, but the baseball traditionalist in me found their vantage points fascinating. For years now, I've cringed at the site of in-game theatrics - not at the expense of the Nationals but rather I prefer watching baseball over baseball-themed entertainment in general, always have and always will. But hearing this particular conversation opened my eyes a bit wider on why the Racing Presidents help bring a little something extra to Nats' fan culture.
The people at this table with me were not big baseball fans, which they were quick to admit to me, but they all seemed quite determined to make it to a game this season just to see Teddy win or watch the new guy Bill try his luck at victory. And to think, I had come to view the Racing Presidents as a fun excuse to teach kids (and adults all the same) about our forefathers while at a baseball game.
What I learned is that the Racing Presidents may not be everyone's favorite piece of in-game entertainment, especially if you're mostly at Nats Park for the baseball and not so much the other stuff, but their chunk of the Nats' brand tends to really resonate with some people. What I gathered is, for Racing Presidents fans, it's fun to watch the race no matter the outcome because of the outlandish situations these characters get themselves into. The race itself provides a fun distraction - not from baseball, but from whatever else happened that day or is going on in their lives.
Much like folks who escape to the ballpark for the game itself just to clear their heads at the end of a long day, some people head to Nats Park to catch the brief interlude called The Presidents Race ... and now I get that.
Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation's capital as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.