Week 1 Summary: DC Sports Culture

On Thursday, we kicked off our first Home Field Advantage radio show of the semester, covering our city of the week, Washington, D.C. The purpose of our Thursday radio show, which begins at 4PM each week, is to review the sports history, progress, and recent news relevant to the city of the week. The premier reason to tune into our weekly broadcast is for the interviews we will be conducting with Sports Communication professionals who are based in the city of the week. These interviews will help us round out all of the research we bring to you earlier in the week by giving you, the listener, an opportunity to hear about the pulse of the sport culture in that city from someone who lives, eats, and breathes it.

This week, we had a fantastic interview with Will Yoder, the founder and a writer for TheNatsBlog, a premier blog on the Washington Nationals. Will filled us in on the pulse of the various sports franchises in the DC area, and gave us a summary on the vibe of the unique sports culture in our nation’s capital. The following are a few quick hits on the DC sports teams that Will provided for us:

NATIONALS: Although the Nationals were disappointed in their quest for Cliff Lee and Zack Greinke, they look forward to Strasburg fever hitting hard come his return in September. Given the big moves being made by the Nats’ front office including the signing of Jayson Werth, fans are really excited for the future, but their expectations for the upcoming 2011 season are relatively calm, as DC fans have learned not to anticipate success until it is actually coming to fruition. This cynical nature “is just our way,” Yoder asserts.

REDSKINS: Cynicism in DC sports fans is not a surprise given the recent history of the city’s football team, who finished 6-10 on a season that was plagued by media frenzies, player and coach conflicts, and a growing frustration with the ownership of the struggling franchise, who historically is DC’s only team with a championship history. Yoder states that “People are upset because there is no plan,” with the majority of that fault lying in the lap of owner Dan Snyder. The recent controversies regarding quarterback Donovan McNabb and head coach Mike Shanahan caught the majority of the late season media attention, but regardless of that, Yoder asserts, Redskin fans are some of the most devoted fans in the game. Despite a championship drought for the past 20 years, home games are almost always sold out, and fans keep coming back, no matter how many times they feel let down or disappointed by a season’s results. Fans hope for a new era in 2011, as the management looks to strip down personnel to its bare bones, and rebuild from there.

WIZARDS: Fans in DC are currently experiencing “a hangover from the Gilbert Arenas era,” Yoder claims. During the prime of Arenas’ presence in the city, Wizards basketball was atop the sports culture in the entire city. Fans were, for the most part, surprised to see the Arenas trade with the Magic go through, and despite all of the chaos surrounding Arenas’ off the court actions, they still hold him near and dear to their hearts, as evident by the standing ovation he received upon his return to the Verizon Center this season. Given the young and raw talent that the Wizard’s roster is currently sporting, fans are definitely excited about getting John Wall in a relatively weak year for the draft, but are finding it hard to get excited about a team who cannot win on the road. Rebuilding year? Check.

CAPITALS: Yoder stated in the interview that the DC hockey team has its own niche following, as it is “not much of a hockey town.” A team chock-full of young talent that seems to be struggling a bit more than last year but still holding its own in the East, most fans know and appreciate the phenom that is Alex Ovechkin, but cannot name three other Capitals if asked to do so.

CULTURAL IMPLICATIONS

In the last week, our research on the sports, fans, and the culture that binds them together in our nation’s capital has led us to some really interesting conclusions. In analyzing the type of people that live in DC, including millions of government workers and their families, as well as a large number of students who come to study and end up staying in the city, it makes sense why Yoder calls it “a melting pot in a different way.”

The government that we live under is one that is constantly in transition. Elections are run to keep the voice of the people always at the forefront. Given the changing economic, political, social, and international factors in our world, that voice frequently changes, as do the faces, platforms, and voices of the elected leaders that we choose. Coincidentally, a large number of those elected leaders live and work in the DC area. That said, the people who follow the sports teams in this city are constantly changing, as politicians come in and out of office quite frequently. In his interview, Yoder asserts that it is very hard to summarize the overall sports culture of Washington, DC, as there truly is not one team that brings the whole city together. He also notes that there are very few second or third generations that still live in the city, as the frequently transitioning government workers quite often move in and out without warning. There is no collective favorite in Washington, DC because there are no widely held sporting allegiances, given the “melting pot” that has created the city.

A big trend that we have noticed in the pulse of DC sports is that of eternal transition, evident by constant “rebuilding” eras, and of the widely held notion of starting all over from scratch when things don’t seem to be getting better. The way that our government is run is truly not much different. For example, presidents are elected and re-elected every four years. When one Commander-in-Chief moves out and another moves in, there is a complete change of staff, of advisors, of policies and protocols, and even of the snacks that are available in The White House kitchen. Transition occurs quite naturally because remaining stagnant is not productive, nor does it reflect the tenacity, hunger for progress, and audacity so distinguishing of the American people. That said, the people are a product of the very government that they created, and their distinct sports culture is a product of the very fans that created it.

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About Home Field Advantage
We are two senior Sports Communication majors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. We have launched this blog as part of our senior year capping project, with the goal of creating a comparative analysis and multimedia approach to the differing sports cultures in America.

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