Washington DC enjoys brief moment of Nationals unity with World Series win
Its name has become a byword for do-nothing politicians, bitter partisan fights and a swamp of special interests.
But for one rainy night at least, Washington was united in euphoria as a team from the US capital won baseball’s World Series for the first time since 1924.
Some 1,400 miles away in Houston, Texas, the Washington Nationals had come from behind to clinch a highly improbable series victory by four games to three.
There was an eruption of joy at Nationals Park, where an estimated 16,000 people had braved the wet weather to watch on a giant screen. All over the city, people in bars punched the air and chanted songs such as “We are the champions”.
Perhaps more unexpectedly, Washington’s warring political class joined in common cause. At 12.49am on Thursday, Donald Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to the Washington Nationals on a great season and an incredible World Series. Game 7 was amazing!”
Hours earlier, his old rival Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill, appearing on stage with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Georgetown University Law Center, were asked if they would be rooting for the Nationals.
Bill Clinton, former president and a baseball fan since childhood, fielded the question. “Houston is a magnificent team – don’t kid yourself, they are a magnificent team – but I want the Nationals to win because we haven’t won in so long,” he said.
The games played in Washington in recent days drew a host of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. Chris Wallace, a host on Fox News, told the Washington Post: “Washington is so polarized, and people are so divided into their political tribes, and to have something everyone could agree on and everybody feels good about is pretty welcome — something to be savored.”
One example was the bet between Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who was with Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket for president in 2016, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, an arch conservative beaten by Trump in the Republican primary.
If the Houston Astros won, Kaine had pledged to wear their gear and serve crab and whiskey to Cruz’s employees. But as it transpired, Cruz will have to wear Nationals gear and serve Texas barbecue to Kaine’s staff.
The spirit of comity did not quite extend to Trump himself, however, as the president was greeted by boos and chants of “Lock him up!” when he attended a weekend game.
Sidney Blumenthal, a Nationals fan and former assistant and senior adviser to Clinton, wrote in an email: “The Cinderella Nationals represent the real city and country, universal in composition, dancing to victory, past the curse of Trump’s brief presence.”
On Wednesday, baseball was the talk of the town. People all over Washington could be seen wearing red baseball caps. These days that can often mean a Trump supporter eager to show off the legend “Make America great again”. But look again and instead it was the curly “W” logo of the Washington Nationals.
Sporting glory is a novelty for what was long seen as a provincial capital with little to offer beyond the federal government and marble monuments to dead white males. President John F Kennedy described it a “a city of southern efficiency and northern charm”. Its paucity of decent restaurants was legendary.
Although many residents go back generations, the transient population of politicians and diplomats created an impression that Washingtonians lacked the fierce pride found in other, grittier cities. And for more than three decades, they did not even have a major league baseball team to cheer.
But a franchise that was formerly the Montreal Expos arrived in Washington in 2005. In recent years the capital’s food and cultural scenes blossomed, England football star Wayne Rooney played for DC United and the ice hockey and women’s basketball teams won national titles. “If folks aren’t careful, this title thing might become a habit in DC,” Barack Obama, a resident of the city, tweeted earlier this month.
Muriel Bowser, the city mayor, announced a Nationals championship parade for Saturday at 2pm. “Our Washington Nationals are World Champions!” she said. “This victory is the culmination of a journey that began 14 years ago when our community brought baseball back to DC.
“By staying in the fight and finishing the fight, the Nationals have brought a tremendous amount of joy to the District and, no doubt, inspired a new generation of baseball players and Nationals fans.”
As the rejoicing went on late into the night, one unnamed fan told the Fox 5 channel: “It is so great for the people of DC. You know, we’ve been getting so much bad news. We have something to really celebrate about. We fought a good fight and we fought long and hard and we deserved it, and now it’s time to party. Let’s go Nats!”
The fan added: “This city is one team right now. God bless the District of Washington DC!”