So how do you create the sort of loy-
alty and enthusiasm that Cubs and
Cards and Red Sox fans imbibe with
their baby formula? Building a good
team on the field helps, but as Fef-
fer notes, “the notion that just winning
alone brings attendance and creates fans
just isn’t the case.”
Feffer understands that the Washing-
ton area is changing. Its reputation as
a “transient town” that turns over after
every presidential election is increas-
ingly outdated. Young families are mov-
ing here and “staying way beyond their
political tenure,” building lives in places
like Montgomery County. “You’re see-
ing a greater sense of community among
people who stay here,” he says.
Sports loyalties are critical to nurturing that sense of community. But the
Washington area has a special problem,
because it’s split among three geographical jurisdictions and doesn’t have a single state university like Arkansas or Alabama to focus on.
Professional teams fill that void.
When we moved to Bethesda almost 36
years ago, my kids connected to their
new home in part by wearing Redskins
gear. Today, my grandsons favor red
caps and T-shirts emblazoned with the
distinctive curly W. They’re growing up
as card-carrying citizens of Nats Nation.
Community is not just about cities, however—it’s also about neighborhoods. It’s about Little Leagues as well as
big leagues. It’s about folding chairs on a
sideline, not just box seats in a stadium.
Feffer’s 10-year-old son, Jake, plays on
a travel team sponsored by Bethesda-Chevy Chase Baseball, and one weekend
day early in the season, he was playing a
doubleheader, one game in the morning,
the other in late afternoon. Dad made it
to both, while sandwiching a Nats home
game in the middle.
“I ended up watching about eight
hours of baseball,” Feffer says. “It was a
great day. It doesn’t get any better.” n
Steve Roberts is writing a new book about
immigrant athletes. Send ideas for future
columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.