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Commentary: Alphabet Soup

Red is not my color, and it really never has been. When I am buying clothes — which I do with shocking frequency — red is rarely part of my palette.

This might be because the color competes with my naturally rosy complexion and, as a friend once put it, has the effect of washing out my apple-cheeked glow.

That’s one theory.

A much more psychoanalytically interesting explanation takes us back to 1980, when I was a fledging fan of the Kansas City Royals, also known as the team that won my affinity by putting my initials on their royal-blue baseball caps. My brother was a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies for a reason that was similarly bizarre — he had named his favorite GI Joe doll Mike Schmidt and later learned that there was, as sports fans out there know well, a famous Phillies third baseman named Mike Schmidt.

So when the Phillies and the Royals met up in the World Series in 1980, my brother and I were both quite excited, and sibling rivalry took on new meaning for about a week. (As usual, he won.)

As sports fans out there also know well, the Phillies wear red caps and red-and-white uniforms. This was fitting; long before our far-fetched baseball affiliations came about, my brother’s self-proclaimed favorite color was always red, and mine was always blue.

It doesn’t take a child psychologist to figure this one out. My older brother tortured me relentlessly, and he liked red. The Phillies beat the Royals in that World Series, and they wore red. Add to this that my condiment of choice was mustard, not ketchup. You see the pattern. Throw in the quandary with the fading facial hue and you have yourself a full-on color war.

Anyone with a pulse — whether a sports fan or not — should have figured out by now that this is a column about the Washington Nationals, our city’s new baseball team. If you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll need me to explain that their caps are red.

In case you are utterly unsentimental or downright mean-spirited, I’ll explain that everyone in the greater D.C. area with even a modicum of decency is fully engaged in Nationals fever right now. Even my partner, who is firmly apathetic about baseball and may even have once or twice used the blasphemous adjective “boring,” has been overheard uttering a “go Nats!” from the next room while I’m watching a game on TV.

What I’m getting at here is that I now sport a red baseball cap on more days than I ever would have imagined. I am doing this in the interest of supporting the new home team and reigniting a passion for baseball that, for me, peaked in 1985 when my Royals won their first (and so far only) World Series title.

This weekend I made my first-ever trip to RFK Stadium to sit high up in the stands, where I watched the Nats win their fifth consecutive game. There were somewhere around 35,000 of us there, nearly all of us just plain batty for baseball, nuts for the Nats. (At the concession stand — “Your pizza in 45 minutes or less, guaranteed!” — I stood in line in front of a couple of teenagers on a school trip from Anchorage who seemed like they didn’t really care if they were at the Nats game, but I think they were atypical.) I can’t quite describe how it felt coming out of the Metro station as I headed for my first Nats game, except that I had to fight back emotionally overwhelmed and perhaps pre-menstrually exaggerated tears.

What’s really great about baseball in D.C. is that our team is, despite pretty widely held fears, doing really well. They sucked as the Montreal Expos, which is a big part of why they moved here. But so far in Washington, the team is doing great, playing like a team we can all be proud of, keeping us fans on our feet as they get the last out, a sea of red caps bobbing in the stands.

So if you don’t yet have your red Nationals cap, get one. If, like some people I know, you simply can’t wear red because, for instance, it clashes with your particular shade of naturally orange hair, try one of the pleasing alternate styles. There’s a popular navy blue style, and pink caps with the signature W of the Nats are readily available for those wanting to embrace gay pride.

Of course, there aren’t many experiences that are more heterosexual than being in the crowd at a men’s professional sporting events. But there’s hope: one of the cheesy gimmicks the crowd is subjected to between half-innings is the Nationals “Kiss-Cam” where we get to see a close-up of couples kissing. I’m not sure what this has to do with baseball. But at Sunday’s game, the camera closed in on a straight couple kissing, and then she turned and kissed some other guy. And then the guy turned and kissed the guy next to him. I was feeling the gay love then, baby.

All that said, I understand that the issue of the new baseball team is causing some consternation in the gay community, as plans for a new stadium would uproot some gay clubs in Southeast D.C. I don’t frequent these clubs so I don’t feel the community loyalty that might otherwise make me ambivalent about this whole thing.

In fact, at the game I attended, the Nats unveiled their new mascot, Screech the Bald Eagle. If the new stadium causes the relocation of some of those clubs, I think there’s a good argument for changing the mascot to Strip the Chicken Hawk.

Come on — catch baseball fever with me! It doesn’t hurt until they lose.

Kristina Campbell writes Alphabet Soup on an allegedly biweekly basis. She can be reached at kcampbell@metroweekly.com, especially if the subject line of the e-mail is “Go Nats!”

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