Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Montgomery County Comes Out

. . . in favor of moving the Expos to DC.
Citing historic, sentimental and cultural ties to baseball in the nation's capital, the Montgomery County Council threw its symbolic support behind Northern Virginia's rival and unanimously called on major league executives to return a team to the District. They faxed their resolution to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who was in Houston for last night's All-Star Game.
And here's an interesting fact I actually did know:
Council member Howard A. Denis (R-Potomac-Bethesda), who sponsored the measure, cited the memory of Washington Senators Hall of Fame pitcher Walter "Big Train" Johnson, who served two terms on the Montgomery County Commission, the forerunner of the council, as an example of the area's kinship to the game.
Any time you can call on the memory of the Big Train, you score points with me. Kudos, Howard A. Denis. Anyway, here's where it starts getting snippy.
"There seemed to be an undercurrent of negative feeling towards the nation's capital," said Denis, who said he could not recall any examples. "They seemed to feel that they didn't want us and didn't want us to come there. That hit me the wrong way."
I'll give you an example, Howie. Remember this?
At a press conference, prospective team owner William Collins was bold in assessing how a team at the Dulles site would be marketed. And in a slight nod to the remoteness of the site, Collins said he didn't plan to market the team extensively to fans in the District, Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Southern Maryland.
"We've always looked south and west of the [Potomac]," Collins said. "Nothing has really changed there. In this area, you do not want to cross any bridges."
And the Cabal, speaking from its bunker deep beneath Dulles International Airport, defends itself.
Virginia backers bristled at that characterization.

"We don't want anybody to get the impression that any resident of the national capital area isn't going to be a welcome fan of the Expos franchise," said Brian Hannigan, a spokesman for the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority . . .
Hannigan failed to add, "As long as they have a damn helicopter to get to the games. Ha ha ha!" Seriously, though, it's really big of Hannigan to allow us to be a fan of the Virginia Monologues. And if we want to nitpick, I suppose Denis isn't exactly correct - it's not that they don't want us ("us" meaning denizens of DC and Montgomery and Prince George's Counties) to come to the games, it's just that they don't give a rat's ass if we don't.
"I think people are looking at the facts and making them personal, and I think that's unfortunate," added Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac).
You're darn tooting people are making facts personal, and expect it to get worse. You think the Post and Times aren't going to take sides on this? Frankly, I'm surprised the Post hasn't already assigned a columnist to slam down the race card like it's a Wild Draw Four. They will. If Tulloch thinks this is bad, he might as well go follow Pop-Tarts Presents American Idols Live around Deadhead style, because it's going to get ugly over the next couple months.
Virginia boosters said efforts to locate the team in the suburbs 20 miles west of the District were intended not as a snub to closer-in communities, but part of a strategy to counter Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who has argued that a team in the Washington region would sap his revenue.
The Loudounites seem to be leaning really hard on this, and I'm not sure it's a good strategy. Publicly, at least, Angelos ain't interested; he supports the San Juan bid. The real problem for Angelos is not attendance but broadcast rights, and Loudoun isn't any better than DC in that respect. Plus they're lying:
At a rally last month, Virginia supporters handed out maps showing that most of the District and Maryland were more than an hour's drive from a Dulles ballpark at rush hour . . .

Within days of making a case that seemed to dismiss much of the region, Northern Virginia retooled its message a bit. Supporters released a new map showing that most of the District and a wide swath of affluent Montgomery was within an hour's drive of their stadium at rush hour, and thus in their market area.

The difference? The earlier map showed a commute from 5 to 6 p.m. The second analysis covered 6 to 7 p.m.
Ouch. The Post is already taking sides.

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