Thomas Jefferson said at his first inauguration in March of 1801: “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”
Two-hundred-and-twelve years and a few months later, there is only one place in “This Town” where we are all red states and we are all blue states.
As I walk, my heart starts to beat faster. I only care about one thing. I am possessed. I am a Washington Nationals fan. And the place is Nationals Park.
As I walk through the Center Field Gate, I see the most beautiful green grass in the world, glimpsed through the gates of the baseball field oasis in the middle of urban Southeast Washington. I remember holding my dad’s hand countless times more than 50 years ago, walking into the center field entrance of the Polo Grounds in Harlem, New York City, across the river from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and can almost imagine I’m about to see again my hero then and now, No. 24, Willie Mays, possessing center field as if he owned it, which he did.
My memory now goes to Oct. 11, 2012. It’s the bottom of the ninth, the score is tied 1-1. The Cardinals lead 2-1 in the National League division playoffs’ best of five. If the Cards win this night, the Nats are knocked out and the season is over.
Bearded right-fielder Jayson Werth is first up. The count is 3-2. St. Louis pitcher Lance Lynn is throwing 98-mph bullets and Werth is on his 13th pitch, after hitting seven out of eight foul balls. And then ... swing ... crack ... line drive ... it’s heading to the left field wall ... it’s going ... going ... SEE YOU LATER! A walk-off home run for Werth.
“SEE ... YOU ... LATER!”
Nothing could be more exciting than this. I kiss the perfect strangers around me — male and female, Republicans and conservatives, who cares? We are one. We are family. We are Nats fans.
But then, inevitably, if you are a Nats fan, you move from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat. The next night, Oct. 12, the Nats are up 6-0 by the third inning, with the invincible Gio Gonzalez pitching. IT’S OVER! WE HAVE WON!
But not quite. Then it’s 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 by the seventh inning. My friend, Al From, former head of the Democratic Leadership Council, emails me: “I am worried.” I email back: “I am sick.” We both sense the inevitable. A four-run inning in the top of the ninth finishes off our beloved Nats. It’s 7-5, end of season.
The winter depression is too much to bear.
But then winter ends and it’s spring again. All is forgotten. It’s the first Nats game, April 1, 2013. And our young 20-year-old superstar, Bryce Harper, hits two home runs in his first two at-bats of the season, and now all we know again is the thrill of victory.
“You can’t make this up,” I think. Baseball, baseball. Who can explain it? Who can understand the devotion, more important than politics, that takes over the mind when the heart throbs with joy during a baseball game when the Nats are winning.
“Is this heaven?” I ask a stranger next to me, who is hugging me after Harper’s second home run.
No, it’s Nationals Park. And that’s heaven.
It’s our “Field of Dreams.”
The perfect purple place.
Thank you, Lerner family, for bringing winning baseball back to Washington.
Now we can only hope that members of Congress from both parties and President Obama will decide to put aside their partisan differences, regularly meet at Nationals Park, solve our nation’s important problems — and then, almost as important, stay to root for the Nats.
Davis served as special counsel to former President Clinton and is principal in the Washington D.C. law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, in which he specializes in crisis management. He is special counsel to Dilworth Paxson of Philadelphia and the author of a recently published book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life (Threshold Editions/Simon and Schuster).