By Kathy Kemper – 03/18/08 07:06 AM ET
Amidst Bear Stearns tanking, gas at $4.50 a gallon and the sick housing market, there’s something exciting on the horizon in Washington: BASEBALL!!! And not just our beloved Washington Nationals, but the Nats in a jazzy new stadium.
America’s pastime may have returned to the nation’s capital two years ago, but don’t fool yourself. The real return of baseball — and all the excitement it brings — comes later this month when Nationals Park opens along a revitalizing Anacostia River in Southeast.
And what a Washington saga it’s been: filled with a cast of characters right out of a Shakespearean tale.
For a long time, naysayers said it could never be done. But then-D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams took a leap of faith and ushered in a new baseball era in Washington with his aide and D.C. power attorney Mark Tuohey. The mayor and Tuohey rolled up their sleeves and hatched a deal that now looks better than most expected: a publicly financed ballpark to serve as a centerpiece for the city’s new entertainment district.
Williams captured it so well when he said at the time: “Baseball is part of the rhythm of life. If we’re going to be a great city, then we need to have baseball.”
The “rhythm of life.” Williams had a way with words — and he connected with that phrase. We’ve been watching the Nats grow from infancy for two years, but they’re part of us now.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who voted against the plan for the Nationals’ ballpark, will be there to cut the ribbon and see the first pitch. But let’s face it: It was Williams and Tuohey — along with City Councilmember Jack Evans — who had the maturity, foresight and vision to broker the deal and make it possible. I should mention patience, too.
It’s not just baseball that comes back later this month. It’s the camaraderie that comes with it — something Capitol Hill needs so badly. It’s the essence of what’s behind my institute’s Civility: The Politics of Common Ground mission. Sharing a baseball team at a fabulous new ballpark is something everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — can have in common. Popcorn, hotdogs, beer, singing, cheering, clapping, laughing, united. Winning!!
How about taking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) out to opening day together? Sit them right next to one another. I promise, the business of politics will run a lot smoother, for a week or so. And then bring them to another game and another game … pretty soon, they just might connect on common ground, the baseball park. What have they got to lose? Maybe they can find a compromise in legislation, too. What do you think, sports fans?
At the end of the day, we may differ on issues, but we all love the Nats and their new ballpark: a short walk from Metro, on a promenade, the Capitol building in sight, smack-dab in the middle of a growing new neighborhood and, yes, world-class. It is all a dream come true for us sports fans.
I’ll be sitting next to the former chairman of D.C. Sports and Entertainment and a great pal, Mark Tuohey, on Opening Day, experiencing the fruits of his early labor with Tony Williams. So stay tuned for a play-by-play!
Tony and Mark deserve a standing ovation, in my playbook.