Friday, December 23, 2011

Homegrown, home team


I read everything I can lay eyes on when it comes to the Ravens and the Nationals. I frequently cruise by The Washington Post's Nationals Journal and The Baltimore Sun's Ravens pages. I spin the radio dial by 105.7 The Fan on the commute during football season. I have text alerts come to my phone from The Sun and MASN.

I don't frequently call in and don't think I've ever commented online--does anyone set out to be a wave in an ocean?--but can and do discuss with friends, family, fans in person. We have a 13-year-old nephew who reminds me of me in his encyclopedic fervor for sports statistics and theories. I've said and been told before that sports reporter is a road I should have taken with a full tank of gas. I read the Nats reports by Adam Kilgore at the Post and think, man, how cool would it be to write about that stuff all day...

I recently caught up with a former philosophy professor/mentor, who is a baseball fanatic. He had the following comment, "I have been a Branch Rickey man since my childhood. This means adopting failed teams that are engaged in rebuilding through their farm system... The Nationals are very exciting and I can't wait for Bryce Harper." He made another comment that he envied my work location (next to the Nationals stadium in DC) because, "You get to see the best fielding third baseman since Brooks Robinson." I, too, am a Ryan Zimmerman fan.

There is something to this home-grown thing he mentions. A born and raised Baltimore fan, localizes me. We watched Cal Ripken come through the ranks. But the Ravens have given us that since coming to Baltimore as well: Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, Todd Heap, Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Torrey Smith. These are all players we've watch get drafted and step onto the playing field as "our" guys. And then you add the Anquan Boldins and Vonta Leachs, the right players to round out what you've got.

The Nationals are vibing the same way: Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, then you add a Jayson Werth and a Gio Gonzales and see where things go. You get in on the ground floor and hope to take the elevator on up. If you've been or listened to a game and seen Zimm hit a game-winning home run or make a phenomenal play at third, or seen Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen shut down an offense, you can feel something deeper going on.

Watching an Ozzie Newsome/John Harbaugh or Mike Rizzo/Davey Johnson combination is akin to a chess match on top of the actual games and seasons. It's a game within or on top of a game and when they both work together it's the complexity and simplicity of a symphony.

I'm not sure what sent me down the sports path this morning. The football season is gearing up for the playoffs. And the Nationals just made a big off-season splash, which we've been waiting for. Maybe that's it.