There is a perception among some that Baltimore and Washington exist in the same area. Sure they are close in distance, but the two places couldn’t be more different. DC is a city with no true cultural identity and that is no fault of the city itself. DC draws its cultural identity from the fact that it has none. It is a city of transplants and people that grew up somewhere else. They come to DC and mix with the current residents and new trends are born. DC is also the capital of the country and as such it has the feeling of everywhere and nowhere. There is a place here, a city, but there is no thread that ties everyone together except that the residents of DC are all different and celebrate those differences together. Baltimore is different. It is a city full of people that grew up in and around Baltimore and have experienced Baltimore their entire lives. It is a city of people of shared experience.
There is nothing wrong with how either city is and it is great that they are different. There are things I like about both. In all honesty I prefer the surrounding countryside of Baltimore to the vast suburban sprawl of DC. In order to get to a small town from Baltimore all one has to do is drive 15 minutes outside the city limits. To get to a small town from DC takes at the very least 45 minutes depending on which direction one is driving.
Baltimore and Washington can’t be much different from each other, and yet they are constantly lumped together as if some sort of Baltimore/Washington area exists. Perhaps this area exists in a place like Laurel, Md, but what connection do people from Fairfax, Va have to those in Manchester, Md? Those are two areas that can’t be much different. Manchester, Md has a town restaurant that only excepts cash and where a person can get a filling breakfast for $2.95. There is one grocery story that is supplied from the butcher who gets their meat from the local farmers.
Just in the part of Fairfax were I am there are eight grocery stores all within five miles of each other and the only one that gets their meat from “local” farms charges about $10 extra for it, $2.95 breakfast is a grande coffee at Starbucks, and going out to eat can’t involve a town restaurant because there is no town and no small local restaurants.
There are benefits to both areas, but they breed different cultures. Last evening I ventured up to Orioles Park at Camden Yards and found myself in awe of something. The Orioles fans love their team. Now Nationals fans after a Nats win love their teams, but I couldn’t imagine them wearing a variety of t-shirts with their managers name made into a bad pun like “Buck Yeah,” “Buckle Up,” or “Buck the Past.” I am sure there are many a Nats fan that can’t wait for the, “Our Johnson is Better than Yours,” t-shirt, but they wouldn’t be nearly as widespread as all the Buck Showalter Orioles gear.
My feeling on the Nationals goes back to a statement I overheard at Nats Park and one I believe many Nationals fans share. When walking out of a game that the Nationals won I saw a Nats fan talking to a fan of the opposing team. I can’t remember specifically who the team was the Nationals beat but only they had been good in recent memory. The Nationals fan was almost apologizing the the visiting fan and then tried to explain the Nationals with these words, “The Nationals are kind of bad, but we think they are good.” The team with the best record is kind of bad and we only think they are good. A team with one of if not the best run differential in baseball is kind of bad. Even now with a magic number of four with eight games left to play many Nats fans are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I admire this about Baltimore. They are not waiting for another shoe. I don’t know if the 16 straight losing seasons caused them to lose their shoes somewhere along the way and therefore there is no other shoe to drop. What I can say though is that Orioles Park at Camden Yards is a sickeningly happy place after an Orioles victory. It has been this way every since the Orioles ended up with a winning record. Perhaps all the articles talking about the Orioles being lucky or going against trends in baseball drew the fan base closer. I don’t know the reason, but I do know it is different.
Baltimore and Washington couldn’t be more different as places and in the personalities of their citizens, and that is reflected in how the sports teams are viewed. It is only through comparison that we can start to understand, and in comparing the Baltimore and Washington areas it can be observed that they are both unique areas that happen to be close together.