Old Orioles fans have adopted Natitude

Beltway teams split loyalties

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As much as Mr. Domen was tempted to follow that path, he couldn’t. He saw Nationals stars Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and “wished” he could have made the transition to being a Nationals fan.

“It was difficult because you watch the Orioles just struggle so mightily, and I did just kind of wish I could’ve given up on them because I didn’t feel like the organization was really putting forth its best effort. But I couldn’t do it,” he said.

“Whatever my brain suggested — ‘The Nationals have a brighter future, it’s going to be much better if you make that switch’ — the fact is, as a little kid playing whiffle ball, I wanted to be Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, not some guy from the Expos.”

Mr. Krauss, who lives in downtown Bethesda, had no such temptation, watching a lot of unwatchable Orioles baseball even as the new hope of the Nationals came to the area.

It annoyed him to see fellow Orioles fans of his age switching to the Nationals.

“I think when you grow up rooting for a team, if you’re a true fan, then you don’t for any reason stop rooting for that team. For any reason,” he said. “That’s part of being a true fan, and that’s what’s bothered me the most about it.”

Despite facing each other as part of interleague play, being in separate leagues could be a major reason for fans splitting their attention and interest. With no iconic moments between the Orioles and Nationals, there is no bad blood on the field between the two teams.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been a bit of a rivalry among fans who for years shared the plight of losing teams.

“I’m thinking that maybe just when both teams were pretty bad, everybody kind of wanted to see the other team just do worse so that they at least had those bragging rights,” Mr. Domen said. “Maybe not Yankees fans and Red Sox fans, but you get the general idea that neither team wanted to be the worst in this region.”

‘Not in my wildest dreams’

The 2012 season was a departure from the Orioles and Nationals fighting not to be the worst. Both are in the playoffs, which Mr. Domen said has gotten rid of much of the animosity between competing fan bases.

When Mr. Scott was coming back from the Washington Redskins’ home opener last month, he heard a woman on the Metro complaining about how people crowd toward the doors because they want to be first.

“I looked at her and said, ‘Yeah, because this is a town of winners.’ Definitely not something I could have said with a straight face before this year,” Mr. Scott said. “That’s why this is fun. For once, we’re not bickering about who has the worst team in baseball or who is a bigger laughingstock, but we’re talking about who has a better chance to win it all.”

While the Nationals‘ success has been building around a young core of stars, the Orioles‘ postseason berth came out of nowhere. Picked by many to finish last in the American League East, they’ve been the biggest surprise in baseball. They face the Texas Rangers on Friday for the chance to move on to a Division Series against the New York Yankees.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I think this was going to happen this year,” Mr. Krauss said. “Not in my wildest dreams.”

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