- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2005

A few days ago, I was reveling in the restored baseball glory that is the Washington Nationals when a horrible sight flounced past my seat in RFK Stadium’s upper deck.

A girl in a Nationals cap.

A girl in a shocking pink Nationals cap.

Pretty soon another female with identical headgear appeared. Then a young man wearing a white and tan cap with the now familiar curlicue “W” sauntered by.

What in the name of Bud Selig is going on? Whatever happened to the charming, if lately expensive, idea that fans can display loyalty to their team by wearing the same clothing.

Heck, you can buy Yankees caps nowadays in pink, puce and heaven knows what other neon shades — as if the traditional navy blue version wasn’t irritating enough everywhere else except Gotham and environs.

You can almost hear the Babe, the Iron Horse, Joe D, Case and the Mick spinning in unison. Not to mention Billy Martin. If he were still with us, he’d probably punch out anybody in a screwy cap with an inter-locking “NY” on it.

Of course, Yogi Berra is still very much alive and manufacturing malaprops at the drop of a quote. Considering that off-color caps have been around for a while now, Yog might describe wacky Nats hats as a case of deja vu all over again.

Just as bad, a guy in my office wears a battered Red Sox cap of some strange beige hue. You can almost hear Ted Williams spinning in his cryogenic chamber.

(Sudden unforgivably irreverent thought: If Teddy Ballgame were writing his autobiography now, would it be called “My Turn at Vat”?)

From what I hear, Nationals gear is the third-highest selling among major league clubs. It’s dandy to see a high percentage of fans at RFK adorned in Washington caps, shirts and jackets — as long as they’re the proper ones.

Of course, the cost of such items is too high, but after waiting 34 years for a team of their own to love, you can’t blame D.C. fans for lining up at RFK’s ATMs.

Actually, it’s a better idea to grab garb at Modell’s, Sports Authority or online. For some reason stuff is more expensive at the ballpark.

Last winter a fan in my family plunked down $109 for an official, lined team jacket at nationals.com. I haven’t priced the jacket at RFK — it’s too heavy for summer use — but the other day I saw a man at a vendor’s stand eyeing a lightweight poplin jacket of the type you can buy for $25 or $30 at a department store.

“How much?” the prospective customer asked hopefully.

“One hundred fifty-two dollars.”

The man turned on his heel and stalked off muttering to himself — and possibly in need of a $6 beer or two.

It’s fine to show our support, but there should be financial constraints. After all, not everyone makes as much as a big league ballplayer.

Colors aside, another matter on which I lack communality with some younger fans is the business of wearing a team’s gear when you don’t root for, and perhaps don’t even like, that team.

Growing up, I detested pinstripes because the Yankees wore them and always won while the Senators wore them and always lost. To this day, I won’t buy a pinstripe suit.

One Christmas many years ago, an in-law who wasn’t into sports gave this lifelong Redskins fan a Cowboys shirt “because you love football.” Thanks a lot.

Nowadays, though, many people wear a team’s colors because they like the colors, period. To me, that’s sheer heresy.

For instance, you still see a lot of folks wearing Raiders silver and black — “fans” who probably don’t even know if they’ll play in Oakland or L.A. this season. And I ask you, how could anyone outside of California like a team owned by Al Davis and coached by Norv Turner?


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