MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

In the beginning, when the Washington Nationals showed up in 2005, MASN Sports played up the interleague games between the Baltimore Orioles and the Nationals to be something more than they were close to being, but did so for obvious business purposes.

Originally, each series was billed as the Battle of the Beltway, which was absurd, and then the Battle of the Beltways, which is just a little less absurd since Baltimore and Washington both have their own beltways that take you nowhere but in a circle unless you merge right.

In the beginning, both teams were bad and nobody understood what the big deal was. Then the Orioles were good and the Nats were beginning to get better, so the crowds at both Oriole Park and Nationals Park grew. Something was brewing.

Then the Nationals got good – real good; World Series champs good – and the Orioles got bad. Now both teams are in the midst of rebuilds, with the Orioles, particularly given their recent play, seemingly a little ahead of the Nats, even though they don’t have a player like Juan Soto. But then, who does?

(And this just in: Don’t cheat yourself if you’re a baseball fan. Watch what is developing in Pittsburgh. Things could get exciting there again, too.)

There is no telling what attendance will be tonight and tomorrow at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when the latest installment of whatever MASN decides to call it takes place, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for standing room only.

That said, it does mean more to Baltimore than it does for Washington.

To be clear, I have spent some of the most significant (and insignificant, which was fun, too) times of my life in both places, and I absolutely love both places. So I understand it to be fact that D.C. does not hate Baltimore.

D.C. hates Dallas. And itself. That’s about it.

Most Nationals fans grew up Orioles fans because Washington did not have big league baseball from 1971 until 2005 because it previously lost two (count ‘em, 2!!) teams of its own due to non-support.

You will be hard pressed to find a single person from Baltimore who rooted for the Redskins when Baltimore did not have an NFL team from 1984 until 1996, and God forbid the unthinkable occurs and the Orioles do end up in Nashville, as Louis Angelos warns, Baltimore will never adopt or root for the Nationals, even though they are just 45 minutes away on the parkway or the interstate.

Baltimore, you see, hates D.C. Always has — long before the Nationals arrived from Montreal. Yet Baltimore loathes the very existence of the Washington Nationals because, “Who invited you?”

It was like that, too, when Washington area fans came to Memorial Stadium, then particularly when they bombarded newly-built Camden Yards. The D.C. fans — and you could spot them a mile away — were known as the Swells or the Suits by Baltimore fans, even though these fans from D.C. were rooting for the Orioles. In theory, anyway.

Baltimore fans were, and remain, of the mind that the only reason D.C. area fans were in attendance at Camden Yards was because every game at Oriole Park in those days was an event. And nobody on the East Coast loves to be seen at an event more than a society climber from our nation’s capital.

If only the Suits, or the Swells, or the Wine and Cheesers, would go away; if only they would leave our ballpark, our city, and never return again. Only then will going to an Orioles game be a perfect experience.

Well, they did leave, so be careful what you wish for. But for better or for worse. Baltimore is fine with that. Baltimore, after all, is real. It wears its emotions on its sleeve.

D.C.? Oh, D.C. is real. It has wonderful tourist attractions, restaurants, culture, slums, ghettos, crime and real problems just as Baltimore has. But, sadly, D.C. is primarily known for folks who are just passing through.

Baltimore hates D.C. Always will.

D.C. doesn’t care about Baltimore. Never will. Of course, D.C. doesn’t care about anybody or anything, including the actual District.

Baltimore cares about home, neighborhoods and community. D.C. cares about power, status and being seen.

D.C. lost baseball twice for very valid reasons. Not long ago (when the Nationals were winning) Nationals baseball was fashionable. The fashionable is why Baltimore wanted them gone in the first place.

Well, Baltimore got its wish, yet still wishes the Washington Nationals did not exist, which is understandable, given their existence has helped wreck the Orioles financially. Peter Angelos didn’t hurt there, either, but he was right about the MASN deal the Nationals are doing their best to renege on.

I lived in the D.C. area and enjoyed it immensely, and it is my fervent belief it should receive statehood. But with D.C., it’s always something.

Not Baltimore, hon. No, in all of its beauty and in all of its ugliness, Baltimore is subtle as a Jack Dempsey punch. You know where you stand there, and it is good old Baltimore that lives in my heart.

I am drawn to Baltimore’s civic pride, its grit, its loyalty, its stubbornness and, yes, its inferiority complex. I can relate to Baltimore better than I can any place in the world other than Cumberland. And that’s just the way it’s been and always will be.

Both cities, like most cities today, are a white-hot mess with guns, crime and political corruption.

Sadly, that seems to be the only connection. That and whatever MASN decides to call the next two baseball games.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT