MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

The Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington for the resumption of the so-called Beltway Series, which I’ve never understood since both Baltimore and Washington have their own beltways.

I always believed if this series should be called anything other than necessary it should be called the Parkway Series since the Baltimore-Washington Parkway connects the two cities; but once again, I was not consulted on the matter.

So this Orioles-Nationals thing. Is it a rivalry?

Let’s be clear in qualifying this: I have spent some of the most significant (and insignificant, which was much more fun) times of my life in both places, and I do love both places. I loved and love each moment I have been lucky to spend in each … Other than those two times I was robbed at gunpoint, of course.

So is this interleague series a rivalry?

First of all, D.C. does not hate Baltimore. D.C. hates Dallas. And Dan Snyder. That’s about it, although nostrils have begun to flare over the ongoing MASN dispute.

Most Nationals fans grew up Orioles fans because Washington did not have big-league baseball from 1971 until 2005.

Conversely, 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 not because former Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke did all he could to keep the NFL out of Baltimore — which he did.

Baltimore, you see, hates D.C. on its own merits. Always has — long before the Nationals arrived from Montreal. Yet Baltimore loathes the very existence of the Washington Nationals, as it’s kind of like, “Who invited them?” since the Orioles and the Nationals share a single, population-rich marketing territory extending from Pennsylvania into North Carolina.

It was like that, too, when Washington area fans came to Memorial Stadium, then particularly when they flooded the 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.

Baltimore is real. For better, for worse, Baltimore is real.

D.C.? Oh, it’s real. It has wonderful tourist attractions, restaurants, culture, slums, ghettos, crime and real problems just like Baltimore has. But, sadly, D.C. is primarily known for folks who are just passing through and who are (oh, by the way) making the most important decisions in the world.

Baltimore hates D.C. Always will.

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

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

Orioles-Nationals may be a rivalry for Baltimore, but the perception is D.C. doesn’t care enough about anything other than hoops and pro football before Snyder to invest in a so-called Beltway rivalry.

D.C. lost baseball twice for very valid reasons. Then Nationals baseball became fashionable before it didn’t again. And the fashionable is why Baltimore wanted them gone in the first place.

Yes, Baltimore got its wish, but it still wishes the Washington Nationals did not exist.

Both cities are crazy about University of Maryland basketball, but D.C. also has Georgetown. Baltimore seems to care about Maryland football more than Washington does, because in D.C., every thought, moment and prayer of the football season used to be devoted to you know who.

Oddly enough, you will find Washington Wizards fans in Baltimore. And I say oddly enough because the Wizards used to be the Baltimore Bullets, and they played their games directly in the heart of downtown.

You’ll even find Washington Capitals fans in Baltimore, likely because the Caps’ chief rival is the Pittsburgh Penguins. And it is Pittsburgh that provides Baltimore and Washington with their only shared professional sports dislike.

Baltimore doesn’t mind the Pirates, despite two seven-game World Series losses to Pittsburgh. Baltimore very much minds the Steelers, though, and that feeling of fan disdain seems to carry over somewhat to the Penguins, of whom a mere mention will make even the most emotionally uninvolved D.C. sports fan wince.

Both cities fascinate me. But while I lived in the D.C. area and enjoyed it immensely, sans guns, it is good old Bawlmer, hon that lives in my heart, as I am drawn to Baltimore’s civic pride, its neighborhoods, 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.

Thus, to paraphrase Ashley Wilkes when he reluctantly agreed to support the South in the Civil War, “Well, gentlemen, if Baltimore fights, I go with her.”

So, if Baltimore says it’s a rivalry, it’s a rivalry. For by viewing Baltimore to be so insignificant the way Duke always tried to do with Maryland, D.C. has insulted Baltimore.

At least that’s what Baltimore believes … Which means I believe it, too.

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