Time and again, living in Washington, D.C., we’ve noted how sports, and especially baseball, in the blessed personification of the Washington Nationals, are a balm — a defense and a relief from the stresses of daily news and politics.
This is of course especially true in our city in the reign of President Donald Trump and his Twitter-driven, daily doses of anxiety, stress, absurdities and crises.
If you wanted a perfect illustration of that ying of the alleviating, even joyful power of baseball and the intensely combative yang of presidential politics in the time of the impeachment investigations, look no further than today’s headlines.
The journey of the Washington Nationals has already been kind of miraculous, preposterous and exhilarating. I mean: 18-30 a long, long time ago; a soaring run to the elimination playoff game, won at the last moment; victory over the always great but not great enough Los Angeles Dodgers; an impressive sweep of the stuff-of-baseball-legend St. Louis Cardinals; gaining entry for the first time in a World Series; and then, in red T-shirt territory in Houston, a tough and tense opening-game 5-4 win over the Astros,
And now this. Game 2, Nationals 12, Astros 3.
Can you believe that?!
Or, as the headline, somewhat smaller, above the Post regalia, informed one and all: “Nationals erupt late, rout Astros for 2-0 World Series.”
Well, can you also believe this?
“Republicans Storm Impeachment Hearing Room,” “New Urgency as Trump’s Peril Rises,” “Intruders Decry Process; Others in GOP Hold Back.”
Both events — and that’s what they were — happened the same day, separated by a few hours, the one conspicuously clipped on the news and news networks, the other (the game) televised in toto on Fox, which is also home to President’s Trump’s favorite news network.
What’s your pleasure here? What’s a fan to think and do?
Here in Washington — in spite of the fact that all of the congressmen who were described as storming a hearing room are right here in the city, and made their decrying claim for victimhood and fair play under the Capitol dome, so to speak — the Nationals, and baseball, can claim a triumph for joy and happiness and probably ratings.
The Nationals won and in impressive and sudden fashion, the way these things often do happen, evolving from a 2-2 pitchers’ duel, with Nationals pitcher and ace Stephen Strasburg especially supreme, to a six-run explosion in the seventh inning and an eventual 12-3 wipeout of the Astros.
The joy and the celebration of a potential World Series title erupted all over the city, in the stadium where people had gathered to watch the game on the big screen, in bars and on television stations. That joy was clean, uncluttered by partisanship, not bothered or hampered by any other imperatives, political or otherwise. It could be embraced, swallowed, hugged to, danced to. It was not muddied by a Trump tweet, or dread or angst or schadenfreude against the Astros, considered the odds-on favorite to win the title.
If you want heroes here, just read the box score and go down the list, all of whom had at least a little something to do with the Nationals coming to this point, on their way home for the next game — Saturday — a championship within hearable shouting distance, from Strasberg to Soto to Zimmerman to Eaton to Robles to Suzuki to Turner to Cabrera to Rendon to Kendrick, and sundry others.
Athletes — certainly this bunch of Nationals and their irrepressible manager Dave Martinez — can sometimes at the height of triumphant effort make politicians look like, well, mere politicians.
The ruckus of the impeachment process is bad enough, what with testimony-taking, the Ukraine, quid pro quo, career diplomats and State Department officials marching in and out, delivering (or not) testimony both explosive and quiet. The president, let it be said, has repeatedly said that the process is a witch hunt, much like the Muller investigation.
From the vantage point of a World Series delight, ours is not to reason why or what about all that. Let it be known, though, that a group — two dozen or so — of Freedom Forum congressmen, led by the photogenic Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) — gathered together to protest and disrupt and finally enter the proceedings of the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Adam Schiff.
“I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions,” Gaetz said triumphantly at a press conference, sounding like the first man to hit Omaha Beach.
The GOP had informed the president of their plan and got his approval, after he had called for more toughness in his Republican stalwarts’ defense of him.
The event saw many congressmen bring in their phones (which was illegal), an order of pizza for the press and hyperbolic rhetoric by everyone concerned. The media repeatedly described the GOP reps as “storming the hearing room,” which brought on images of the French revolutionaries storming the Bastille or uphill charges during the Civil War.
The congressmen, in fact, walked to the doors of the hearing room and pushed aside two guards. No one was injured.
No doubt there will be repercussions. Or not.
But, today, try asking people in Washington the question, “Did you hear what happened?” You’ll get the same answer most of the time: “The Nats won. Again!”
See you at the ballgame.