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October 11, 2004

The Post smells baseball blood

Ya gotta love the Washington Post. It's got a great nose for vulnerable politicians, and when it smells them, it moves in for the kill. It wasn't more than a few days ago that we and the Post were all celebrating the return of baseball to the District.

Now, the Post senses that Mayor Williams is in trouble.

But baseball never really became a citywide spectacle. Talk of a pep rally at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium with souvenir T-shirts and hot dogs for the kids went nowhere. Within days, carping about Williams's promise to raise taxes to build a ballpark drowned out the happy news that baseball is back, after 33 years. And what might have been the brightest moment of Williams's tenure as mayor dissolved into another opportunity for critics to take their shots.

Some political observers even opined that the return of baseball would prove to be disastrous for Williams (D) should he seek a third term in 2006. They said it provides a potent symbol for those who argue that the mayor courts the wealthy while neglecting the poor.

Look, I'm not saying I disagree; I'm saying I just don't care. I'm not a resident of the District, so I'm delighted that other people are paying for something that will be fun for me. Isn't that what pork-barreling is all about? I was livid when our former governor, Parris Glendening, brought the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, giving Art Modell not only free rent and all concession revenue but also unlimited use of the governor's mansion in Annapolis and unlimited dates with Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. (I exaggerate a little; dates with the Lt. Gov. had to be on weekends.)

And I also don't think there's any merit to the pro-baseball argument that building a new stadium will be a net benefit to the District. The comparison with the MCI Center is inapt, as we say in the law. The MCI Center is open year-round and is used not just for sports but for concerts and other events. Baseball, as fond as I am of it, is an 81-game-a-year event. The stadium might be used for an occasional concert, and perhaps another "sport" like soccer (what James Taranto calls "metric football") could use the stadium. But when push comes to shove, the stadium is not going to be in use for much of the year.

My point is that the team may be months from arriving and the stadium may be years from being completed, but the Washington Post is already providing us with entertainment as it looks for roadkill.