There's a sign on the highway as you leave Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs and plummet into miles of endless wilderness: 'YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE PENNSYLVANIA WILD.'*
"That sign scares the shit out of me," a friend told me as we drove by on one ill fated journey that I will not discuss here. There's a picture of a deer on it, and our majestic state bird, the ruffed grouse. The warning is clear: civilization is behind you.
And it is from this land of oddly northward confederate flags and grizzled gas station cashiers looking over their newspapers at passing cars packed with kayaks and camping gear that the Washington Nationals are going to draw the newest members of their fan base.
Yes, the state capital is in the middle of the state as well, fine, as well as plenty of perfectly friendly folks who will give you directions without putting you in a freezer afterward, but this post is being written from a place unneeded bitterness. As most are from this author.
Local coward and vice president of Cumulus Media Ron Giovanniello was pushed toward a microphone and forced to admit to the public that Harrisburg's sports station, 96.5, will be carrying Nationals games instead instead of Phillies games in 2015, citing "the Phillies are going to suck" as the general idea around which the decision was based.
"Our agreement was up and we made the decision last week to part ways with the Phillies and flip to the Nationals," Giovanniello said. "Nothing against the Phillies, but clearly the Nationals are a team on the rise. They won the NL East last year and are picked to win it again this year.
"Obviously [a winning team] helps in all ways, and they certainly will be a postseason contender that makes a deeper run in the playoffs this year. Unfortunately, I don't see that in the Phillies' immediate future."
Pennsylvania is a hub of MLB team demographics, with the Orioles, Pirates, Phillies, Nationals, and even the Cubs in some places getting broadcast time. The center of the state can be a battleground, the winner usually being the team with the chance to attract the highest audience, as Giovanniello explained while rubbing handfuls of money on himself.
The placement of the Nat's Double A team, the Harrisburg Senators, probably has a lot to do with this, as the local fans of the admittedly historic franchise probably feel some sort of weird kinship with younger players like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, as if they watched them grow up or something weird. They don't have normal ballplayers in Washington like Chase Utley, who were born as extremely serious adults.
UPDATE: Lancaster, a town of intelligent, sexy people who go out into the world and sometimes write for Phillies blogs, has picked up the Phillies on local ESPN affiliate, 92.7 WLPA. Let's see what those devious Washington Eaglemen have to say about that. Freaks.
*I've written about this sign before, in happier times, when it was in celebration of the Phillies' dominance, rather than their withering grip on local media.