Life at RFK looks normal, but kiss off the Kiss-Cam

April 28, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD


A column by Kevin Cowherd in Thursday's editions incorrectly characterized the food policy at Orioles home games. Fans are permitted to bring food to Orioles games at Camden Yards, subject to stadium policy.

WASHINGTON - They say people who make snap judgments are reckless, irresponsible and often just plain wrong.

Picky, picky, picky ...

So here are a few snap judgments about Washington Nationals fans, made from Section 415 during the Nats' 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at ancient RFK Stadium the other night, where I also had the misfortune to witness something called the Kiss-Cam, which might be the single worst ballpark gimmick in the history of the game (more on this later.)

OK, let's get right to the fans.

You know the stereotypical Washington fan of Camden Yards lore?

The wine-sipping, brie-eating, suit-wearing, cell phone-yakking lawyer-types cutting deals in the stands amidst three-run homers and highlight-film plays in the field?

Well, we didn't see too many of them.

Maybe it was Kill-the-Lobbyists Night, and they all stayed away.

I say this because most of the fans we saw seemed to be knowledgeable, passionate baseball fans who, like Jim Babbitt, also seemed to be wearing half the contents of the Nationals souvenir store.

Babbitt, 41, of Cobb Island, is an ex-Orioles fan who grew disgruntled with Peter Angelos' Castro-like hold over the ballclub, and all the losing seasons.

So he went over to the Dark Side in a big way: Nationals season tickets, Nationals tomato-red jersey, Nationals tomato-red cap with the big white W.

I think he even had a Nationals seat cover, but I was too embarrassed - for him - to ask.

Anyway, he's found a home here at the Bobby, and a real comfort level with a fan base taking its first tentative steps to embrace the new team.

"They do cheer," he said of Nats fans. "And they cheer loud. They're into it."

If there's a distinctive fan tradition emerging here, said the team's PR director, John Dever, it involves bouncing.


"When there's a rally, the fans like to jump up and down in the seats ... along the third base line," he said.

Apparently, the seats are on portable metal stands with a lot of give in them, so the fans bounce around like it's a crazed mosh pit.

In fact, when the stands are packed and everyone in the joint is jumping up and down, the whole place starts to sway, including the upper decks.

"To see the stadium actually rock and move is awesome," said a fan sitting near me, Troy Cole, 31, of Westminster.

Cole said he was at the Bobby for the Nats' home opener, a 5-3 win over Arizona, when President Bush threw out the first ball and the sellout crowd was going wild, and it felt like a 6.5 temblor on the Richter scale.

Anyway, things were going along pretty well in the game I attended - no earthquakes, minimal swaying - until the top of the seventh inning.

Then they broke out the Kiss-Cam.

And all we could think was: Oh ... my ... God.

The deal with the Kiss-Cam is this: It seeks out various couples around the stadium, who then fall upon each other in a passionate embrace, with the whole thing flashed on the jumbo screen in center field amid much hooting and hollering.

Naturally, because we live in an age where celebrity - even the cheap ballpark variety - is prized above all else, each couple invariably tries to out-do the previous couple, leading to ever-more-salacious kissing.

Note to the Nationals' front office: Kill this stupid gimmick.

Pull the plug on it right now.

I'm telling you, this can only lead to bad things.

What's next, the Grope-Cam?

On the other hand, keep the bring-your-own-food concept.

Yes, do you believe this? Nationals fans can bring their own food into the Bobby!

Is this cool or what?

It sure beats shelling out close to 15 bucks at the concession stands for a slice of cold pizza and two limp hotdogs, as we did.

The last time the Orioles let you bring food into the ballpark, Rutherford B. Hayes was the president. And Wild Bill Hagy was shot-putting empty beer coolers from the upper deck at Memorial Stadium.

Say, there's something the Nationals could use: a crazed uber-fan like Wild Bill.

Maybe some fat guy dressed up as a wigged-out Uncle Sam, a six-pack of Budweiser splashing around in his gut, standing behind the net at home plate and leading Nationals cheers.

It's just a thought.

A way better thought than Kiss-Cam.

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