But for a week or so, Washington united under the flag of Nats red. With the deciding game being played in Houston, thousands of fans sat in a chilly rain at Nationals Park Wednesday night to watch the game together on a Jumbotron. Others poured out of their homes after midnight, to revel with neighbors.
Within minutes of the game's conclusion, fans paraded along U Street, a corridor that's central to Washington's "Chocolate City" heritage but is now the heart of a fast-moving gentrification wave that's transforming the city. For a moment, the racial and economic divides that often pull at Washingtonians seemed to erode.
Black and white men high-fived each other along the sidewalk. Women cheered the team's good fortune. Garbage collectors honked the horns of their trucks in celebration while police officers blared Queen's "We Are the Champions" from their cruisers.
Among some longtime Washingtonians, the victory seems a bit surreal. After all, this is a town that had two separate incarnations of the Washington Senators leave town and went without a baseball team for more than 30 years.
"As a Washington baseball fan since 1948 I rooted for so many bad teams it seems hallucinatory to have cheered for a World Series winner," said Donald Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post, in an email to The Associated Press. "Unlike the Cubs and Red Sox, Washington had never come close. Our childhood teams were always losers."
In some ways, the Nationals' title run turned into a mini-referendum on the nature of Washington as a city. An essay in The New York Times drew a storm of local social media criticism for characterizing Washington as a city with few actual natives and no spirit of fun.
But as the team's run through the playoffs continued, Nats fever became an undeniable force. It was clear something truly interesting was happening when most of the city's bars chose to show Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals instead of the fourth Democratic debate.
All in all, Washington probably IS experiencing this win in a more sedate, less unhinged way than some other cities would. On Thursday morning, the streets weren't exactly littered with confetti and drunks the way some other championship cities would have been.
At a press conference in an elementary school a few hours before game 7, Mayor Muriel Bowser brushed off questions about potential unrest by either happy or angry fans. There would be no greasing the light poles to keep crazed fans from climbing them — something the police in Philadelphia famously did in 2018 when the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
Bowser expected no serious unrest or rowdiness after the game, win or lose, and noted that the Metropolitan Police Department probably has more crowd-control experience than any urban police force in the country thanks to Washington's near-constant stream of protests.
"Our fans are FINE," she deadpanned, drawing some laughs from the room. "Nats fans have been a class act and they know they are expected to obey ALL of the laws." True to form, the MPD reported no arrests or major incidents.
Follow Ashraf Khalil on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ashrafkhalil
Associated Press writers Steven Sloan and Michael Tackett contributed to this report.