This is inside baseball, so to speak, but during Sunday afternoon’s Nats-Redskins double-dip, I noticed an internal message that indicated the Nats would be the Sports section display story if they clinched a division title.
What this means is the baseball game would be the primary art on the front of the Sports section, and that the baseball stories would be the most prominent feature of the page.
Now, the Nats needed to win, and the Marlins needed to lose. And if those things happened, the Nats would be the display whether the Redskins won or lost, assuming nothing completely shocking happened at FedEx Field. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue after Week 1 of the NFL season, because normal baseball teams aren’t clinching division titles on Sept. 10. This was just a strange confluence: the Nationals being incredibly strong, the NL East being incredibly weak, the magic date happening to come during an afternoon game, at home, on a Sunday, etc.
Still. As fans bombarded me with messages Sunday afternoon about how I should be writing about the Nats and not the Redskins (whoops), there felt like something a bit symbolic in this newspaper page, especially when you compared it to the front of The Washington Post Sports section for the previous 15 years. (That’s all I have easy access to.)
It goes without saying that, assuming the Nats don’t again clinch at home on the opening Sunday of the NFL season, this isn’t likely to become a regular occurrence. Still seemed noteworthy.
Here are those last 16 opening game Sports sections, since I went to the trouble of calling them all up. Lot of memories in here. It starts with Steve Spurrier’s debut in September of 2002. It ends with Sean Doolittle, a lifelong Redskins fan, replacing his favorite team in the middle of the page.