WASHINGTON - In international diplomacy, sports can sometimes act to bridge bitter divides between longstanding rivals. A similar unifying force could be at work, at least temporarily, in America's politically-polarized capital city.
Thousands of Washington Nationals fans of all political stripes came to watch parties in their home ballpark this week, as their team won the first two games of a best-of-seven baseball championship series against the Houston Astros in Texas.
“I think it just gives us something bigger to do, and something bigger to focus on, and gives us all something to be a part of, and pay attention to, and fall in love with all at once," Nationals fan Sharon Schwei told VOA.
The Nationals' first-ever World Series appearance is a joyful spectacle in a city often consumed by partisan battles. Political tensions in the nation’s capital are at an all time high with Democrats holding an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, and many Republicans are crying foul.
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In the midst of the acrimony, Nationals fans are finding ample reason to root and cheer in unison, regardless of party affiliation.
“I think it brings everyone together, everyone with different political opinions, different other viewpoints in life," Nationals fan Alli told VOA.
Some fans hope a sense of unity sparked by the Nationals will reduce partisan strife in the city.
“It should. After the Nationals win, I think both parties should come together and be one," fan Jeff Semon said.
Sports can open the door to political reconciliation. In 2018, relations between North and South Korea improved significantly after the two rivals participated together in the PyeongChang winter Olympics.
Other Nationals fans are less optimistic that a winning baseball team will lessen Washington's bitter political divide.
“I don't think it will last. I mean it kind of ebbs and flows," fan Edison Rolle said. "You know we're like at each other's neck for a while and then something bonding happens.”
Washington sports teams have been on a roll.
The Washington Mystics professional female basketball team won its first-ever title earlier this month.
Last year, the Washington Capitals ice hockey team won its first Stanley Cup championship.
Win or lose, the Nationals already are the toast of Washington, giving the city a welcome diversion when it needs it most.