“Don’t forget where you came from” is the refrain that slinks around just about every college campus as graduation nears. For most seniors, particularly those heading for the bigger and better things that put stars in their relatives’ eyes, it’s just an updated version of that Uncle Bob quote of freshman-year yore: “These are the best years of your life.” For certain prominent members of the Georgetown men’s basketball team, the line represents the hope of any classmate that he won’t be disregarded amid the glitz of the NBA.

In the three and a half years that I’ve written this column, I’ve tried to stay true to the central tenet that sports are meant to be written about, that the drama they contain is something more literary than a 50-word graphic article in ESPN: The Magazine. In this regard, much of sportswriting is not fulfilling its promise: The shouting journalists on TV are entertaining, but they’re helping us forget that “the people we’re writing about in professional sports [are] suffering and living and dying and loving and trying to make their way through life just as the brick layers and politicians are,” as Red Smith said. Never in print should a trivia-amassing Schwab do what a real writer can do better.

With the NCAA tournament news cycle still relatively fresh and pro baseball, basketball and hockey heating up quickly, these days are maybe the best days all year for a sports fan. Nationals Park is so shiny and brand-spanking new that the ushers are still trying to check everyone’s tickets; Georgetown basketball’s fleeting run weeks ago so captivated the campus that even faculty members waxed poetic in our pages.

But along the way, in the heat of it all, too many have forgotten where they came from. Much like the Woody Paiges and Rick Reillys of the world, too many of this area’s sports stalwarts have recently and unceremoniously dumped their origins.

For the Washington Nationals, that means Montreal. A stroll around their ballpark is a lesson on D.C. baseball history that makes one wonder if the Expos ever existed. The sidewalk near the home-plate entrance is emblazoned with giant digits of great significance to District baseball fans, like the year the Washington Senators won the World Series. There are even plans to erect statues to Senators Walter Johnson and Frank Howard, and another to Josh Gibson, whose Homestead Grays played many of their games in Washington.

The problem is that none of those players have anything to do with the team that plays in Nationals Park. Johnson’s Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins; Howard’s same-named expansion team is now called the Texas Rangers. When Washington welcomed back baseball in 2005, it was the Expos’ history – of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, of a thriving but ultimately cursed 1994 season – that D.C. should have inherited. But the city rejected it in favor of a disingenuous, revisionist history.

aybe the modern Nats share some of their predecessors’ fans, but it’s wrong to pretend that the ghost of Walter Johnson is somehow living within the Nationals franchise. Whereas team executives are more than sensitive to the plight of D.C. fans who have seen teams called “the Senators” leave them twice, they turn a cold shoulder to Montreal, a city that is feeling much of what Washington felt back in 1971.

ontreal has baseball fans, too. Their team retired the numbers of four great players. And rather than give them the simple respect of at least quietly keeping those numbers out of circulation – no outfield placards required – the club elected to dump Carter, Andre Dawson, Rusty Staub and Tim Raines so that Marlon Anderson, Brandon Harper and Mike Stanton could wear the digits they preferred.

The Washington Nationals are not alone in this sin, of course. Most Rangers fans have probably never heard Frank Howard’s name. Few in Minnesota likely know that baseball’s greatest pitcher once played for their team. All across baseball, in a sport where teams move but very few ever contract, this tendency should change. Because where do the tributes to Carter, Dawson, Staub and Raines live now? On a 6-by-14 banner in a hockey arena.

Sadly, forgetting one’s past and purpose is native to Georgetown, too. It thrives in Hoya Blue, an organization that has done a great deal of good,including giving me last-minute quotes for columns, in the last few years. Its members have been wonderful stewards of Hoya history, and they do much of the boring administrative work – managing ticket sales, making travel arrangements, showing up to women’s basketball games – that is often left to a school’s athletic department or simply left undone. Oh, and they’re not bad for school spirit, either.

But there’s a troubling streak developing behind their cheering. The group’s mission is “to support all Georgetown sports [as] Georgetown’s official student spirit organization,” and it wants all students to “be part of our group and share our love for Georgetown athletics,” a welcoming salvo if there ever was one. But somehow, somewhere along the way, innocent fandom has evolved into fandom for status. If you’re not in Hoya Blue, it seems, you’re just not a good enough fan.

This has surely never been the group’s intention, but it has come about as a result of some irritating practices. For one, there’s its monopoly on good seats at Verizon Center. Anyone who gets to the game early should have the right to its best seats, but just about every civilian has seen what happens when you try to park yourself in the first few rows – you’re told, by one of maybe 10 people, that all 40 of those seats are being saved for Hoya Blue. Since the group knows it’s not legally entitled to those seats, the implication is that each of those 10 people is saving a few seats for his own friends. Whatever. When I hear “Hoya Blue, Party of 40!” at Bangkok Bistro, I’ll believe that the exclusion is really a result of pure friendship.

Then there’s the caste-like stratification within the organization itself. While I’m sure the “Volunteer Rating Index” (a formula that assigns “dedication” points to various volunteers) laughs at itself for its similarity to Ratings Percentage Index, it is followed very, very seriously because of the rewards at stake: among them, discounted road-trip tickets and “early entry [that] guarantee[s] front row seats at the Verizon Center.” (I told you so!) Once you multiply your points by 100, divide that by the total points, and scale the result to your seniority, you can once and for all quantify all 40 officers’ value to the Georgetown community.

Nothing about membership in Hoya Blue, or one’s rank within it, should justify special privileges. This includes some members’ comparatively easy access to NCAA tickets, as well as their exemption from the “lottery” that was supposed to decide which fans got those limited-edition, Hoya-themed Nike shoes. (As a friend of a number of sneaker enthusiasts, I found this slight particularly insulting.)

We are all Georgetown fans, whether we’re in the group or not. Once the right to fandom is stratified, once the self-proclaimed stewards of fandom start taking themselves too seriously, the fans stop being real fans. And Hoya Blue stops being the open-arms fan group it’s supposed to be.

It’s done a lot of good, and the same could be said of the forefathers of the Washington Nationals and the pioneers of sports-talk TV. But it should never lose sight of the reason it was created. Like the prodigal student, it should make Uncle Bob proud to come home every once in a while.

Alex Fumelli is a senior in the College and a former features and sports editor for THE HOYA. He can be reached at fumellithehoya.com. THE MENDOZA LINE appears every other Tuesday in HOYA SPORTS.

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