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In An Exhausted Washington, The Nationals' World Series Run Brings Positivity

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Washington, D.C., which is the kind of place where you really can walk into a bar and find yourself in the middle of a watch party for a presidential debate, where you really do have to know someone's politics before setting him or her up on a date, where your child's school and where you go to worship can all be seen as political choices. But right now, things are a little different. There is unity and love in the air for the local baseball team, the Washington Nationals, who brought the first World Series play to D.C. since 1933 - certainly since the franchise moved to D.C. in 2005. The Nats currently lead the Houston Astros in the best of seven series, 2 games to 1.

We were wondering why people are so hyped about this, so we've called somebody who has his finger on the pulse of the DMV - That's for D.C., Maryland, Virginia. That's what locals call the place. We're talking about longtime D.C. resident, activist artist and businessman Andy Shallal. He's the founder and CEO of Busboys and Poets. That's a chain of restaurants and bookstores across the DMV that hosts a lot of those watch parties and first dates that we mentioned earlier. He's with us now in the studios in Washington, D.C.

Andy Shallal, welcome - wearing your Washington Nationals hat, I see.

ANDY SHALLAL: Yes, yes. I've been wearing it since they started. So here I am.

MARTIN: So you know the pulse of the city. What is D.C. like usually?

SHALLAL: Well, you know, it's a it's a very political city. And as you mentioned, you know, watch parties are big, especially for debates. Our watch parties are what we call our Super Bowl for the politics. It's the debates - the debates become our Super Bowl.

MARTIN: So why is it that you think people are so excited about this? And people really are excited about this.

SHALLAL: Well, first of all, it's so unique. I mean, it hasn't happened, what, in 80 some years? So it's obviously a first. It's funny. A friend of mine says, what country are we playing - the World Series, you know?

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SHALLAL: So, you know, it's big. It's huge, right? So I said the Republic of Texas.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Oh, OK.

SHALLAL: So yeah. So it's also, I think, baseball is a game that tends to be slower. So I think there's a sort of anti-Washington, D.C., East Coast run, run, run kind of feeling all the time. We can, like, kick back and have an excuse to go late to work, to, you know, call in whatever.

MARTIN: But look, it's unscientific. This area has had some sports success lately. I mean, the Capitals won hockey, Stanley Cup in 2018. A lot of people came out for that. The Washington Mystics just won their first WNBA title in September. You know, Washington's gone over three decades without a professional baseball team. They haven't won a World Series since the 1948 Homestead Grays of the Negro League. I just wonder, is it - you know, is this just kind of the icing on the cake for many people after they've had finally - getting some sports success in this area? Or do you think there's something about baseball itself? It just feels more hyped than in previous experiences where people have gotten close to success.

SHALLAL: I mean, when you think of what is quintessentially American, I think baseball comes to mind. And I think it does tend to unite people - you know, as American as baseball and apple pie. You hear that all the time, right? It's also a much less aggressive kind of game. And I think for a lot of people - people that may not be into football, for instance - I think baseball is much more accessible and easier to follow, frankly.

MARTIN: Does it last?

SHALLAL: I mean, it always has a residual. Of course, I think we need it. I think people are exhausted with the politics here in D.C., especially of late. It's exhausting. It's - I think people are just tired. And having this very positive thing happening here in the city is giving people a refocus. You know what I mean? Like, it's not just about the politics. There's also fun things to do. There's also a joy in life to have, and I think baseball's brought that.

MARTIN: That was Andy Shallal, founder and CEO of Busboys and Poets. It's a chain of bookstores, restaurants and gathering spaces across the D.C. metro area.

Andy Shallal, thank you so much for joining us.

SHALLAL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.