Written by Steve Bartley
The Nationals, hurrah! A new ballpark, a hangover from 35 years of bilingual agony in Montreal, and not a single damn World Series appearance. That is all I know about the team in Washington. They have a â€˜Wâ€™ on their caps, I believe, and they play in red.
I love this team. I say this as my introduction on this blog. I may know more about ‘nationalists’Â than NationalsÂ but they are my team. And with that comes my neatly packaged undivided loyalty. I imagine most would expect this vomit of pride to come after a period of established grind; year after year of disc-slipping dedication. Instead mine comes after letâ€™s see, 38 days of support.
Itâ€™s all the fault of the goddam Boston Red Sox and all that Red Sox nation guff that twisted a once beautiful if tragic ride into some glory-bound open-top bus tour around a land called Success. When Iâ€™d hopped on that bus years ago it was a lot uglier, devoid of anything like a World Series pennant. Then in 2003 they came close, an Aaron Boone homer short of a pennant for the first time in 86 years. We lost. It was brilliant. The full force of the adrenaline from that night is still slowing to a stop in my veins and has giggled all the way.
Then the next year they win it all. All of a sudden success didnâ€™t feel the same. Jumping up and down with joy? Champagne? For crying out loud, thatâ€™s not baseball! And it certainly wasnâ€™t Red Sox baseball which was still chewing on the Curse of the Bambino. But there was a new veneer to a team growing more and more media friendly. Iâ€™d â€œcowboyed-upâ€ in 2003 but now the panache had disappeared, replaced by swagger.
Then last year, the final nail and the death of mediocrity complete. Forget them, I thought, I donâ€™t have to put up with these swine. I packed up my allegiance and took it somewhere that wouldnâ€™t let me down – the lowest bidder you might say. A city of high crime, a GTA4 regard for casual murder and the seat of world power.
Washington D.C. hadnâ€™t had a team since 1972 when the Senators booted it to Texas with the bus doors locked and no looking back. I needed a team that would lose consistently and with honour. Whoâ€™s left you can trust to do that anymore, the Rockies? Those treacherous…
So Washington was the perfect fit from day one. On opening day at the new stadium Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off home run to beat the Braves. Weâ€™d peaked. I caught a few innings on NASN a week or so ago for a slow trudge through the fourth and fifth innings against Milwaukee. I remember a slight pain in my chest thanks to the pitching of Odalis Perez. It was the kind of exemplary averageness that made me feel right at home.
So itâ€™s the Nationals. No more concern about the â€œyou canâ€™t change teams!â€ folk. Thatâ€™s behind me now. Washington’s side of the deal is to fall short year on year of anything like the play offs. In return Iâ€™ll check in on their scores each day, not worry about the reputations of even our most mediocre of hitters and worry not that the starters should each be rotated in the direction of Single-A Hagerstown.
There you have it. A season a month or so old, a team 14 and 20 with no hope at all of anything more than a fifth place finish in the National League East. You can keep your playoffs. Hereâ€™s to a slow, inning-by-inning slog toward the winter.
Go Nats! As we Nationals fans apparently say.