It's safe to say that few people wish they were Washington Nationals fans. I mean, why board the sinking ship that is the Nationals' franchise, a team that's tanked since its inaugural season in the District of Columbia.
The Nationals moved to D.C. in 2005. Ironically, this was the same year that Franz Ferdinand released the album, "You Could Have it So Much Better." Since their move from Montreal, the Nats have had a record of 343-466 in their first four years, averaging 93 losses per season. The team has gradually become the laughingstock of Major League Baseball, going so far as to misspell its own name on Adam Dunn's and Ryan Zimmerman's jerseys during a 2009 game against the Florida Marlins. In short, the team sucked more than Tara Reid ... as an actress.
Yet there's a silver lining. I'm a Washington Nationals fan. Why am I on that sinking ship? Because it's the only boat in D.C. and it's a cheap way to go out in style. Yes, I put up with the stank that is Nationals baseball for five reasons.
1) It's cheap, baby! For this Friday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers, you can walk up to the box office and get a ticket for less than 10 bucks with your student ID. You would probably get laughed at if you tried that for a Yankees or a Red Sox game. A ticket for comparable seats at the Nationals' big name peers could set you back more than three times that price.
Now, I'll admit that you baseball purists out there have me on this one. You're paying to see a better team when you go to a Yankees or Red Sox game. But we Nats fans tore up our scorecards long ago and settled back into our seats. At least for the time being, we go for the experience as much as for the baseball. It's a lot like the music at a party. No one really focuses on it, but it gives you a good distraction for when you run out of stuff to say. Just like you need the tunes, you need the game.
2) Understanding that the baseball alone wasn't going to keep fans coming back, the Washington franchise has poured money into making the game day experience a good one. For starters, the team built the new $600 million Nationals Park in 2008. The ballpark is the first green professional sports stadium and boasts great views of the riverfront, Navy Yard, the Capitol and the Washington Monument. It has state-of-the-art audio and video equipment, with a 600-foot LED screen along the inner bowl.
More importantly, the stadium has more than 30 different concessions stands. There is everything from Change Up Chicken to Dippin' Dots Ice Cream and, of course, an aptly placed Hard Times Grill. The food is great, the atmosphere is solid and the team stinks. Two out of three ain't too bad.
3) Being a Nationals supporter has some social perks too. We've all run into fans from big name teams who find ways to rub it in. The more games you win, the more pricks join the cause. Guys that spend more time hassling the opposing fans than watching the actual game and guys who have to make a post-game pit stop at Lidz because the sticker fell off their old cap. Guys who spend the ninth inning on their smart phones to comment on the Yankee Haters Facebook group or tweet about how much the Angels blow.
You'll be hard pressed to find a Nationals Suck group or a cocky Nationals fan. We're that awkward friend of the baseball world. No one's threatened by us, we're fun to have around and we're always happy to tag along to your event even if it's not our cup of tea. We'll even help you pick out what to wear!
4) The best part of being one of the worst teams in baseball is that you can only go up. Losing 103 games in a season leaves quite a bit of room for improvement. With young talent like third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and the recently drafted pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, it's not too much of a stretch to think we might have a winning season one of these days.
5) Lastly, being a Nationals fan teaches important life lessons in humility and sportsmanship. If you're going to follow the Nationals, you have to understand winning isn't everything. I guess it doesn't hurt that season tickets come with a bottle of Prozac.
As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you Nationals baseball, pucker up and buy some tickets.
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Contact staff writer Brenton Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org
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