City Desk

A Summertime Nationals Fan in October

I am out of the office the rest of the day but will return on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. Please contact the front desk with any pressing issues. Have a great afternoon.

Configuring the Outlook inbox was the day’s top thrill. Minutes later I’m on the cautious, emotionally fragile Green Line with the quiet people: It's first playoff game in the District since 1933 and there’s no precedent for etiquette. Leftover Caps and Wiz regalia are popular substitutes for official Nike MLB tees.

On the train, it occurs to me that the best Nats fans are not really Nats fans. They are baby boomers who grew up in an era when little boys idolized baseball, boxing, and General Motors. Their professional mileage means they have an easy time taking impromptu half-days. Comparing on-base percentage excites them.

The second-best tier of Nats fans pulled little Cameron out of sixth grade for the day and drove in from neighboring areas.

The third tier—probably my tier: not really baseball fans but young professionals keen to LivingSocial deals, cheap dates. They got group tickets for a Nats game in August and sent you an Evite. They came for the Third Eye Blind, free beer steins, American University Wonk-campaign spin-off shirts—for the idea of baseball as summer romance. Hall of Fame outfielder and original Nats manager Frank Robinson throws out the somewhat poignant first pitch, and third-tier group leaders have to explain the rules of baseball to their party.

The columns of celebratory balloons, the drum line, having the comfort of my stadium seat compromised when someone has the audacity to sit next to me—this is unlike any of the six other Nats games I’ve been to this year. The pregame flyover is initially terrifying. The most contentious fan moment occurs when a St. Louis supporter complains about the lack of Budweiser to a vendor, and the vendor replies, “This is Miller country, baby.”

The Nats have a brilliant social-media presence and have done a good job engaging their tablet-heavy base with Teddy highlights. But now we’re supposed to watch nine innings of baseball intercut with "Gangnam Style" dance breaks and highlight packages set to recent Kanye singles. I'm not from the area, and it's weird that the most vocal bros here were probably once allegiant to Milwaukee and Cleveland and Houston. Like the pregame montage flatly tells with a slogan that may or may not be an LCD Soundsystem nod, "This is happening." Playoff baseball is legacy and America and healing, and for God and country we must wave the red towels with hashtags they gave us.

Ryan Zimmerman can be reliably counted on to have T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” as his at bat music. Bryce Harper mixes it up—I bet he saddles up to the PA folks pregame, slides over a jewel case holding a CD-R labeled “Bryce Jamz,” and says, “Check this out.” He once came out to Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend.” Team dad Adam LaRoche likewise has a rotating playlist of country. Zimmerman got on base. LaRoche and Harper are crippling the top of the order with unfortunately timed cold bats.

The Cardinals are hot—they have like six dudes hitting above .300. After the 162-game season, the rock/paper/scissors-like best of five is swift and cruel and the hotter team always beats the better team. We're down 4-0 heading into the bottom of the second—after a 79-year drought, it feels like it took 30 minutes for the occasion to be over. "2013 was supposed to be our year anyway," eulogized my friend. It was a helluva summer.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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