To Be or Not to Be a Nationals Fan

A little under 10 years ago, my family sat down together at the dinner table in an evening ritual as regular as Alex Trebek condescendingly allowing an over-zealous new Jeopardy contestant to share the details of his expansive chess collection with the show’s nerdy viewership. Nothing was set to make this dinner any more memorable than the last…until my dad dropped a bombshell.

He denounced his support of the Baltimore Orioles.My dad at Nationals Park

It honestly would have been less surprising had he announced we were moving across another ocean. Instead, I was absolutely floored that he would willingly give up the birds, the Old Line State, and the lifetime of support he had given them.

The revolving door of homes of my nomadic childhood had finally reached steady state in Virginia, just 60 miles from my dad’s blue crab roots. But three decades of headaches, according to him, were enough to bail on the Baltimore franchise. Their ownership–a facet of the game beyond the scope of my 11-year-old mind–was failing the team and the fan base, and there did not appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

But just down I-95 from Camden Yards was a franchise in a renaissance. After moving from Montreal just three years prior, the Washington Nationals looked to begin anew with a young crop of players built around budding star Ryan Zimmerman. Their small, but passionate group of D.C. baseball fanatics were eager to christen a new ballpark downtown.

Had I been more of a conformist child and embraced the Orioles upon my first big league experience at Camden Yards, I may have been more devastated by my father’s sudden change of heart. There aren’t written rules of spots fandom, but I just assumed it was unkosher to simply pack it in midway through life and team-hop down the road.

Yet, and even more so looking back, the reasons and motivations behind his decision were well logical, thorough, and timely.

Giancarlo Stanton batting

As the years wore on and Nationals Park became more and more a summer setting for my dad and me, I couldn’t help but pull for the red, white, and blue myself despite their routine castigation of the Marlins. The Marlins and Nats share a division and play about 18 games against each other each season. But with the Fish in a perpetual rebuild phase I have never had a reason to root against Washington otherwise.

This offseason, with Giancarlo Stanton and other core Marlins so crudely thrown overboard by Miami’s new ownership, I have contemplated whether abandoning ship myself would be appropriate at this juncture in the Miami franchise’s awkward history. It seems, though, that regardless of the new owner’s identity, a drastic rebuild was necessary for any shot at long-term success. This one just hurts a little bit more because the on-field talent was so much closer to greatness than it had ever been.

The Marlins were overtly mishandled by previous ownership, and, had the franchise not switched hands, would have been worthy of a toss back into the baseball sea. But the new group deserves at least one shot at redemption.

Stanton, wearing a Yankee jersey post-trade, suggested Marlins fans should perhaps “watch from afar,” after indicating the team was doomed in the short-term. Well, I’ve been watching the Marlins from afar for over 10 years so I may as well just stick to it.

But until things turn around, I’m all in on the District, don’t get me wrong. I fully hope that the Nats break the D.C. championship drought and rock Nats Park like they did on that cold March night in 2008 when a new era in their history, and mine, began.

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