Posts Tagged ‘Washington Nationals’

At dinner this past weekend, my future father-in-law, a lifelong Yankee fan since the days when Mickey Mantle roamed centerfield, confessed just two days before the start of the 2013 baseball season that he was considering becoming a fan of the Washington Nationals.

Switching one’s fan allegiance, especially when it comes to baseball teams, is usually a big no-no according to the rules of fandom. But hear him out. He was born and raised in New York City but has been a resident of the suburbs of Washington D.C. for over 30 years. The Nationals only arrived in Washington in 2005. Before that, they were playing in Canada as the Montreal Expos and the closest major league baseball team to D.C. was the Baltimore Orioles an hour away. In becoming a Nats fan, he promised, he would still support the Yankees as his favorite American League team but he’d have more access to the excitement (and the televised games in his local market) to the Nats, of the National League.

Prior to the 2010 season, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who would care one way or another whether a baseball fan chose to support the hapless Nationals. To put it eloquently, the team stunk. In 2009, they won just 59 games (a .364 winning percentage) and finished dead last in their division, 34 games back of first place. Meanwhile the Yankees had won 95 games and made the playoffs. Again. Becoming a Nationals fan in 2005 to 2009 when you were already a Yankees fan would be like if you drove a mint condition ’57 Chevy and decided to also buy a ’94 Ford Taurus.

But things are different in Washington these days. In 2012 the Nats won their division and reached the playoffs for the first time since moving to D.C. More than that, the two young players everyone hoped would become stars–starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper–had become stars. Though the Nationals didn’t get past the first round of the playoffs in 2012, the future was bright–like, blindingly bright. (Even as the Nationals opened their season today, Strasburg retired 19 batters in a row at one point and Harper hit two home runs. Like I said: bright.)

So back to my FFIL. My advice, since he asked for it, was this: GO ALL IN ON THE NATS! (I didn’t actually yell it–we were in a restaurant.) My 13-year-old self would have punched myself in the face if he heard me say that. But as I wrote at the end of the Yankees anti-climactic 2102 playoff run that saw Derek Jeter suffer a season-ending ankle injury (an injury, by the way, that held him out of the 2013 opening day lineup), I’m no longer sure what I’m rooting for as a Yankee fan.

Rooting for a sports team is meant to be fun. Some fan bases, like the Chicago Cubs’ or the Cleveland Browns’, have historically relished their status as the hard luck losers year after year. But as a Yankee fan, I can tell you that it has been fun because the modern team (1994-present) has always been competitive (and yes, they outspent all the other teams by several millions of dollars to do so). However as I look at the unrecognizable roster with which they opened the 2013  (which, to be fair, has been decimated by injuries), I can’t see any way that it will be more fun to watch the Yankees play baseball in 2013 than it would be to watch the younger, hungrier, and more talented Nationals do it.

Is my FFIL pretty much just jumping on the Nats bandwagon like so many other people will do this year as the Times calls them a “lock” for the World Series? Absolutely. But at least he’s got a geographical claim to the team. I have no such claim, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the Nats from afar here in New York (and keep track of a few of my fantasy team guys that play for Washington) as the Yankees get another year older.

Of course, my blessing to go on and root for the hometown Nationals came with a stern warning: he can go on supporting both the Yankees and Nationals in their respective leagues, American and National, as long as he wants to. But should the two teams meet in the World Series in this or in future years, he’ll have to pick a side once and for all.

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