Clockwise, from top left: Maury Povich, Joy and Brian Bowman, Chris Needham,… (Getty Images/Washington…)
It still aches, the memory of Oct. 12, 2012, the night 45,966 fans at Nationals Park — and thousands of others watching in sports bars and living rooms across the D.C. area — had their hearts broken by the St. Louis Cardinals. Nobody forgets a first love, which is what the 2012 Washington Nationals were to fans numbed by the District’s baseball past.
But time heals all wounds, even those suffered during Washington’s first baseball playoff appearance in 79 years. Those promises to “get back out there” have led us to opening day 2013 and the glorious early days of a growing fanbase’s first adult relationship. A weekly check of the box scores isn’t enough during the most anticipated season in Washington baseball history. From now through October, wins, losses, walk-off home runs, blown calls, wild pitches and DL stints are the stuff of daily obsession. It’s not about whether Washington cares about baseball; the question has become, how deep is the love?
We asked six die-hard Nationals fans to tell us how life has a way of molding itself around 162 games, whether that means planning your vacation around road trips or having At Bat alerts buzzing your smartphone. These are the romantics, the cynics and the fanatics who populate a baseball town.
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74, New York
Television host and son
of famed Washington Post
sports writer Shirley Povich
“I was always a Yankee hater, but when I came to New York [in 1986], the Yankees were a terrible team. They were so bad in the mid-late ’80s that I started to root for them and I bought season tickets. Now, fast forward, I’m so in love with the Nationals that I have retired my Yankee tickets — I don’t have season tickets anymore — and I have purposely purchased season tickets to the Mets so I can see the Nationals nine times this year.
“Anybody who’s been around Washington baseball knows how disappointed we’ve been for so many years. And last year was just the thrill of our lives. I don’t want to set us up for a fall by expecting too much from the team.
“My brother David and I both have season tickets to see the Nationals in Washington. I only get down a couple of times a year, two or three times a year, but my brother must go to at least half the games.
“I would love to be there opening day, but I think I gotta work. In between segments, trust me: I not only look every time there’s a score, but I check the box score every half inning. I get At Bat [updates] every half inning just for the scores of spring training games! My father would have said, ‘You’re half-baked! You’ve gone nuts!’
“He would definitely like what he sees. There’s no question he would love the makeup of the team. He would love Davey [Johnson, the manager]. He always did admire Davey anyway, both as a player and a manager. He would get a big kick out of this particular team, because it’s his kind of team. He would especially love [outfielder Bryce] Harper in terms of the talents that he has.”
Occasional blogger and self-described “worst Nats fan on Twitter,” @needham_chris
“I would describe myself as a realistic optimist, someone who hopes the best is going to happen but realizes it probably isn’t going to.
“Last year, we had a season that I think everyone’s going to remember for a long time, but the team still lost, what, 40 percent of their games? There’s a lot of failure built into baseball, and even in wins there are lots of individual failings. You gotta have the low lows to also have the high highs. I was at Game 4 last year when Jayson Werth hit the walk-off home run. I was screaming so incredibly loud; I literally — using the actual definition of literal — didn’t have a voice for the next three days. I don’t think I would have been screaming as loud if we hadn’t had a half-decade of failure before that.
“During [Game 5], as soon as the ninth inning was starting to fall apart, I basically just kind of slumped in my couch and I didn’t move until about 2 a.m. Just kind of that comatose, stunned, ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ kind of feeling. The very next day, I went back and watched the replay of the game just to see what happened and to try to dissect it a little bit. I’m willing to punish myself a little bit I guess. I’ve moved past it. It happens. You roll on.
“I’m not the hugest fan of [Nationals Park]. It’s just a stadium. I get to my seat, and I’m happy in my seat, and I watch the whole game beginning to end. I’ll grab myself a plate of the Hard Times chili nachos and wolf it down over the course of three hours. I probably made it to five, maybe 10 [games] last year. But in general I’ll have the games on TV or the radio at home. I’ve probably caught 75 percent of them to some degree or another.