Natstown is happy these days as the team rides perhaps its best stretch in its history in D.C. On the darkest of days, the team and fans clung to one essential feeling that now makes the current win streak that much sweeter.
Well the grill is going hot, Bob Marley is playing on the radio and the Carlo Rossi sangria is flowing like an out of control fire hose out of the vats I have stored in my torch-lit wine cellar. In the Kinback household, that usually means one thing: the Nationals won again. Quick, sound the submarine horn! With Davey Johnson now the team's manager, the better days are here and continuing!
Ah, that is right. The team is on the road right now, so sounding the horn at Nationals Park might be a bit causeless. That is why my own personal submarine horn is being installed in my house next week.
I beg your pardon if that seems a bit extreme. Strange and unusual things have been happening around my place since the Nationals went on an extreme binge of winning and solid baseball. In their last 15 games, they have won 13 and have done it in every conceivable way, from walk-off style to one-run nail biters and complete offensive smorgasbords.
Natstown has been reacting strangely too. You've probably noticed. I spent a little time in D.C. this past week myself and there is something definitely in the water. Every D.C. baseball fan seems ... happy. There is an extra little spring in their step. There are few more wearing a Curly W hat on the way to their business meeting. Metro is looking a lot more red these days, and it isn't hockey season anymore. As I tweeted a couple days ago to the five or six who actually follow me: Washington looks like Bourbon Street after Fat Tuesday, when everyone is hungover but jolly.
Even the recent resignation of Jim Riggleman hasn't been enough to dampen the spirits, even though Riggleman selfishly tried to hit the team where it hurts the most: the belief that better days are just ahead. But it didn't work. The team remained strong, the fanbase did not overly panic and the front office was calm in finding Johnson to fill in and not filling the position for the forseeable future just yet.
In past years, this sort of thing would have caused massive ruptures through the organization. This time it didn't, and I was left pondering as to why that was the case. The Nationals and the culture of baseball in Washington D.C. is still so fragile. There has been so much pain and disappointment surrounding this still relatively young franchise that it is a wonder anyone has stuck around. But some have. What mystical glue has kept this culture, team and fans together in times where parting would have kept everyone sober?
The answer came on the backs of two fans at Nationals Park.
I witnessed one wearing a Stephen Strasburg t-shirt and the other the same for Bryce Harper. Here are two players not even currently playing for the team, and yet, people put their names on their back and wear them to the games when they aren't even here. Then I looked around the park and saw other shirts and jerseys: Danny Espinosa, Drew Storen, Wilson Ramos and of course a plethora of Ryan Zimmerman duds, and it hit me right then an there. The difference between now and in the past is simple. What kept people coming back to the park, spending all that money and sometimes getting let down by the organization was a key ingredient: hope. Nationals fans, for better or worse, are notorious for having hope even if it is just a scrap.
And why not? Strasburg, Harper, Espinosa and the like are all keys to the future. A lot rides on them, and Natstown is hoping. A proven manager in Johnson will soon be taking the wheel, and hopes are he takes them even farther than they are now. Just take a look around Nationals Park itself. While nowhere near complete, it is finally beginning to naturally become, well, home, with its unique sights, attractions and concessions. Hopefully, in a couple seasons time, more seats will be filled with home fans hungry for a playoff victory. Some are even hoping that it could happen this season.
When Nationals fans had nothing else, they had hope. That hope is now finally being rewarded and it is a beautiful thing. It is what Washington sports fans need and deserve. The hope the team has finally turned the corner makes everyone feel better. It creates more team and city pride. It is no longer embarrassing to wear a Nationals shirt when pumping gas. Who cares if the fans go a little nuts? Hope has never been analytical or lucid. It makes people do strange and wonderful things.
Like installing submarine horns in their residence.
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." ~ Oscar Wilde
"There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear..." ~ Buffalo Springfield "Somethings Happening Here"