NatsTown, we know you’re down in the dumps. Dibble’s gone, which in the eyes of some is a victory in itself, but so is that other guy. You know, that guy everyone was taking about for a year and needs Tommy John’s surgery? Yeah, that guy.
Here are the facts: You’re fans of the newest team in Major League Baseball. In the inaugural 2005 season, you were ecstatic, vibrant, and full of hope. Now, much like the team on the field, you’re feeling deflated and flat. That jolt of energy experienced in June has escaped and all because of a silly elbow tendon.
It’s times like this that try the fan’s soul. Hence, a friendly reminder: One man doesn’t make a team.
It’s easy for outsiders to say, “Nats fans dropped like flies once Stephen Strasburg got called in for surgery.” Don’t give them that chance.
Here are some suggestions on how to handle the rest of 2010 and how to cope with young Stephen out of the lineup:
- Don’t treat Strasburg any differently. If anything, treat him better.
- Face it. You’re probably guilty of succumbing to the hype. You bought the t-shirt, you were at his Major League debut (or you weren’t and are still bummed about missing it), you bragged to your buddies nationwide that more people went to an Indians game to see the Nats rookie phenom than Tribe fans themselves – it’s okay that you’re guilty because you’re not alone.
- The fact is Stephen Strasburg is a damn good ball player. He’s young, but damn good. What he needs right now isn’t criticism from broadcasters or fans staying away from games because he’s not on the 40-man roster. He needs you to support his next 12-18 months as he goes through surgery and rehab. So keep wearing your number 37 t-shirts and jerseys proudly, talk up “your guy” at happy hour or elsewhere, and keep the good vibes flowing.
- Keep going to games.
- You might remember that the Washington Nationals do play 162 games during the regular season and about half of those are played in the District. Just because Strasburg isn’t on the mound every five days until late 2011 or 2012 doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go support the team. Sure, the Nats got swept by the absolutely horrific 2010 Chicago Cubs, but they took three of four from the St. Louis Cardinals. That proves they have some good ball playing in them, right?
- There are two more homestands this season. Go watch future Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez behind the plate. Slugger Adam Dunn appears to be out of his August slump. If you make it to Nationals Park you might just see something special pop off his bat into the stands. And that Ryan Zimmerman fellow? Hello! Can you say “Face of the Franchise?” There are so many reasons to go and the excuses “I’m too lazy,” “I’m too cheap,” and “… but Strasburg isn’t pitching” are not acceptable.
- Use this as an excuse to expand your baseball education.
- There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not the Nationals should honor their historic past in Washington (e.g. the Senators) or their franchise history (e.g. the Montreal Expos). Hall of Famer’s Andre Dawson and Gary Carter both visited Nationals Park this summer as part of the Nationals organization acknowledging their entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame as Expos, the franchises’ forefather. No matter your stance on the subject, this is a perfect time to learn about the game of baseball as opposed to dwelling in the mental cellar the Nats have forced you into.
- There are books on the topic if you’re into reading as opposed to movies or talking to people. “The Washington Nationals: 1859 to Today” by Frederic J. Frommer, “Nationals on Parade: 70 Years of Washington Nationals Photos” by Mark Stand and Phil Wood, and “Baseball in Washington, D.C.“ are all good starting points. Combine those with a some quality baseball movies for context, maybe a little browsing of some games on ESPN Classic, and you’ll be primed and ready for the 2011 season with so much jam-packed baseball knowledge that you’ll wow any out of town fans who try to question your loyalty to the game.
- Take the time to learn more about the other players on the team.
- Die-hard Nats fan Cheryl Hauser is as obsessed with the team as a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. She knows that. She’s not ashamed. In fact, she’s as proud as a mother watching her kids graduate from college. “I think that maybe is a huge reason why I’ve gotten more and more obsessed,” Hauser said about the team. “You look at the kind of quality of people we have on our team and I just like them. They’re just genuine people that really want to play baseball and I really think they want to win for the 12 fans that are there.”
- There are good people on this team. They care about baseball, they care about their fans, and they care about their community. Whether it’s supporting in the Inova Blood Drive like Tyler Clippard or lending a hand at Nats Green-Up day like Doug Slaten and Collin Balester, or throwing a “A Night at the Park” to benefit Multiple Sclerosis research like Ryan Zimmerman. These are caring people who want to give back to their community for being given the chance to play the game they love everyday.
- 4 Words – listen to Bob Lemon.
- Hall of Famer Bob Lemon once said, “Baseball was made for kids. Grown ups only screw it up.”
- Here’s an idea: Quit going to the game as an adult and channel your inner-kid. Have a little fun with it. Keep score, ask questions, get involved. Root, root, root for the home team, for if they don’t win it’s a shame. And it’s 1-2-3 strikes they’re out but at least you went to the ballgame – right? Right.