The Fan In The Arena

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“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

These are the words of A. Bartlett Giamatti, from his classic essay “The Green Fields of the Mind,” which warrants a full read, whenever you are ready to digest the entirety of the end of the baseball season.

Even if you are not ready, though, not ready for baseball to come to such a sudden, screeching halt after riding an express train into October, do not run from it, do not abandon your feelings. Own this moment, as it is now an inescapable part of your team’s history, one that will, over time, earn you respect from fellow Nationals fans and opposing fans who have been through the same. It will make you stronger next year, and in the years after that. When the champagne comes again, it will taste sweeter.

The 2012 season was the beginning of an era for the Washington Nationals.

More so, remember the many other aspects of this season that will define it more than the final inning. In a season that began with modestly hopeful predictions, the 2012 Nationals won the most games in baseball. In the fever of the pennant race, that fact was reflected in home-field advantage, but some of its impact was no doubt overlooked in the moment.

As a young, hungry team and fan base, our time began on Opening Day and continued all summer long, as the Nationals held down first place longer than any other division winner, exceeding even the most optimistic of expectations. When the year began, Mike Rizzo explicitly stated that his goal this year was “to play meaningful games in September.” Instead, he and Davey Johnson guided the team into October.

The Nationals played, by far and away, the three most meaningful games in the history of the young franchise in Washington this week, and went toe-to-toe with the defending World Series champions in front of over 135,000 rabid, red-clothed fans. The city and the fan base showed a National audience that they have arrived, that baseball in Washington is a force to be reckoned with.

Fans ignited their NATITUDE well before this week, though, as crowds averaged over 30,000 per game for the first time since baseball returned to the Nation’s Capital in 2005. Nationals fans proudly took back the park in May during a pivotal series vs. the Phillies. And though the division rival fans to the north chirped mightily all season long, the Nationals came through on the field, wresting the division crown away from the five-time division champs.

In a season full of signature moments (which we will relive in more thorough detail throughout the coming weeks), the division clinch during the season’s final series may not have been the most dramatic, but it was certainly the most meaningful, representing a shift in the NL East balance of power.

Any opposing fan who believes this was a one-year fluke is, at best, blissfully oblivious to what has been built in Washington. With a roster overflowing with young talent just beginning to grow into itself, this is merely the end of chapter one, with many volumes remaining to be written in the coming years. So wear your Curly W’s proudly today and hold your heads up high throughout the winter. Baseball will spring anew again next year, and we will all be a year wiser, a year stronger, and ready to – in the words of Teddy Roosevelt – strive valiantly once again.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

31 Comments

This made me cry. Awesome article. A must read for any baseball fan.

This article made me cry. Very well written and a must read for any baseball fan.

Made me cry, too.

Thank you to everyone in the Nationals organization, from the players to the management to the folks who work at the stadium every night. This was an incredible year that all of us will always treasure and never forget. This summer will only be surpassed by the new heights the Nats will reach next season. Last night’s (or should I say this morning’s) outcome was truly heartbreaking and I feel horrible for all the guys on this team who gave their all heart and soul to this effort , with such character and with such fortitude every day, only to end up coming up an inning short. This year is just the beginning. I am very very proud to call myself a fan of the Nationals, the most talented, best run, classiest team in baseball. Guys, have a great winter and see you in Viera! Thank you!

Well, it wasn’t to be, not this year. I have never even watched baseball before, having been raised in East Lansing Michigan, where everything is football, but I finally found out what I have been missing. Thank you, Nationals, for showing me the ropes; I am far from a fairweather fan and will always love you.
Bright Blessings!

well this was our first time we can do it the next time NATITUDE!

please!! if you are all Nats fans (and why would any team want to be named after a bug???) where were all 40,000 of you during the 81 reg season games not counting the games w/ the phillies where most of the fans where in fact Phillies Fans not nats and why?? didn’t the ballpark fill up after the nats took the divison?? interesting question. and don’t forget Jayson Werth is very slow to start only 5 homers in reg season? didn’t he want to play this year? he had more than that in his last season w/ phiils

did you not read the article?? we averaged over 30,000 a night so shut up and go troll somewhere else. and because I went to 3 nats vs. phillies games in nats park this year I can clearly tell you that it was probably 80-20, nats fans and phillies fans so get your facts straight before you go making outrageous claims.

Why didn’t Jayson have more home runs? A) he missed 1/2 the season because he broke his wrist (an incident many klassy phillies plans cheered); B) when he came back, his wrist was still recovering and he was building up the strength to swing like that again; and C) he was embracing his role in the lead off spot focusing on getting on base, which he did exceptionally well at

Well Leandro – Werth likely would have had more homers had he not broken a wrist in early May, and I can say from the fact I attended over 40 games that the crowds were impressive and enthusiastic for the Nats this season. It seems as though you didn’t make it to a single game this year, or if you did you were supporting someone else.

I could not be prouder of the Nats if I tried. Congratulations to all of the players and the entire organization foe such a special season. I would also like to say to the Nats fans who were at the last three games, you were as terrific as the team. Watching the games here in Los Angeles gave my chills watching the true Nats fans support the team. Finally to Drew Storen, Please don’t be too hard on your self. You win as a team and you lose as a team. Thank you Drew for an outstanding year, don’t let one game over shadow how much you contributed to the team this past season. Can’t wait until next year.Thanks again Nats from a big fan in Los Angeles

Cardinals fans are classy too. You’re welcome.

Cardinal fan here. I was at all three games at Nats Park and want to mention how much I enjoyed the Park, your team, and the Nats fans in general. Very passionate. No one gloated in my face after Werth’s home run to win Game 4 (not sure I’ve ever heard a stadium get that loud), and no one gave me a hard time when I was walking out after the crazy Game 5. I can’t imagine fans being that gracious in any other ballpark, Busch included.

Sorry it didn’t work out for you guys this year but you have a very bright future. I hope to see you all win the entire thing very soon. Thanks for being greats hosts.

P.S. Oh, and the Morse “Take On Me” thing is awesome.

Nice post. Congratulation to the Cardinals, They proved why they are the defending world champs. Your joy is our pain

the only reason the stadium got that loud is because Mike Rizzo gave away free tickets on side walk outside the stadium with the promise of free parking, a free tee shirt (since they don’t have that many fans to buy them) and a free rally towel! if you want to hear a stadium “that loud” go to citizans bank park in Philly were on a bad day there are 41,000 fans in the ball park. My experience at nats park.. rude, obnoxious, inconsiderate, you got a good feeling because their 1500 fans like your team.

My experience with Phillies fans at Nats park: stumbling off the keg busses into the park at noon, guzzling beer all afternoon, swearing loudly in front of kids, telling inappropriate jokes in front of kids, including jokes about rape, taunting our players, cheering a broken wrist, and even making fun of our bat boy within ear shot of him. All things I have witnessed personally from Phillies fans since summer of 2011. Every other teams’ fans have been great in my experience.

You’re welcome! Great you enjoy it and get ready for next series with NATS. We gonna back stronger. ;-))

Card’s fans were gracious winners as well. As a fanatical Nats fan I appreciate that very much. There are other clubs especially one from the north who’s fans are very rude and obnoxious. Nationals will rise again in 2013 and they will be stronger and the fans will be louder.

It’s like we were a pitcher away from being WS contenders. Weird.

Love you, Nats. I’ll carefully pack my shirts and jerseys and bring them out again in time for next year! Nats, you rock!! We are all proud of you!

What they said. I’m a fanatic Northwestern Wildcats fan, which means I’ve grown accustomed to humiliating disappointment, but being at Nats Park on Friday night got me to witness a new record for agonizing, disbelieving, jaw-dropping heartbreak. Being able to see the Werth homer and then all of the homers from Friday replayed on video helps a bit. And, truly, it was a magical season. But what a shame that it had to end the way that it did. This is a fine collection of great men filled with character, especially Drew Storen. Next year they’ll be even tougher.

Sorry, I scam a reply because I wasn’t sure a did it correct. If someone can fix that. Thanks

This seasons the Nats performed better and went farther than anyone would have predicted a year ago. Lots and lots of milestones, including Teddy finally winning the race. LOVE this team. However I would like to voice my opinion about two things missing from the Nationals postseason: (1) Santangelo and Carpenter (–seriously, who wants to listen to anyone else narrate the games), and (2) more bunting. Really, it’s the POSTSEASON, you folks-who-are-in-charge-of-hanging-the-postseason-bunting. The bunting was skimpy to say the least.

That’s a good point. I noticed that myself. It didn’t really have the look or feel of a playoff ballpark.

It would be lovely if all comments could be polite on here … this is, after all, a Nats blog. If you aren’t a Nats fan, then don’t read it. I appreciate the kind comments from the Cardinal fans — it was a fantastic series; well-played and well-behaved.

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Great article!! I’ve been coming out to the park for years and this year has been amazing! It’s been great to see the DC area really embrace this team. I’m literally counting the days until opening day! And I would echo comments about the Cardinals fans. I was at all the NLDS games last week and they were great.

I was there at RFK stadium when the Nats began that first season where it looked like they might take the National League East (at least until July). I was there rooting them on with Frank Robinson, and Manny Acta, and Jim Riggleman, and fewer and fewer fans coming to the games. I was there through the debacle of Jim Bowden’s tenure and 100 game losing seasons and even fewer fans in attendance at the brand new Nationals Park. I was there when they signed Ryan Zimmerman as the Face of the Nationals. I was there six times this season, including at the first home playoff game where Teddy finally won. I was supposed to be there this past Monday to watch the second game of the NLCS, but unfortunately that was not be. Because of this marvelous, ridiculously talented, sometimes maddening, always entertaining group of young men, I’ve fallen absolutely in love with the game. I can’t predict what the future will hold for the Nationals, but what I do know, whatever happens, I will be there rooting for my team, my beloved Nats. Every step of the way. Thank you guys and Davey and Mike and the Lerners for giving this gift to me and to the thousands of baseball fans here in Washington. GO NATS!

Brilliant, just brilliant.

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