Thursday October 17, 2019
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- Only if you are a fan - short for "fanatic" - of a team can you understand the frustration and grief that attend to that team coming oh-so-close but falling short.
- Doesn't matter what sport, or what level: College football or basketball, soccer, hockey, NBA, NFL, or major league baseball.
- Here in Our Nation's Capital, we have all the major sports. The NFL Redskins have been the darlings of the media and the fans for, literally, generations. Now, they've been so dreadful for so long that in a recent home game against the New England Patriots there appeared to be at least as many Patriot fans in the stands as Redskins backers.
- A couple of years ago, hockey finally came into its own when the local Washington Capitals marched through the tournament. The town was awash in red placards reading "ALL CAPS" though the finals and when the Caps finally won a championship the city went nuts.
- In the 1977-78 season the unfortunately named Washington Bullets (nee Baltimore Bullets) won the NBA championship, as feat not repeated since.
- That left Major League Baseball without a championship in the living memory of almost anyone having last won a World Series in 1924 - 95 years ago.
- For most of their history the Washington, DC baseball team was named either the Senators or the Nationals (some years both) and were an American League team. And they were awful.
- That led to the common jibe about Washington, DC: "First in war. First in peace. Last in the American League."
- Washington didn't even have a Major League team for over 30 years until Major League Baseball took control of the Montreal Expos, moved them to RFK Stadium in D.C. and, because the team was owned by, essentially, the other owners, left to languish until a local group led by billionaire developer Ted Lerner and his family won the rights to the team.
- The Lad, Reed, and I immediately bought season tickets which we had for that inaugural season and the two following. The third year of that run was the Nationals' first in their new stadium along South Capitol Street.
- By that time I was covering the team for the mighty Alexandria Times (a weekly newspaper), and Reed had decamped for the west coast, so we didn't renew the season tix.
- But we suffered along with all the other local fans.
- After a dismal start, the Nationals turned into a very good team. They won the National League East titles - and the right to play for the National League pennant - in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017.
- They lost in the first round, at home, in every one of those playoff series.
- In one series the Nats led in the deciding game, to the ninth inning, with two outs, and two strikes against the St. Louis Cardinals and found a way to lose the game, set, and match.
- Cursed, we were.
- On this past Tuesday night, leading those same St. Louis Cardinals three games to none, the Nationals broke on top with seven - SEVEN - runs in the bottom of the first.
- The Nats would clinch their first trip to the World Series with a win.
- Nearly 44,000 fans cheered like crazy, but those of us who have spent time kicking the back garden dirt in disappointment over the past 15 years still had that feeling of impending doom.
- Those seven runs were all the Nats would score in the game. The Cards chipped away until the score was 7-4. In baseball parlance that means put two men on base and the tying run is at the plate where a homer wipes out the lead.
- Only once in all of baseball history has a team come back from trailing three games to nil in a seven game set and won four straight to claim a series - the 2004 Boston Red Sox over the New York Yankees.
- In fact, only five times in 33 series where one team jumped out to a 3-0 lead has the trailing team avoided a sweep.
- Make that five times in 34 series, because in the end, the Nats held on to win the game and the pennant Tuesday night.
- We have to wait to see who the Nats will be playing in the World Series. The Yankees and the Houston Astros are playing one another for the right to face the Nationals starting next Tuesday (weather permitting).
- We might win the World Series and we might not. I have 5,780 years of genetics whispering in my ear: "Maybe your glass isn't really half full. Maybe you just have a smaller glass than everyone else."
- But, this past Tuesday night the Washington Nationals cleared a hurdle over which they had tripped four times previously: They are the champions of the National League.
- They won the pennant.
- On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A brutal recounting of that 2012 loss to the Cards, and to an interesting discussion about teams coming back from 3-0 deficit.
- The Mullfoto is a panoramic view of Nats Park Tuesday night and all the fans who didn't care, at least for three hours, how well Elizabeth Warren did against the 11 other debaters.
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