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Think Nats Fans Aren’t “Real” Fans? You’re Wrong

Washington Nationals fans celebrate after Game 4 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Look at all of us fair-weather Johnny-come-latelies enjoying an unexpectedly great moment in our town. Let’s mock us.

Get ready to hear this a lot: Fans of the Washington Nationals aren’t “real” fans. The team is too young, the population is too transient. You just started paying attention during the playoffs? Fandom means suffering, preferably over several decades! It’s not about being…thrilled!

Cardinals fans consider themselves The Best Fans in the Game. Here is their reward for their moral superiority:

Let’s dispatch with the idea that the Nats haven’t been here long enough to be a legit source of regional pride. If you’re 30, this team has been here for almost half your life. The Yankees had played in New York for about the same amount of time when they signed Babe Ruth. Were the people who flocked to the Polo Grounds to see his home runs poseurs?

What is a real fan, anyway? If you really love a team, you know deep down that your fandom is deeply stupid. Zillionaire owners move millionaire athletes around the country like Risk tokens. You loved Bryce Harper in 2016, and now you mock him. True fandom means being known as “long-suffering,” which is not actually a good thing to be known for. (And if suffering is the key to enlightenment, please consider the Nats’ history of heartbreak or that anyone who grew up around Washington and loved baseball faced decades of forcing themselves to care about the Orioles—a great team from a great city who kindly put up with us for a long time and were never truly ours. Also their owner tried really hard to keep the Nats from coming here, and I hope he is having a terrible day.)

True fandom means being in a lousy relationship with a group of rich people who view you as an ATM. True fandom is what keeps the Redskins happy and solvent and playing in a league where they’re a perpetually exploding stink bomb. Nowadays true fandom means using your PTO and hard-earned money to travel great distances for which your reward is time at FedExField, one of the worst places on an already terrible planet.

Life is hard enough without placing yourself at the mercy of misery that’s completely beyond your control. Getting in when the getting’s good is just fine. If you have time to watch 486 hours of regular-season baseball every year, hey, that’s…great, but does that mean those of us who don’t should get popped by the authenticity police when we wander down to the ballpark? Learning to love a baseball team isn’t exactly like splitting the atom—you don’t need to spend years boning up! Here’s an explainer of the “Baby Shark” thing. You’re smart enough to pick up the rest.

Look, this has been a rough few years for those of us who live around DC. Bright spots in our daily lives are rare. Even “fair-weather” is a bogus charge–the weather here sucks for most of the year! But sports–DC sports, of all things!—are finally a hissing pressure valve. We have a champion basketball team! We won the Stanley Cup! And now we’re going to the World Series! That should put a spring in your step no matter what happens next. Between the impeachment inquiry and the 2020 election, we’re entering what will undoubtedly be an even more trying time than the last couple years. You’ll hear “Washington” used as a pejorative in all kinds of contexts. It’s pretty nice to have it associated with winning.

I get it: You stuck with the Klangertown Decorative Cabbages through thick and thin, and compared with your self-inflicted life of sadness and disappointment, the joy that’s echoing all over the Washington area this morning is hollow. Ask yourself this: Would it be better if no one cared? Or better yet, ask your therapist: Why do you object to people being happy?

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.