Often times when the Washington Nationals are out of town I will find another place to watch baseball, and one of the ways to do that is to enjoy an evening up in Baltimore watching the Orioles play ball. It is a different brand of baseball and a different atmosphere. It is this atmosphere I noticed more than anything. Especially after the Orioles had won the game and strengthen their grip on first in the AL East. While leaving the stadium I couldn’t help but notice how happy the fans were. One young man in a black collard shirt kept yelling about, “The first place O’s,” while in the distance I could hear other such screams of elation.
This entire display of happiness and outburst of emotion was foreign to me. One week prior I had been leaving the home stadium of the Washington Nationals after they beat their chief rival in the division, the Philadelphia Phillies, and while there was some happiness over winning the game the pure elation that the Orioles fans had could not be found. The Orioles fans were in a state of euphoria over being in first place whereas the Nationals fans were in a state of disbelief.
That might speak to a difference in culture between the two cities. The Washington sports fan is afraid to let themselves be happy because the cliff’s edge might appear at any moment. Every successful step is simply one more step closer to their last. The Baltimore sports fans has already fallen off the cliff when they lost a football team in the middle of the night and when Jeffry Maier reached over the wall in Yankee Stadium to turn an out into a homerun.
It has been a long time since Washington sports fans have truly known success, but it has been even longer since they have known the true heartbreak of sports. I am not a psychologist so my trying to analyze people isn’t the best use of my time, but perhaps it does have something to do with nothing have truly gone wrong in the last few years. The worst tragedy the Washington Nationals have recently suffered have been back to back 100 loss seasons, and that led to the team ending up with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
That type of heartbreak has nothing on Sid Bream, Jeffrey Maier, or Steve Bartman. The Washington Nationals fan is still afraid of the cliff’s edge because it is still there while most other fan bases have been around long enough to have fallen off of it, dusted themselves off, and climbed back to the top. So while the Orioles fans up in Baltimore laugh and scream in celebration while their team plays above expectations the Washington Nationals fans walk solemn and scared waiting for the tragedy of baseball to leap out and destroy all hope.
That might be a small part of it but not all of it either. Offense in baseball effects a fan base’s mode more than anything else. The Nationals don’t have much offense and it is starting to seem that every other day a new player is getting injured. The Orioles on the other hand have an entire line-up with guys having either career years or playing well over their heads. It is obviously better to win because everything is going right instead of winning in spite of a lot of things going wrong.
The Nationals have now slipped to 2nd in the NL East, but this weekend when the Orioles play the Nats in Washington could be even more fun if they can reclaim first and the Orioles maintain it. Of course the weekend would be a true success if the Nats can be the reason the Orioles are no longer in first when it is all over.