The Agony of Being a Fan (When your team loses)

Washington Baseball fansAmericans are huge sports fans. We take great delight in watching football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis, track and field, ice skating, skiing, gymnastics and horse racing. If I missed any sports I apologize.

But if you’re a fan and your team loses instead of the excitement of victory you have the agony of defeat. Take being a baseball fan as an example.

Any really good fan follows their team from the opening of Spring Training in February. They go through the exhibition season and finally in early April it’s Opening Day.

The real fan will either watch the games on television, listen to them on the radio or attend games in person. The real fan lives or dies with the ups and downs of their team.

Take the Washington Nationals, for example. I’ve been a Washington Nationals fan ever since they moved from Montreal. At first they existed on a shoestring because they were owned by Major League Baseball.

You know that the other 31 teams didn’t want them to succeed since they were competing with them. There wasn’t enough money to sign any free agents because Major League Baseball wouldn’t allow them to spend anything.

Then the Lerner family won the team in a bidding war. Family patriarch Ted Turner was a life-long Washingtonian. He had watched the Senators (you remember them: First in War, first in peace and last in the American League) as a kid. He had worked as a vendor.

Then the Senators departed for greener pastures and for 33 years Washingtonians were without the National Pastime in the Nation’s Capital. (As a Dodgers fan as a child I can sympathize with the folks in Washington.)

Finally, the Nation’s Capital had a team with deep-pockets ownership. After a huge battle they built a beautiful stadium that was paid for by the taxpayers. However, when the Lerner’s saw the plans they ponied up about $50 million for fan amenities.

At the same time they started to build a championship-caliber team. After a succession of last place finishes General Manager Mike Rizzo was able to draft the very best amateur players available.

Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon became Nats over the course of the last decade.

This spring it appeared that they were ready to move up to the World Series. The team signed the incomparable Max Scherzer for a stupendous $210 million over seven years (paid out over 14 years).

This was it. Next stop was the World Championship. Instead, as Marlon Brando said in ‘On the Waterfront”, we got a one-way ticket to Palookaville. From division winner in 2014 with 96 victories we came in a distant second to the insufferable New York Mets.

So, we’re now on the outside looking in. I don’t know about all of the other disappointed fans but it’s too painful for me to watch the playoffs. Forget the fact that I hate the Mets and the Cubs. I simply can’t look.

The fallout from the disappointing seasons goes on. Manager Matt Williams was fired right after the end of the season. He overworked the bullpen and didn’t see the urgency as the season wound down.

We probably going to be missing at least five front-line players next season. Some will leave for greener pastures. Some will be asked to leave by not being offered new contracts. That’s the modern game of baseball.

So this is the winter of our discontent according to Shakespeare. We’ll have to wait at least four months until Spring Training begins and the cycle starts again. As they used to say in Brooklyn: Wait until next year.

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