Lessons for the Nationals From a Cubs Fan

This time last week my Cubbies were in Washington – and yes I went!  Two of four games.  Go ahead, mock me for them losing three out of four – I claimed Thursday night was the night!  And I was right!  (I swear I didn’t mean for that to rhyme.)

The Nationals have been playing some amazing baseball – just when you start to lose interest in a game they get fired up, turn it around and run away with it.  It may be the 9th inning with two outs, but they turn it around!  Washington, much like Chicago is used to disappointment from sports teams.  There are people that don’t know there is a professional basketball team here (I was one of them at first), football has always been a touchy subject, and unlike Chicago – this year is never expected to be the year.  It’s been a very exciting few months watching the Nats claw their way to .500 and (just barely) above.  To take a break from rooting for them to root for the Cubs when they played each other was much more difficult than I’d expected. The Cubs have not has a hot streak yet this year.  You come in figuring it won’t be pretty, but a true Cubs fan roots anyways.

On the 4th of July I sat there and watch and the Cubs made an error in the first inning, watched things go wrong I haven’t seen happen since little league, and kept believing.  They pulled it together, scored some runs, and fired up the Nats to play harder.  In the end it came down to a tie, so we cooked in the muggy heat for another inning.  And yes, the Nats pulled it off.  I watched the next two games on TV, and couldn’t help but caught up in some great plays by the Nationals, and wonder what was happening to the Cubs.  But I still had faith.

At the final game of the series when the Cubs were down 8-0, I started to wonder if it was over.  Would the Nats really sweet the Cubs?  I loved it when they did it to the Cardinals, but this would be too much.  The Cubs beat the Yankees a month ago!  And sure enough – the Nats turned into the team we all love to hate at some point in the summer – and blew their 8 run lead.  The Cubs won by one run.

It’s hard to be a fan of a new team that spends so much time struggling.  It can be hard to hear the smack talk from fans of other teams.  Being a Cubs fan all my life, I’m used to it.  So being a Nats fan just came easy.  I’ll say at the end of the season, next we’ll do it.  Friends will look at me like I’m crazy.  And I’m a little.  Because when it comes down to it, next year is for the Cubs, and at some point the Nats will have to lose.

Just like in politics you give respect for the office, even when you don’t agree with the person elected to it.  You show respect for the club – the team name, even if you don’t like how the players are getting the job done, or how management is handling the team.

I sat down a couple weeks ago to write about Jim Riggleman leaving the Nats and express my feelings about how the front office is operating.  I had trouble putting together a coherent take on the subject.  Giving someone a job and then not actually supporting them in that position seems crazy, and would never appeal to me personally.  I was shocked when I heard the news.  I heard Nats fans talking about no longer attending games, not buying tickets, not wearing their Nats gear, etc.

Every team has changes, from players to managers to owners.  There will be changes along the way.  You can’t give up on your team because one part of that isn’t working the way you want.  It’s not like that in life.  While Mike Rizzo thinks Washington fans blame Riggleman, the truth is – most of us are blaming Rizzo.  That still doesn’t mean we stop being fans of the game or the team.  Nationals fans: keep pulling for the team, cause you never know when they’ll surprise you! Need I remind you of the 2003 Cubs?

*Photo: taken by author at National Park, July 4, 2011, Chicago Cubs v. Washington Nationals

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