The unofficial home of "Neil and the Rushmore Four"!

Image Hosted by

Current Weather & Forecast (plan your gameday!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rumors of this blog's demise are premature, and yet...

Those of you who might have read this blog in 2007 might have noticed that it has barely changed since September of last year. For reasons too numerous to list, that has, indeed, been the case. Suffice it to say that real life has taken precedence over online writings and ramblings. This blog is a hobby, not my job. My actual life has demanded far more of my time than I have been able to find, and this blog became a regrettable casualty of that.

What that means is, for me to be able to write a Nationals blog with any relevancy, I need to re-tool it a bit. Whereas last season, it was a daily blog (more or less), it will now likely become a weekly roundup. I'll try to write more often as time allows, though.

There will be other changes as well. With the regrettable departure of one of my very favorite Washington Nationals, the erstwhile New York Met Ryan Church, all of the fun has gone out of the idea of my "Ryan report". Sure, we still have Zimmerman and Austin Ryan Kearns, and Joel Ryan Hanrahan, but the gimmick is played out. You need at least four to make it any fun at all, and with Ryan Wagner on the D/L and Langerhans nowhere to be found, it's just not going to work this season, unless Jim Bowden makes some highly coincidental moves (Ryan Braun from the Brewers, anyone?)

Another thing that has changed the fun of blogging for me has been the new ballpark.
Oh, it's beautiful, it's positively gorgeous. I love it! I finally feel that the Nats are being treated like a major league team, and I will no longer have to listen to visiting Phillies fans, or Orioles fans, or any number of other teams fans, decry the terrible old conditions of R.F.K. Stadium. Now, I can puff out my chest with some sense of pride, we have the newest and best baseball park in the country. Okay, sure, it isn't in the top ten, but the Post's Thomas Boswell put it very nicely in his recent online chat:

"As I've written, the park is a beauty. No, not in the top seven, which are almost untouchable __Fenway, Wrigley, Yanks, Dodgers, Giants, Pirates, O's. But right in the battle with the next seven really wonderful parks in (no order) Seattle, San Diego, St. Louis, Colorado, Cleveland and Philadelphia. If the Nats get the parking right and the neighborhood gets built up and the waterfront is developed, there's a chance for Washington to get into the Top 10 in a few years. Certainly the top dozen. That's high praise in an era when (within three years) there will be 22 new parks opened since '91, plus Fenway, Wrigley, Dodgers Stadium and the still-elegant Royals Stadium. The Golden Age of Ballparks. And Washington is now right in the middle of it." (Thomas Boswell, Washington Post online chat, April 18, 2008)

I love the layout in terms of accessibility, the wide concourses, the extensive food options, the big new Team Store, that gorgeous scoreboard..As Dmitri Young said, "What's not to love?"
So what about the new ballpark has changed the experience for me? It isolates me a lot more from the folks who bring us baseball 81 times per season: the front-office personnel, the broadcasters, some of the ushers and other stadium workers. Everyone is spread out now, and compartmentalized. Remember Ellie? She's still there, but for me to see her, I have to wait for an elevator and take it up several floors. Susan, one of my favorite ushers, is now in either the Diamond Club or the President's Club, I can't just stroll by her section before the game and say hello. Also, the design of the seating area precludes quick visits to other sections. Unlike R.F.K., there is no horizontal movement between sections in the lower seating area except through the seats, so this greatly hampers moving around the lower seating area quickly and easily. It is, therefore, more difficult to visit friends in other sections.

Also, because most of us fans appear to be taking Metro to the ballpark, I haven't been running into so many friends that I used to see while coming or going from R.F.K.'s Lot #8. It's tough to just "hang out" around there after a game. I'm learning and experiencing for myself that Metro-fans don't fool around either before or after the games, there seems to be a real purposefulness and focus to getting to and from the ballpark. No one seems to want to linger around outside yet. Perhaps due to the cold weather, no one has so far, and there isn't as much development to distract fans on foot, no restaurants or bars. Hopefully, this will change for the better.

The upshot of all of that is, I don't have as many interesting encounters with other people as I'd grown accustomed to having at old R.F.K. over the past 3 seasons. Sure, it's early still, but I'm not optimistic.

Most unexpectedly, and the part that I hate to mention because of the terrible reflection upon my own character as a fan, the final thing that has kept me from blogging sooner is..... this terrible losing streak. For a while there, I thought that the 2008 Nats were going to challenge the 1988 (was it?) Orioles, who began their season 0-22 (correct me if I'm wrong about that, I just don't feel like researching it.) It was a long time ago, but I still remember the Sports Illustrated cover with Oriole Billy Ripken with his forehead resting on the butt of a bat, looking as dejected as any athlete ever has after losing. As of tonight, the 2008 Nats have a worse record than the 2007 Nats who were widely projected before the season began to have an historically bad season, challenging the inaugural season of the New York Mets for 120+ losses.
This 2008 squad was supposed to be better than last year's. Maybe not NL East champions, but right in the thick of things, with a solid chance at .500 or better. Our alleged hot-bats are stone cold, and there are sloppy mistakes being made.

I'm not turning on the team in any way, shape or form, far from it. It's still early, and for me, even bad baseball is better than no baseball at all. But things are very different now, mostly for the better, but some definitely for the worse. I need to find a way to express what it is to be a Nats fan in 2008 in our spanking-new ballpark. I just hope I find a way to do it that you, my readers, will find compelling.

No comments:

Song of the moment - Celebrating the longest homestand of the season

Survey of the Moment