Why must I defend my loyalty?

I cannot for the life of me figure out why the [BLEEP] people ask me why I am a Nationals fan and why I continue to support a team that has lost over 100 games two years in a row. Why? Because they are my home team, that’s why.

Before the Expos moved to Washington, I was a Yankees fan. (I still am.) I was perfectly content with rooting solely for the Yankees. I became a Yankees fan when Mike Mussina first signed with the Yankees back in November of 2000 (and I did so only because Moose came to New York, not because of their postseason success). At that time, I sure as hell didn’t expect the Expos to move to Washington 4 years later. Once that happened, I didn’t expect to take to the team the way I did. The strength of my affection and loyalty to the Nationals actually came as a bit of a surprise to me. I fully expected the Yankees to remain my number one team, even after Mike Mussina retired. I didn’t expect the Nats to creep into my heart and take hold of it the way they have. But seeing “Washington” — my hometown — on the road jerseys filled me with pride. Rooting for the Yankees doesn’t feel the same to me as rooting for the Nationals, because I have no emotional connection to New York, just as I had no emotional connection to Baltimore when Mussina played for the Orioles.

In addition to the pride and excitement of having have home team, there are a variety of things that got me hooked on the Nationals…such as being able to jump on the subway (instead of a MARC or Amtrak train or Greyhound bus) to go to a game…and following the progress of the Nationals Park construction via web cam…and watching the development of talented young players like Ryan Zimmerman and John Lannan. Am I upset and disappointed and frustrated and infuriated by the team’s performances in 2008 and 2009? Of course I am. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on them until they actually start winning. I can’t do that…I just can’t. Why? It’s called “loyalty”…a concept that fair weather and/or bandwagon fans obviously can’t grasp.

It’s easy to root for a winning team. Just ask the Washington Capitals fans who couldn’t have cared less about the team until Alex Ovechkin arrived and they started winning. Just ask the Red Sox fans in the DC area (and Baltimore too, for that matter) who seemed to crawl out of the woodwork after 2004. Just ask the Yankees fans who jumped on the bandwagon during the “dynasty” years, jumped off after the Yankees didn’t get to the postseason last year, and jumped back on this year. (Contrary to popular belief among many Yankees haters, not all Yankee fans are bandwagon fans…but a few of them are.) Just ask the people who never, ever give any indication that they root for their hometown/home state teams until those teams are in the playoffs, and then those folks are suddenly big fans. And just ask the Nationals fans who ranted on message boards and in blogs this season about how they were going to “boycott” the team until it improves (i.e., starts winning on a regular basis).

I’ve watched countless Nats losses on TV, and sat through far too many Nats losses at Nationals Park, some of which included 1 or 2 hour (or longer) rain delays. I’ve agonized over all of those losses. And yet, I not only renewed my season tickets for 2010, but I also upgraded my seats. I happily wear my Nationals caps and t-shirts and jerseys — I wore a Nats cap on my trip to Citi Field last month, for the Nationals/Mets game. I still have my Vinny Castilla t-shirt, and I think I still have my Brad Wilkerson t-shirt, both from 2005. When the Nationals finally start winning regularly, and the bandwagon begins to fill up with fair weather fans wearing their Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg shirts and jerseys, I will pull out those old, worn out shirts from 2005 as proof that I’ve stuck by my team since the beginning, through thick and thin.

As I said before, it’s easy to root for a winner. The real test of being a true fan is sticking with your team when times are tough. I pass that test with flying colors!


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