Do the Nats deserve your scorn?

Originally Published: July 10, 2009
By Patrick Hruby & Toby Mergler | Page 2 Illustration

What do you do with teams that are just plain horrible?

Page 2 takes that problem into our labs and dissects the Washington Nationals.

Love them or laugh at them, but before you make your decision see what our writers have to say:

Love those Nats

If you weren't born in New York or New England, chances are pretty good that eventually you'll watch your local baseball team finish in last place. You'll invest copious amounts of time root, root, rooting for the home team, and each loss is more than just a shame. When defeat occurs so routinely, it's an excruciating experience that can cause you to question everything from the amount of rosin your team's closer uses to whether God is actually a benign being. (If he's good, how can he allow cruelty like Tuesday night's loss to exist? They somehow lost to a pitcher who never even threw a pitch.)

While it's never fun to support a loser in any sport, having your team bomb a season is particularly painful in baseball, as it takes roughly 500 hours to watch every game, a commitment equivalent to three months of full-time work. Sports are supposed to be an escape from things like work -- so who wants to leave a cubicle to head directly to what has turned into a second job? Especially a job akin to testing the strength of athletic cups by getting kicked repeatedly in the groin.

Mix in a draft process that doesn't really give fans much to look forward to compared to other sports, and it's a recipe for a spoiled summer. The prospects drafted are virtually unknown to the general public, are usually 2-3 years away from contributing, may never sign with the team at all (if this wasn't a family website, here is where a 37-letter word to describe Scott Boras would appear) and sport an overall success rate bleaker than M. Night Shyamalan's. The only thing I'm now more certain of than the Nats' losing their next game is that one day my kids will be telling a therapist that Daddy drank because Julian Tavarez couldn't get anyone out.

But above all else, I'll tell you what makes being a Nats fan truly unbearable. It's not the losses, or the errors, or the fact that we have a bullpen full of worse firemen than Jim Carrey's Fire Marshall Bill. It's the fact that I seemingly can't read a column, blog or even a cartoon that doesn't use the Nats as a cheap punch line. And I'm sick of it.

Yes, Washington is a really bad team, and yes, they are having an extraordinarily poor season, but they do not deserve the amount of ridicule being heaped upon them by the national media.
-- Toby Mergler

• Read Toby's full article here

Swat the Nats away

When it comes to mockery, deserving has nothing to do with it.

Sports are inherently unfair (the Los Angeles Lakers landing Pau Gasol for three magic beans; the financially charmed existence of the New York Yankees). Life is unfair, too (massive bailouts for the very companies whose reckless decision-making caused the financial crisis; the rise of Seacrest). And mockery? Mockery is totally, gratuitously, mercilessly unfair. It's Tina Fey eviscerating Sarah Palin, Muhammad Ali cutting Joe Frazier to the bone, Nelson from "The Simpsons" dropping a caustic ha ha. In every case, it's mean and bullying and ungracious and uncalled for. Otherwise it wouldn't be mockery. It would be a punch line in Reader's Digest. And as someone who has spent a large portion of my adult sentient life sneering at anything and everything not somehow related to juvenile leukemia research, let me offer a pertinent observation:

A mocking opportunity like the Nationals doesn't come along every day.
-- Patrick Hruby

• Read Patrick's full article here