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The Nats' unluckiest fan sees a win

You remember Stephen Krupin, right? He's the Nats fan who went to 19 home games last season, and saw 19 losses, meaning the Nats actually had a winning home record when he stayed away. His cousin, a Ph.D. economist and baseball stat geek, calculated the odds of this happening for a Nats fan last season at 1 in 131,204.

After Krupin e-mailed me his tale of woe in October, the story went national. Sports Illustrated ran a column by Phil Taylor, which labeled Krupin "The Unluckiest Fan in America." NPR's All Things Considered interviewed Krupin, with Robert Siegel's hearty yet sympathetic laugh providing a soundtrack. The Wall Street Journal provided various other ways to calculate the odds of Krupin's accomplishment, agreeing that the 1 in 131,204 stat was a reasonable estimate. The Nats themselves got in touch with him, offering him free seats to a game and the chance to see batting practice from the field.

So Krupin was now famous, linked to one of the worst seasons in D.C. baseball history. And then this season began. He went to Opening Day. Phillies fans were everywhere. And the Nationals got killed. He was up to 20 straight losses.

Krupin -- a 28-year old speechwriter -- has had season tickets with his dad since 2005, but it was a busy first few weeks of the season. Work was hectic, and his sister had a baby, and the Nats were on the road a lot. So he didn't return to Nats Park until last Thursday night. When, lo and behold, Scott Olsen was working on a no-hitter through seven-plus.

The Krupins, of course, couldn't discuss what was going on for fear of jinxing it, but Stephen was thinking to himself what better way to stab the streak through the heart than with a Scott Olsen no-hitter against the Braves, who seemed to figure in a disproportionate number of the 2009 losses.

Then came Olsen's eighth inning. The wheels didn't just come off, they transformed into t-shirt guns of pure disaster, firing off exploding hot dogs and misspelled jersey-shirts in all directions. There was a single, then a fielder's choice and a throwing error, then another single to load the bases with one out. Olsen departed to a standing ovation, and Krupin turned to his dad.

"Maybe it is me," he said. "I wasn't joking. I had no doubt they were going to lose. I was pretty convinced. I had gotten my hopes up, flirted with ending the streak, and it would end in this dramatic, heartbreaking fashion. Just more of the same."

Indeed, after Olsen's departure, the Braves scored twice, and put the go-ahead run on third thanks to yet another throwing error. In 2009, this would have been a sure loss, followed by a 21st consecutive rendition of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" as Krupin exited the stadium.

But this isn't 2009 any more. Tyler Clippard got a double-play ball. The Braves didn't score in their final half-inning. And Willie Harris ended things with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth, the Nats' first walk-off win of the season. It was also the first win Krupin had seen in person since the Bush Administration.

"The Streak Is Over!" his father yelled in exultation. Since this was a random Thursday game in the first week of May, everyone sitting around them just stared at the duo. You don't want to read too much into one bad-luck charm finally seeing a win, but it did seem emblematic, the way the team fought back from near-catastrophe and left to cheers.

"It felt like kind of an exorcism," Krupin told me. "After suffering through the Redskins season, this heartbreak with the Capitals collapse, to finally be able to see your team win -- even if it's a meaningless win in the first week of May -- it felt nice. It was a small moral victory."

"That's why you go back to the park every day," he added.

And so Krupin went back to the park last Friday, trying to make it two straight. The Nats led going into the seventh, but some of last year's hobgoblins showed up unannounced -- spotty relieving, another error, and a late-inning loss. Krupin left to the strains of "Three Little Birds." He's now 1 for his last 22. He's still optimistic, though.

"Unlike last year, I really feel like every time I go to the park, they have a good chance of winning," he said.

By Dan Steinberg  |  May 10, 2010; 1:36 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Its about the fan experience: the high price of the ticket, low quality and excessive price of the concessions, the less than average experience at the Park...when its not enough to drive someone to want to attend as their first choice, they move on to other options to spend their dollar...not real complicated.

Posted by: outrbnksm | May 10, 2010 1:42 PM

High prices? Low quality? As compared to what? The cost of attending a Nats game, from the latest stats that I've seen, is somewhere in the middle of the pack.

The concessions are about as good as those that I've experienced at other stadia (not a high bar to clear, to be sure, but no one expects haute cuisine at these places), and comparably over-priced, so I'm not sure what you're talking about here. I think that the "fan experience" thing has more to do with winning than any other single thing, and if the team continues to do that, more people will come.

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 10, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Lets try that link again.

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 10, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

@rbpalmer, outrbnksm

Totally agree. Not to split hairs here, but you can go to a game and buy a ticket at the box office for as little as $5 if you get there early enough. Find me a better deal in town for 3+ hours of entertainment.

Posted by: MyOpinionIs | May 10, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

(Actually commenting on the bog post) Gee, and I was complaining about my 0-6 record this season! For a while there the Nats had been perfect in home games in 2010 that I didn't attend. I finally broke my streak yesterday. Good to know that we are not bad luck charms (although, it should be noted, my mother-in-law was in my normal seat and I was a row ahead.)

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | May 10, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I enjoy keep track of stats in games ive attended. I have every single ticket stub from every Nats game since they returned in 2005 to DC. They arent a 500 team in games ive attended but wow to witness 20 losses in a row is quite an amazing feat. Someone could intentionally hand pick certain games and matchups and the odds of seeing your team win or lose even 10 in a row isnt very good. Amazing and very interesting story. Go Nats!!

Posted by: dc_sports_md_va | May 10, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

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