The Damaged Psyche of a Semi-Fan

Scott Watson

In Thomas Boswell's most recent online chat, he said: "I think, in stock market terms, this is "the bottom," or close to it. This winter, some semi-fans may not renew their tickets at Nats Park. Then, perhaps, more of the best seats in the house__and within various sections__ will be returned to their rightful owners."

I'm one of those "semi-fans" who is unlikely to renew.

But Bos had better take care to understand the varied ways in which we "semi-fans" may manifest ourselves. By "semi-fan," Bos has to include a semi-fan whose car is adorned with more Nats insignia than Jim Bowden's Segway. A semi-fan who has a running tab at the Team Store. A semi-fan who, along with 8,999 other idiots, sits in front of his television watching away games while the Nats flail. A semi-fan who knows Robert Fick's shoe size, Vinnie Castilla's grandmother's maiden name and Chad Cordero's stylist. A semi-fan idiot who can spot Elijah Dukes' parole officer from a hundred yards. And a semi-fan who scratches his mellifluous singing voice by screaming from his perch in Section 241, game after game after game.

That kind of semi-fan.

But one who will, as Bos predicts, decline to renew his season tickets this winter. Not for the reasons you might suspect, though. After my griping here at Grounds Crew, it would be reasonable to infer that I can't stand Nationals Shopping Mall . . . excuse me, "Nationals Park." But surprisingly, this isn't a rant about the ownership group, or mean ushers, or slow concession lines. The stadium is emerging from its infancy into a pretty quickly-realized adolescence with lots of things going for it. Transportation to the stadium is good. I don't hate it at all. And I bet that for someone going to one or two games a year, it sparkles and shines and is a fantastic experience (well, except for the on-field performance).

But I'm not cut out for all of those games. The magic - the luster - isn't there when I'm a season-ticket holder. Our plan is only split two ways, so I am "obligated" to go out to the park a lot. And there's the problem.

Waiting 30 years for a team, I just assumed that I'm a "season-ticket-holder" type of guy. I think baseball is the perfect spectator sport - so why wouldn't I want to spectate? Accordingly, throughout the '80s and '90s, I plunked down my "season ticket deposit" account into a local bank every time a team teased us with the prospects of moving here. By the time MLB deigned to dump the lowly Expos here, I set my sights on soaking up every home game that I could once they opened the new stadium.

I waited 'til the new park got built before fully committing. As a partial-plan holder at RFK -- in excellent, underpriced upper-level seats -- I found every game to be an event, and every game felt like a bargain. With only 30 games on the agenda, I could decide to go to any of the other 61 games, drop a sawbuck and grab an outfield seat. And why not? I was getting in for less than the price of a hot dog. Or I could splurge and sit near Carville and Will and Russert, and enjoy being a high roller. And I assumed my experience would only get better once the team moved, and I fully committed. You know, once I stopped being a Semi-Fan.

So I took the plunge, and now I'm sitting through game after game in good seats that are in NO WAY special. They're not a great view of the game. They're not an excellent value (far from it!). They're not "bleacher-bum-like." They're just . . . there. Game after game after game.

I know that it's not about the seats. But who would have imagined that the game would be a chore? It is. I'm sure that the team's .375 winning percentage doesn't help -- I *know* that having the batboy hitting cleanup on some nights hasn't helped me get excited. A lousy team, and a stadium with growing pains, may not make for the best baseball experience. But it's still major league baseball, they're still "My Nats," and the stadium has turned out just fine. So it's not their fault; it's mine.

I wonder if there is anyone else out there like me, shamefaced, but now facing the truth:

I'm a semi-fan.

By Scott Watson  |  July 18, 2008; 1:22 PM ET  | Category:  Scott Watson
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Comments

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Will you still blog even if you don't renew your season tickets?

Because I doubt that failing to attend the games will reduce your innate need to complain about all things relating to the Nats.

Posted by: confused easily | July 18, 2008 1:39 PM

Author! Author!

I'm in on a full-season plan as well, and I feel the same way...I don't plan to renew next year. The team stinks worse than the Waterfront fish markets, and before the holier-than-now types call me a "front runner," stop now before you hit the keyboard.

Transportation is ok now, but wait until they drop the free shuttle from RFK.

So, I'll go to a half-dozen or so games, check the weather, than check craigslist for a good price. And hey, if the team is 50-30 at the All Star break next year and tickets are few, it's my fault. But the supply and demand just isn't there and I don't think it will for the foreseeable future.

Maybe the Nats could come up with a Saturday plan or a Sunday plan, give us something other than pre-determined 20 and 40 game plans. I would easily do a Sunday plan right in 2009...but a 20 or 40 gamer? No way.

I like Watson, he's critical of the Nats and the whole operation and for others to say he's just a whiner is, as the say in baseball circles, "off-base." Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Annandale Annie | July 18, 2008 4:52 PM

Just because you are questioning the need to go to 40 games doesn't mean you're a semi-fan. If you know Dukes' parole officer, and Fick's shoe size, you a total nut, just like me... But that doesn't mean I need to go to half the games. The tv is great, and it's free!

Posted by: The Marshal | July 18, 2008 9:07 PM

Amen. I too see no need to "over-purchase" Nationals tickets any longer just to proclaim that I'm a season ticket holder. No, with so many other means of obtaining Nats tickets (any seat in the house? Anytime! Hello StubHub!) I'll leave it to others enrich the clueless vermin.

Though I will be loyally rooting for our boys with the Curly W, it will be, more often than not, from home.

I too will NOT be renewing my half-season plan in 2009. :-( Which saddens me somehow.

Posted by: Disappointed in Montgomery County | July 18, 2008 11:33 PM

What makes a game special is your level of investment. Sure - the losses make the metro rides a little longer, but it won't always be this way.

Washington still does not know what it means to have a baseball team yet. Fans have to be told when to cheer, they have to have ancillary 'entertainment', they don't know they should wait until between innings, or at least between at-bats before they move. You have to be a fan of baseball before you can be a fan of a team.

I believe it was George Will who said "You win 60, you lose 60, and you play 162 times to sort out the middle 40." or something to that effect. The DC area resident is so fixated on the immediate, the long term gets lost.

Think long term. Go to the games, enjoy the baseball - then root for the team. You'll be much happier.

Posted by: Patience is a virtue | July 19, 2008 3:39 PM

You'd feel differently if they were in first place again.

Posted by: Jestaplero | July 20, 2008 10:02 AM

Maybe you should move your seat location then. I'm quite pleased with my season tickets and Nationals experience. I get off work and metro to Eastern Market where I grab a few drinks before the game with friends and fellow season ticket holders. I then hop on a FREE KegBus or Golf Cart and get dropped off at the stadium. I walk in the left field entrance, quickly I may add, and have everything I need. My seats are in Section 101, right near the bullpen, beautiful view of the whole field, and plenty of people around me who are happy to be at a game. To my left is a bar and to the right, a bathroom. There are plenty of vendors and a relaxed atmosphere. Grown men and women drink beer and heckle the bullpen in a friendly manner. Kids come down to the glass railing overlooking the bullpen and chat up the opposing relievers. It doesn't get any better then this. Baseball is back in DC and I'm willing to deal with a horrible team for now because I believe in the plan our ownership has. It worked in Atlanta and I believe it will work here too.

Posted by: Fushezzi | July 21, 2008 8:22 AM

Boy, Tom Boswell certainly has sold his soul to the Lerners. Back in early May, he writes a column praising the fantastic new stadium, but now he sings the company line that the new stadium isn't complete. Joseph Goebbels would be proud of the Bos.

I believe next year will be the make or break year for the Nationals. Face facts, baseball fans, D.C. is not a baseball town. If it were not for the lure of the new stadium and the large fan base in this area for teams like the Mets and Braves, attendance for the Nats would be in the low twenties, high teens. For now, Washingtonians only truly care about the Redskins and Georgetown Basketball. Hopefully, the Washington Capitals will finally catch fire in this town. They are a good team with good management and a truly likable owner.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Nationals and will continue to support them although I'm going to start cutting back on what I spend at the stadium because I'm so disgusted with the Lerners. I get the sense that the Lerners view the Nationals as nothing more than a cash cow in their business portfolio which will generate cash flow for their other business interests like their office building that blocks the view of the Capital for most of the stadium. I hope I'm wrong, but like they say - show me the money. Also, Boswell, put a sock in it. It's disgraceful to see a once great sports writer become such a shill. Hang in there, Watson!

Posted by: El Rey | July 21, 2008 9:50 AM

Watson, you're one of the better bloggers in the Grounds Crew (at least you post on a regular basis), so I hope you don't give it up. I'm sorry you seem so dispirited. Rooting for the worst team in baseball has a tendency to do that to you. Sitting in crappy seats probably doesn't help either. Did you really buy a plan in Section 241? Underneath the scoreboard? At $27 per game? No wonder you're sour.

Here's my advice -- buy a cheaper plan in the Infield Gallery or Outfield Gallery or Lower Right Field Terrace. Come to the games you want, and sell or give others away to your friends, don't sweat missing a few games here and there. Sure you can buy tickets on Stub Hub or at the gate, but do you really want that hassle if you're coming to 20 or more games each year?

Semi-fan or not, the Nats need you. Don't give up!

Posted by: Section 222 (not the view) | July 21, 2008 11:00 AM

Who needs a season plan when the supply exceeds the demand? You get season tickets for things that are otherwise going to be sold out. But next year there will almost always be good seats available.

Posted by: Andy | July 21, 2008 4:10 PM

Aside from being all I can handle financially, a 20 game package is all I could handle psychically at this point in time. I agree with Scott that they should offer a "build-your-own" package so you can choose when you want to go and who you want to see multiple times (Mets, Cubbies) and who you don't want to see at all (Marlins, after they win the division this year and do their quintennial seling off of their most talented and expensive players.)

Posted by: Sec 419, Row E | July 21, 2008 8:43 PM

I for one, won't be back as a season ticket holder. I've held season tickets to the Caps and Bullets since they came/moved to Landover, the Skins for I can't remember how long and other sports teams in the area. I'm a sports freak but I can't handle the Nats anymore. A new stadium and nobody shows up in the first season. Yeah, it's not as bad to get to, but you have to get people to try it first and the stigma of it being in DC with no parking in a neighborhood that's not the best is keeping people away. They should have moved to Northern Virginia. I would've sucked up the drive but would have enjoyed having sellout crowds every night and a place to park my car and tailgate with friends when they come to town.

All the little problems they've had this year are not growing pains, they've made them before with the ushers and employees at the concession stands. I see a few at Nats park that I do at Verizon Center and they're the ones responsible for getting the good people fired or quitting. It's nepitism as bad as Metro.

Clint, ha. Geez, does he ever go back and listen to what he sounds like in the stadium? Does anyone in who runs the video board listen to what anything sounds like in the stadium? I haven't heard a sound system this bad since the original one at Cap Centre. Yeah, crystal clear, but what good is crystal clear when they talk too fast, the volume is too low or the quality sucks?

I'll still be a fan, but I can sit at home with my HD and can see the replays that apparently Mr. Selig doesn't want us at the park to see, hear the commontators clearly through my surround sound speakers and be able to get to the kitchen and back with a few drinks and snacks made to my liking before the commercial break is over and not have to deal with stats that aren't updated because I can have my computer on next to me showing me updated stats on all games going on at the same time. How can you beat that? MLB as a whole has killed the in-person experience to the point that the atmosphere is better if you stay home, so I will. And if I need to hear music between innings, maybe I'll call Jarrod to come out and play music for us during the game.

Posted by: Sect. 128 | July 22, 2008 9:30 AM

I'll enjoy all these ticket holders non-renewals. What a picky bunch.

Maybe I'm different. Maybe a little more old school. I like to go to baseball games to watch the game. I'm so sick of hearing the complaining....about the scoreboard, about Clint, about the ushers and the food lines. Enough Already.

Watch the game!
Do you really need to know every single stat of each player? Crunch the stats at home on your computer. The Nationals show you the essential stat line. You don't need anything else while at the game. I love the numbers, streaks, etc of baseball as much as the next guy but I dont find it essential to my viewing pleasre.

Do you really need to see replays?
I agree, more replays would be nice.

Food Lines?
The long lines aren't limited to Nationals Park. Most parks have it. Chipotle has it. Subway has it. Everywhere has it. If you don't like lines, bring food to the game. Yes, it's allowed.

Ushers?
Most I've met have been very professional and friendly. If they tell you to move from a seat that isnt yours....well, that's their job. You want to sit in that seat, buy that ticket.

Clint?
Ok, I find him annoying as hell too. But he's really only on 2-3 times a game. Whenever he's near the left field enterance I see him surrounded by kids. He seems to work well with them, which probably explains why he's still around. Deal with it, its a minor inconvienence.

I've sat through the same crappy product you have but this is baseball. Teams have ups and downs. We're in year 4. How about those O's and Pirates?

And it does no good to blame the ownership either. They bought a team that MLB gutted. Never has a MLB team had less to work with from the beginning. They have done a serviceable job rebuilding our team and minor league system. Give it time. So many people are ready to jump ship already. I say jump. I'll more then gladly take your seat. It's much more fun watching the game with people who simply like watching a game of baseball at its simplest/purest, then having to sit around someone who whines and complains the whole time. Thanks for your 2008 ticket donation and dont let the metro hit you on your way home.

Posted by: Fushezzi | July 22, 2008 10:02 AM

You're in the city; there are lines. Deal with it. Yes, Clint is annoying, and he mispronounces words, and he speaks too much, and he mixes his metaphors. Don't want to hear him? Bring your headphones and listen to the game on the radio. You can even listen in Spanish, thanks to the Nats. Want highlights? ESPNews is on 24 hours a day. Please, watch the game, cheer the players, and have some pride in the team. And give the ownership some time. If they fail, then climb all over them. If they succeed, have the decency to congratulate them.

Posted by: ChadNatsFan | July 22, 2008 1:38 PM

Scott,

I think you nailed it here. I was excited when the Nats came to town, but I only went to select games. I know a lot of people who got into a tizzy and signed up for the whole season. 81 games is a HUGE commitment that'll cause you to question your own. Add that to the fact the baseball consists of homestands, so you're at the park for 7 days in a row. Once again a huge commitment.

It's one thing if you live or work across the street from the park, but when you combine all the logistics, a currently non-exciting product and it can be taxing.

Posted by: Kim | July 22, 2008 3:17 PM

Is this blog done?

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | July 25, 2008 12:40 PM

Yeah, this blog is pretty unimpressive...

1 post every 2 weeks? Is that what we should expect?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 25, 2008 8:56 PM

Since this blog is about the new ballpark, you probably shouldn't expect too much when the Nationals are on a long road trip like they are now. Still, it seems like things have settled down so there's nothing much new to bring up and we get the same sorts of complaints over and over.

Posted by: Cosmo | July 26, 2008 11:12 AM

There hasn't been a post of note besides Watson's lately. Why do the Grounds Crew bloggers (those that actually post, which is about 4) feel they have to complain. Just give me some narration of the game you went to, what you did, the best/worst part. Tell me a story. Tell me about the fat guy who sat next to you and ate all game. Tell me about the people around you, what you talked about, who annoyed you, who made you laugh. It's a shame that we have 15 or so bloggers and all we get are 15 blogs about ushers and long food lines. I'm not bashing the bloggers, just promoting a different way of thinking/blogging. I believe we are down to 3 bloggers (Watson, Deblaker and Gibson) for the most part. Keep it going. I actually enjoy the banter of the regular readers/comments more then the blogs themselves.

Posted by: Fushezzi | July 26, 2008 9:25 PM

Read this blog for the first time this morning. The comments from Cosmo on the 26th seem to sum up this thread....when the Nats are traveling, and the actual daily/nightly home game "fan experience" blogging cannot be current, then entries turn to complaining about on-going issues. Anyway, it's an interesting thread; I plan to return weekly, or when I've been to a home game (as a full season ticket holder, since 2005) and there's something worth commenting about. As for the stadium -- okay, it's new, but isn't it nice to be in a clean stadium? With cup holders at every seat? :)

Posted by: NatsFan312 | July 27, 2008 9:32 AM

My only problem with having season tickets is that I'm splitting them with a mouthy semi-fan who drains all the joy out of the game -- oh, wait, I'm splitting them with you, Mister W.

I kid.

Actually, aside from the fact that Katie-bar-the-door has been on the DL most of the season (being a true Nats fanatic, she has the same shoulder injury as Chad Cordero and Ryan Zimmerman), the problem with season tickets is being locked into games I don't want to see -- rain or high heat in the forecast, unavoidable conflicts, the San Diego Padres -- and not seeing games that in the last three years I would have decided at 4 in the afternoon to head down to. And when I do get to the game, I see 12,000 empty seats, including some in the $5 section and I think, well, it's convenient for Stan Kasten that I bought season tickets, but it's not too convenient for me. I mean, it's not like I live nearby -- the park is more than an hour away.

Besides, in three years at RFK without season tickets, I averaged 28 games a year, which in retrospect is pretty much my limit. So I'm thinking like you that I'm going to opt out of season tickets next year.

Posted by: Mister Parker | July 28, 2008 4:06 PM

Where are your locations because if you're a Infield Gallery location, I want your tickets. Go ahead. Quit on a team. Root for some other bandwagon team!

As for me, I'll stick with the NATS, win or lose. It was 33 years before we got a team, I'm going to support it.

If we ever DO make the playoffs, guess who'll have seats? Season Ticket holders. Opening Day? Season Ticket Holders. I'm keeping mine or upgrading.

Posted by: CALSGR8 | August 2, 2008 5:29 PM

I've got kids, and can only go on weekends. I wish there was a package for me.

Posted by: Alexandria, VA | August 15, 2008 7:45 AM

tht one guys right grumpy, ud feel different if the nats cud actually win a game once in a while.

n yeah i like the nats too but ive come to face it tht people in dc dont give a
*&%$ bout baseball, only the redskins.

Posted by: me | August 21, 2008 1:49 AM

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