The Damaged Psyche of a Semi-Fan
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.
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