Can You Explain Why You Rip the Nationals' Fan Base?

Can You Explain Why You Rip the Nationals' Fan Base?

I understand that attendance is a point of pride for sports fans, and I understand why.

It's the opportunity to say that we, as a fan base, are loyal. That we care. That we even go so far as to impact the product on the field by giving the organization more of our money, which it, in turn, can potentially use to improve the club.

Those are the positives. As for the negatives — well, I suppose there's bandwagoning. Bandwagoning irks me. So much so that whenever a town is lauded for having "great fans," I almost compulsively cross-reference attendance charts with the last time one of its teams wasn't very good.

But when it comes to a population being generally apathetic about a franchise — what's the problem? How or why does it impact you in another town that has a team? Sure, it impacts the particular league in question, and if you're arguing for the greater benefit of that entity, then there's a real discussion to be had about under-performing franchises, assuming they're really under-performing. I just don't think many of those ripping the Washington Nationals are suggesting that the team be moved to another obvious market. Let's also acknowledge that the Nationals are the least of baseball's worries. (I'm looking at you Tampa Bay.)

Through 78 home games in 2012 (this chart I'm referencing has not yet been updated with the Nats' final series against the Phillies), the Nationals have drawn an average attendance of 29,919, the 14th-highest in the majors.

For the last week, articles like this have been pouring out, reporting that Nats playoffs seats are the hottest tickets in D.C., that the club is claiming they're sold out with the exception of some outrageously pricey seats, and that StubHub is selling them from anywhere between $63 and $500.

Social media and internet comment boards have their benefits, but, as many of us have come to realize, we all probably share just a little too much. Much of the sharing I've noticed related to Washington's empty seats as it clinched the division involved the words "embarrassing" and "pathetic" and "disgraceful."

There appear to be two concerns here:

1. The Nationals fans are "pathetic" because they don't show up in sufficient numbers to support a team about to win the division, as judged by those in another town.
2. The Nationals are now about to sell out a playoff game but didn't draw during the year (bandwagoning).

If it's indeed the case, why is apathy to be condemned? It's possible people in Washington don't like baseball. It's also true that Washington is a particularly tricky town considering its population is, understandably, a bit more transient, and may have allegiances elsewhere. Then there are the points that no one was really clamoring for a team in Washington when the Expos moved there, that there's a semi-complicated geographic and emotional split with the Orioles based on how people react to Peter Angelos, and that it can just take time to grow a fan base. As Dave Murphy pointed out Wednesday, rooting for teams in Philadelphia is part of a generations-long culture. That is not the case with baseball in Washington.

History or no history, I cannot stress enough just how possible it is that a population will simply not care about a particular sport or team. Take, for example, your Philadelphia 76ers, who don't really seem like your Philadelphia 76ers judging by the last five years of attendance. On a different scale, compare the number of comments on articles or blog posts about the Sixers to those on pieces about the other teams in town. You'll notice something: there's generally fewer in total, but a higher number of the "who cares?" variety. Of course, with the roster reshape and the addition of Andrew Bynum, it would be a surprise not to see the Sixers' attendance receive a bump, just as it did during last season and, to a greater extent, the playoffs.

And this gets us to the bandwagoning angle, which given Washington's reported playoff sellouts we now need to consider in tandem with the prior apathy. In short, there's a whole lot of hypocrisy related to fan loyalty. When teams are bad for prolonged stretches, with rare exceptions, fans stop showing up. This is not necessarily unforgivable behavior, as there are justifications for it. Going to games can be expensive even when the tickets themselves are fairly cheap. Then there are concerns over continuing to fund an under-performing franchise — this is a conversation we have about a certain team in this town every so often.

No win is as satisfying as the one you struggled for. The 2008 World Series wouldn't have been nearly as sweet for so many without the 25 preceding years of city failure. No win, for me, will be nearly as meaningful as a Stanley Cup, just as no win, for others, will be more euphoric than a Super Bowl. So I judge the guy in the purple flat brim and black Hunter Pence t-shirt. (Obviously this a stereotype, and, no, it doesn't apply to all black-shirt and purple-hat owners.) In some ways, my behavior is juvenile, as people are allowed to enjoy things in different ways and spend their time and cash however they like. In other ways, it's justified, like when I cannot find a ticket or incur added cost for something I used to enjoy for a lower price relative to a smaller demand. In that same breath, there's an added value to the extra people who show up when times are good — free agent signings are expensive.

My hangups aside, there are reasons why people don't show up to sporting events, in this market and others. Maybe it's because they don't care — and who can condemn? Maybe they won't pay for mediocrity — an arguable but under certain circumstances acceptable point. Maybe they don't have the emotional ties after eight years of a really terrible existence — that's not unusual. And maybe a lot of fans really are just bandwagoners — but those people are everywhere.

If the Nats are good for another five years, their fans will probably have you believe they were in it from the beginning. That doesn't sound unfamiliar does it? Then again, if they stay for the long-haul, then their fandom had to start somewhere.

Finally, on top of it all, there's the curious question of how or why we separate or combine the success of the players on the field with their fan base. And that is a much longer, more complicated discussion.

Whatever the answer, no town is immune from a certain level of apathy nor from bandwagoning. Philadelphians, myself included, are no better.


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Penn routs Yale, 42-7, behind Alek Torgersen's four TDs


Penn routs Yale, 42-7, behind Alek Torgersen's four TDs

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Alek Torgersen threw four touchdown passes, three to Justin Watson, and Penn rolled to a 42-7 victory over Yale in the first night game in Yale Bowl history.

Torgersen completed 16 of 23 passes for 229 yards and rushed for 66 yards. Watson had 10 receptions for 166 yards with touchdowns covering 5, 41 and 35 yards.

Torgersen moved into a tie for second with 47 career TD passes and Watson moved into fourth in career receptions (161) and touchdowns (17) for the Quakers (4-2, 3-0 Ivy Leauge).

Tre Solomon rushed for 120 yards, seven shy of the career high he set a week earlier, on 15 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run, for Penn, which won its fourth straight. Cameron Countryman had a 10-yard touchdown reception and Karekin Brooks had a 13-yard run for his first career touchdown.

Penn, which led 35-0 at halftime, finished with 508 yards and held the Bulldogs (1-5, 1-2) to 229.

Instant Replay: Temple 46, South Florida 30

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Instant Replay: Temple 46, South Florida 30


Despite some hiccups along the road this season, Temple is now right where it planned on being to start 2016: atop the American Athletic Conference East Division.

Temple turned the tables on run-oriented South Florida to gash the Bulls for 319 yards rushing (210 coming from Ryquell Armstead) in a 46-30 win at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday night.

The Owls (5-3, 3-1 AAC) avenged last season’s blowout with the win and, more importantly, moved into a first-place tie in the conference’s East Division. With back-to-back victories over South Florida and Central Florida, Temple now holds tiebreakers over the two closest teams in the East standings.

South Florida (6-2, 3-1 AAC) had its three-game winning streak snapped.

Turning point
After falling behind 23-20 on a quick three-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, the Owls’ defense looked like it might allow the floodgates to open for good.

However, Temple’s offense picked up the D by scoring in just three plays of its own. Jahad Thomas and Isaiah Wright churned out big runs before Armstead broke free around the right side for a 42-yard touchdown.

Even with South Florida getting good field position on the next possession thanks to a taunting penalty by Armstead, the Owls’ defense was able to pick up on the momentum. The unit forced a three-and-out and then blocked the ensuing punt to get the ball back at the Bulls’ 20-yard line.

Two plays later, Thomas scampered into the end zone from nine yards out to give Temple a double-digit lead.

Big men on campus
Armstead did the heavy lifting for Temple. He racked up 20 carries for 210 yards, to become the 10th back in school history to reach the 200-yard rushing plateau. He ran in scores from 76 yards and 42 yards out. The 76-yarder was TU’s eighth-longest touchdown run in school history. 

Jahad Thomas increased his streak of two-TD games to six with a pair of rushing scores in the second half.

Phillip Walker was efficient for the Owls as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 209 yards with one TD and zero interceptions.

Ventell Bryant had five catches for 115 yards to top the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.

Linebacker Stephaun Marshall led Temple with eight tackles while Delvon Randall had seven tackles and an interception. Averee Robinson had a pair of sacks for the Owls and Romond Deloatch tacked on a sack for a safety.

For USF, the dynamic duo of quarterback Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack combined for 377 total yards and four touchdowns.

Inside the box score
• Matt Rhule improved his all-time record to 23-23 with the win.

• Temple moved to 4-1 at Lincoln Financial Field this season.

• South Florida had won nine straight AAC East Division games prior to Friday night.

• USF entered the game ranked eighth in the nation in rushing yards per game (268.4). The Bulls were held to 165 against Temple.

• Praise Martin-Oguike blocked an extra point to give him an NCAA-leading five blocked kicks in his career.

Friday’s game marked the third all-time matchup between the two schools.

South Florida rolled to a 44-23 win over then-ranked No. 22 Temple last season, while TU took the first-ever meeting, 37-28, back in 2012.

Commish chats
The Big 12 Conference announced earlier this week that it would no longer be seeking teams for possible expansion.

That decision certainly wasn’t made for a lack of effort as over a dozen schools were rumored to be potential expansion candidates, including American Athletic Conference programs Houston, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Tulane.

The possibility of an AAC team defecting to a Power 5 conference didn’t bother Commissioner Mike Aresco. For him, it’s all good publicity for the up-and-coming American.

“It spoke volumes about the fact that our schools are the ones that everybody looked at in terms of being in a P5 (Power 5 conference) and we were the schools that the Big 12 looked at for the most part,” Aresco said before Friday’s Temple-South Florida game at Lincoln Financial Field. “The majority of our schools and at times it almost seemed like it was virtually all of our schools and exclusively our schools.

“The truth is, that really gave us the kind of publicity and attention and a lot of it was good. Our schools are good schools and we played well. Houston had the big win in the meantime against Oklahoma. That was priceless publicity. We probably haven’t gotten that kind of branding and recognition nationally any other way.”

What’s next?
Temple will be back at the Linc next Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. matchup against Cincinnati.

South Florida returns home next Friday for a big tilt against No. 24 Navy.