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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Ex-Penn State coach Tom Bradley recalls learning of Jerry Sandusky complaint

The Associated Press

Ex-Penn State coach Tom Bradley recalls learning of Jerry Sandusky complaint

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Jurors heard Thursday that a former Penn State head football coach testified that Mike McQueary told him years before Jerry Sandusky's arrest that he had made a complaint about Sandusky to university administrators.

The deposition by Tom Bradley was read during the fourth day of trial in McQueary's defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against the university over his treatment after Sandusky's 2011 child molestation arrest.

Bradley said he fielded a rumor that made him approach McQueary, a fellow assistant under Paterno, in 2004 or 2005.

"I'm not sure how this happened, but somebody said something and I asked Mike about it. He said there was an incident," Bradley said in May 2015. "I don't know his exact words."

Bradley said he asked McQueary what he did.

"He said, `I turned it in to Joe and Curley and Schultz,'" Bradley said, references to then-head coach Joe Paterno, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz.

He said he did not remember if McQueary used the word, "sexual."

"It was not a long, detailed description, if that's what you're asking me," Bradley sad

Bradley also said he believes the school mistreated McQueary, citing a bowl game bonus McQueary wasn't given at the end of the 2011 season. Bradley was briefly the school's head coach after university trustees fired Paterno, in part over his handling of the McQueary complaint.

Bradley said he never discussed the McQueary incident with Sandusky, although he would occasionally see him in team facilities after Sandusky retired in 1999.

Questions about whether rumors regarding Sandusky had cropped up before the investigation that produced charges have long hung over the Penn State football program.

A lawyer for Bradley, now UCLA's defensive coordinator, told The Associated Press this summer he never witnessed any inappropriate behavior and had no knowledge of alleged incidents in the 1980s and 1990s.

The lawyer, Brett Senior, said Thursday he was not aware the testimony was being read. "I think whatever's been said is old and stale," Senior said.

Outside the courthouse after Thursday's session, McQueary declined comment about Bradley's deposition.

McQueary has testified he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower one evening in 2001 and reported it the next day to Paterno. He then met with Curley and Schultz about the incident a few days later.

Nothing happened in the matter for more than a decade, when authorities investigating another complaint about Sandusky got a tip suggesting they contact McQueary.

McQueary testified against Sandusky at the 2012 criminal trial that resulted in a 45-count conviction.

In the civil case, McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other claims.

The school maintains it did not retaliate against McQueary and that he was damaged in the public's eye by questions about why he didn't physically intervene to help the boy or call police.

Earlier Thursday, former Penn State President Graham Spanier testified that he issued a statement the day Curley and Schultz, two of his top lieutenants, were charged, calling the allegations groundless because he trusted them and believed they were honest people.

McQueary's lawsuit against the university alleges Spanier's statement made it appear McQueary was a liar.

Spanier said he came to trust Curley and Schultz after working closely with them for many years. They were charged with perjury and failure to properly report suspected child abuse.

"This was an unbelievable injustice, that these two guys, who are like Boy Scouts, would be charged with a crime," Spanier said. "And that's what was in my head as I was giving this opinion."

Spanier began drafting the statement about a week earlier. He said that's when the school's then-general counsel got a tip through the attorney general's office that Sandusky, Curley and Schultz would be charged.

Spanier was forced out by the board of trustees a few days later, and the next year he also was charged over his handling of the Sandusky matter. A state appeals court earlier this year threw out several of the charges against all three administrators, but they remain accused of failure to properly report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children. They await trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

He said he wasn't thinking about McQueary when drafting the statement, and in fact didn't realize at that time that McQueary was a key figure in the investigation and an unnamed assistant described in the grand jury presentment used to help charge Sandusky.

Associated Press reporter Michael R. Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this story.

Beau Allen prepared to start in place of Bennie Logan vs. Vikings

Beau Allen prepared to start in place of Bennie Logan vs. Vikings

It's not looking promising for Bennie Logan to get healthy in time for the Eagles' Week 7 tilt with the Vikings on Sunday (see Injury Update). If that's the case, Beau Allen is expected to get the start alongside Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle.

While Logan's presence would certainly be missed, it's a spot Allen isn't uncomfortable with or unaccustomed to being in. As the third-year player pointed out on Wednesday, he's not exactly in unfamiliar territory here.

"I've played a lot of snaps in this defense, I've played a lot over the last three years and I've started games for this team, so it's kind of nothing really new," Allen said. "It's the first start of this season, but it's not my first start in the NFL."

Aside from playing in all 16 games his first two seasons with the Eagles, Allen started at nose tackle in place of Logan for the final two games of 2015. Not surprisingly, those were by far the two most active games of his brief career with eight solo tackles and 11 total.

Even still, the 43 snaps Allen played in Sunday's loss at Washington were the second-highest he's seen in an NFL game, finishing with three total tackles and nearly doubling his playing time for the season. And if Logan can't suit up against the Vikings this week, his reps might be on the rise.

"It'll be more reps for guys like Beau and then maybe even a little bit more on a guy like Fletch," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Thursday. "We'd like to rotate those guys as much, but sometimes you're not able to."

Allen is aware of the potential challenges he faces with an expanded workload. This is also exactly what the 6-foot-3, 327-pound lineman has been preparing for since he was taken in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.

"I really honestly don't think it changes a whole lot because of the way I prepare on a week-to-week basis," Allen said. "I've played the type of big role that — I've played with all of our starters, so many reps over the course of camp, preseason and during the season that it's really nothing new."

A couple of other things that aren't new for Allen are with respect to the Eagles' opponent on Sunday, particularly their quarterback.

Like everybody else, Allen is very much aware that Sam Bradford is making his return to Lincoln Financial Field. While the 24-year-old interior lineman recognizes Bradford is playing some of the best football of his career, leading the NFL in completion percentage with zero interceptions in four games, the signal-caller's time in an Eagles uniform can be helpful to the defense.

"We're pretty familiar with this quarterback, I'd say," Allen said. "He's playing at a very high level and he's been really accurate, really smart with the football, not a lot of turnovers.

"There are tendencies every week with every team. We know him and we know his strengths and weaknesses because he was here, and we're going to attack them."

Sunday will also be special for Allen in a personal way. The Wisconsin product is originally from Minnesota and will have plenty of friendly faces flying in to see him play.

"I've got a lot of family coming into town just because a lot of them have been Vikings fans historically, but they'll be cheering for the Eagles on Sunday," Allen said.

"I think it's fun to play against your hometown team. It's sweet that they're coming in here, so obviously a big game for me personally that way."

Allen will have big shoes to fill on Sunday, as Logan was playing very well prior to the injury. Not only that, but the Eagles' defensive line as a whole struggled with consistency the past two weeks, and is now relying on Allen to help turn their fortunes around in just his third career start.

It's no small ask, but Allen understands the task at hand.

"Our run defense last week, there were a lot of problems," Allen said. "Overpursuing was one of them. I think it's more about discipline, front-side to back-side, knowing where the ball carriers are trying to cut back, things like that. Those are things that we worked to correct this week too.

"Obviously, we didn't have any sacks last week, so we're going to everything in our power to pressure the quarterback, get him off his spot, disrupt those timing throws and get after him."