"You can take that off now," the Architect of the Capitol worker yelled out, pointing to my Washington Nationals' hat as I rode past the Russell Senate Office Building this morning.
Was it capital city commiseration of Tuesday night's loss to the San Francisco Giants, ending the Nats' playoff run? He kind of laughed. I pointed to the hat and replied, "Nah. The hat stays."
This is what it is to be a baseball town. The euphoria of the inaugural season in 2005 wore off relatively quickly, giving way to the dry, monotonous pain of 100-loss seasons, the slow climb to respectability and finally to perennial success. The 2012 playoff run was a novelty, cruelly snatched away too quickly. This year was different. It's the same kind of pain other teams and their cities experience when they don't meet expectations. The Nationals are a good team, and we expect them to win now. But it's also just a pleasure to have a team in D.C. The idea stuck. They're here. They're ours.
That doesn't make it any easier to get the relentless stream of emails from StubHub reminding us that our plans for Thursday night's theoretical Game 5 and the National League Championship Series have changed: "This event has been cancelled. This event has been cancelled. This event has been cancelled."
The Nationals are now part of the fabric of the town. Wear Nats gear on a game day and strangers will kibbitz on the team's chances, question Matt Williams' decisions and ask if you were there for all 18 innings of Game 2. There's a shorthand now. Game 2 is the longest playoff game in Major League Baseball history. Game 4 means Jayson Werth's homer to beat the Cardinals in 2012. Game 5 means the gut-punch loss the next night. Tuesday night's Game 4 doesn't have a name yet, but it will. It will likely have something to do with wild pitches, walks and bunts. Eventually, we'll settle on something.
In the meantime, the hat stays.
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