In the aftermath of the Washington National’s World Series win last week, I’ve been thinking about the importance of being a fan and rooting for the home team. After we won the pennant and made it into the World Series, a friend asked us over dinner why we were so happy about it. What’s the point of it all? Why bother? We talked about it, and he bought some of my reasoning. But it led me to further examine why I think it’s important:
1. Being a part of something bigger than yourself, something that anchors you in your community.
2. Forming connections — even brief and simple ones — with other fans. Even just a high five or a “Go [team name]” when passing by someone wearing the team’s hat in the midst of an important stretch of the season, or sharing moments with people you’re sitting near at a game or in a bar watching the game.
3. When things go well, being a part of the ecstasy of the moment — that merging of thousands or even tens of thousands of people rooting for and celebrating the same thing. When things don’t go well, finding solace in each other.
4. Building memories with family and friends that will last lifetimes, and beyond.
Let me expand on this. I’m a lifelong baseball fan, starting with my hometown’s beloved Chicago Cubs. Over 20 years ago I moved to DC, well before the Nationals made the move from Olympic Stadium in Montreal to RFK stadium in DC. For the first time in a long time, I had local baseball to root for (yes, I’m still a Cubs fan too, and yes, watching my two teams play each other is a mix of joy and pain).
That first season my soon-to-be husband and I bought into a season ticket plan and saw games on the first baseline. Back then, he wasn’t a baseball fan. (I consider it one of my greatest accomplishments to convert him. I knew the battle was over when I came home one night to find him watching a nationally televised game while listening to the local radio feed, an honored baseball tradition.) We did well that year, but followed up with some lousy years. But it barely mattered. There was baseball once again in DC. We grew to love individual players and coaches, to debate roster changes and managing moves, and to stick up for the team even in slumps.
Fast forward over a decade, and here we are, World Series winners. Like most sports fans, winning a championship feels like a group effort. I mean, of course the real work was put in by the players, the managers and coaches, and the front office. But we played a role, too. We cheered through thick and thin, spent money on tickets and t-shirts even in drought years, and helped to rebuild a baseball culture in DC. (Popular opinion aside, DC is a true sports town with a rabid fan base for our soccer, baseball, basketball, and hockey teams. Football these days maybe not so much, but that isn’t the fans’ fault.) So celebrating wins — especially October wins — is the right and proper thing to do. As an aside, for the record I’m fine with bandwagon fans — I actually embrace them. Sure, they didn’t put in the grueling hours of rooting for a team that couldn’t pull themselves together, but they’re there to root for that team, to join in something bigger than themselves, and to support their city. And who knows? Maybe they’ll even stick around.
This October I was scheduled to be out of town during the World Series home games, even though we had tickets. The work portion of my trip was over Thursday afternoon, and the first game was on Friday night. I decided to skip the vacation part of the trip and go home early so I could go to the games with my husband. I’d seen the first two games in a bar in Montana with no other Nats fans (although a few sympathetic people watched them with me), and I craved being among my friends and fellow fans — both people I knew and people I didn’t. I wanted to share the experience by sitting near them in Nats Park, riding a Metro car with them to and from the games, and high-fiving each other walking down the street while wearing Nats hats. Although all three of the home games were losses, it was worth it to come home and experience that.
Then, I flew to Mexico for another vacation, this time a photography workshop. And then we won it all. Again, I watched games six and seven in bars far from home, although this time with another Nats fan beside me, a stranger before we arrived at the workshop. I was scheduled to come home on Monday but the parade was scheduled for Saturday. After the Wednesday-night win I was a curious mix of ecstasy and sadness. Ecstasy because somehow we were here — we’d won the last game of the year. Sadness because I missed the chance to celebrate that win with friends and family, even though we’d kept in touch the whole way via text. So I decided to cut my second trip short and come home, again.
Saturday morning found me in an increasingly large crowd with my husband and daughter, waiting for the parade to start. She’s not even two-years-old yet, and probably won’t remember that moment, but I wanted to be able to tell her that we were all at a World Series parade together. So, family is that last reason for cheering for your home team. My dad died last year, and after the win one of my immediate thoughts was how much he’d have liked to have seen this. Although he wasn’t a Nats fan (Cubs fan through and through — I take comfort in knowing he saw the Cubs beat their historic, epic drought), he would have been so happy for me, and for DC.