(Author’s note: it’s late, and I’ve just consumed several glasses of port and several hours of Comedy Central’s horrible, repetitive advertisements. The mixture has put me in a melancholy mood. Verily warned, therefore, be ye.)
Last night, the Washington Nationals secured first place in the National League, bringing playoff baseball to our nation’s capital for the first time since 1932. Washington fans have been waiting their entire lives to see this day. Or, they’ve been waiting eight years.
The mark of Montreal has been effectively wiped from the franchise. After the departure of Livan Hernandez, no current National has ever donned the Montreal uniform. Only fourteen former Expos played in the major leagues in 2012; their most able veteran was Jamey Carroll, whose 2.2 WAR is reflected primarily through his ability to field grounders at shortstop. Eventually, they too will shuffle off.
Growing up, I never held strong feelings about the Expos. They belonged to a different league, different time zone, and their red-white-and-blue uniforms seemed a little garish. I couldn’t figure out their logo, and their best player in the late 80s, Tim Raines, was a threatening approximation of my own favorite player, Rickey Henderson.
But as a Seattleite, I can empathize with Montreal. We don’t talk about other sports here very often, what with it being a baseball site and all, but growing up I was a big Sonics fan. I watched as a struggling franchise with a decrepit home arena was dragged away by a loathsome owner. Of course, I was upset. Like many, I declared the NBA dead to me, swore my hatred of the OKC Thunder and their stupid powder blue uniforms and their ironic glasses and backpacks and their dumb faces.
That’s the way you’re supposed to feel. That’s the way everyone feels, as they turn towards each other, nurturing their identical hurt, looking for solace. You have to hate the team that left you; anything else is betrayal. But I missed basketball, and the players were mostly the same, and the general manager was a guy “they” hired while they were still “us”. The team wasn’t my team anymore, but they were an offspring. It was hard not to think of them as at least still partially, somehow, my own, even as the roster slowly turned over. And so, without admitting it, I kept track of my former team, even, maybe, rooted for them a little bit. A little.
It’s only been five years for the Sonics, and there’s talk of moving a new team here. It’s been eight for the Expos, and that talk has come and gone. Montreal lacks even an independent league ballclub, and declarations of stadium construction have dulled to an intermittent whisper. The domain montreal-expos.com is dead, and can be purchased by anyone who makes an offer.
Still, I imagine that there are more than a few fans who read the headlines this morning, or maybe even watched the game last night (sad thought: at least, by losing the franchise, they were now able to watch them on mlb.tv without getting blacked out). And as they watched, maybe a few felt like they’d finally won a little piece of that division that they’d never, in thirty-six years, quite grasped. Maybe they felt ashamed of themselves for being happy, felt foolish for even considering this franchise, the one that abandoned them, as somehow still partially their own.
To them I say: it’s okay. Don’t make excuses. Don’t self-flagellate. People go crazy over sim leagues and fantasy teams. Take from the game what you want, and make the Nationals yours. Enjoy what your team accomplished this season, in whatever alternative reality it happened.