Here we are once again, with the eagerly awaited next installment of, “Things to do if you’re stranded for the summer in the swampland masquerading as our nation’s capital.” This week: your guide to attending Nationals games.
First of all, don’t call them that. You’re going to a Nats game. This should be easy to remember, as you probably have between 20 and 30 gnats swarming around your head and up your nose at all times in this marsh of a city. The stadium is beautiful and right on the Anacostia River, though, so if you face the right direction and have a strong imagination you’ll catch a river breeze and a sweet respite from the summer heat. If you are not a person of great imagination, I suggest just heading over to the Dippin' Dots stand instead.
Secondly, you’re probably going to protest that baseball is a very boring sport. You are mostly right, but therein lies its beauty as a social gathering. You see, with baseball, you’re stuck in your seats for hours on end, with nothing really to distract you from the game as it inches forward at a glacial pace — nothing except each other, that is. Unlike going to, say, a movie where everyone is engrossed with the drama unfolding before them, at baseball games, most people are eager to let you chat their ears off for a few hours. I’ve tried this at the movies in the past. Generally speaking, it has not been greeted with enthusiasm.
Every once in awhile, you’ll be ambushed by an actual baseball fan, who is intent on following the “action” on the field. Initially, this can be alarming, but if handled correctly it can turn into quite a bit of fun. Genuine baseball fans pose a challenge to people attending games for social reasons, so it’s all the more gratifying when you get them to talk.
Based on games I’ve attended with my dad, I’ve devised a method of engaging and distracting true-blue baseball fans and transforming them into well-adjusted, sociable human beings. My dad is a huge Nats fan. I’m actually a San Francisco Giants fan, so I don’t know that much about the Nationals, but I’m always sure to know just enough facts to get the conversation going.
First you lull the unsuspecting baseball fan into a false sense of security by asking relevant questions. Good questions for a Nats fan include, “So how to you think Stephen Strasburg is recovering from elbow surgery?” Another great way to build street cred is to memorize some obscure facts about a different team. For example, I can recite the lineup of the Giants’ 2002 World Series team. People are usually impressed and overlook the fact that I only follow sports during the playoffs. he idea is that your naïve, baseball-loving friend will assume you have the breadth to match your depth of sports trivia knowledge.
Once you’ve got your friend convinced you’re a serious student of baseball, you can move into the related but less relevant questions, such as, “So, how do you feel about the addition of Taft to the presidential race?” and then follow it up with a statement, “Rumors state he once got stuck in a bathtub, though historians have found no conclusive evidence.”
Finally you get to our last stage, tangentially relating the game to what you actually want to talk about. This goes a little something like this: “Gosh, can you believe that Bryce Harper is only 20 years old? Speaking of young people in the work force, sometimes I feel under-appreciated at work. Let’s discuss this.” And before your baseball fan can say, “Peanuts and crackerjacks,” he’s become deeply mired in your dilemma of which kind of plant you should buy to brighten up your workspace.
And that, my friends, is how to attend a Nats game.