MissChatter: NatsTown Appreciation

MissChatter: NatsTown Appreciation
September 17, 2010, 10:42 am
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Friday, September 17, 2010 6:32 am

By Miss Chatter

As I sat grumbling and fuming that it had taken me an hour to reach the Roosevelt Bridge Wednesday evening on my commute home from DC only to be greeted by yet another mysterious traffic backup, a funny thing happened. I called home to say I'd be late for dinner (no worries, traffic wasn't moving) and then began looking around to see where a robotic voice was coming from. I spotted it in a Smart car next to me - and immediately recognized the driver as Colleen, one of the 'parents' of the infamous rally monkey, "Curly Washington". That's not to say Colleen has a robotic voice -- I'm pretty sure it was her Smart car talking. We had a little happy NatsTown reunion on an on-ramp after she hung up from calling home as well. After swapping photos of each other stuck in traffic on Facebook, the whole thing got me thinking about interaction among fans beyond cheering for the hometown team as the season races to another semi-depressing close.

There are a lot of recurring characters in NatsTown and I'm thrilled to know and consider myself friends with many of them. Some are other bloggers, both established from the beginning and joining the Natosphere later down the road. More and more these days those friends are regular die-hard team-supporting fans, and I suppose that's due in large part to Twitter and Facebook. I've spent a lot of time over the last year meeting fans face to face, which has been a pleasure. "Been a pleasure" sounds like a cliched phrase and doesn't quite sum up how much NatsTown feels like a family that expands each year, with each member possessing their own unique quirks and shticks.

Curly is working up an impressive photo album of posing with notorious fans, media, and Nats players and front office executives. I've known "Curly's parents" Jeff and Colleen for several years now and our mutual network of friends extends even further - like a corner coffee shop in NatsTown. In fact, you could kind of relate NatsTown to LinkedIn and I bet with all the connections, the stadium could almost be filled between mutual NatsTown friends and then extending beyond to ones who aren't mutual and then their friends and so on. It'd be fun to pick a fan, any fan, and try a six degrees of separation experiment.

The Nationals are trying to embrace a piece of this community as well and last Saturday held their second "Blogger Day" of the season and happily, some who hadn't attended previously took part in the experience, such as Rachel and Jenn from Nationals Fangirls and William (WFY). Not only are the events a way for the Nationals to reach out to those who passionately cover their team and have followings of their own, but it also presents another opportunity for networking as well as offering glimpses of "inside baseball" to those whose only interactions previously may have been online.

It was a little unusual for me as this time I was covering the event when in years past, I've been one of them (blogger covering bloggers - weird, right?). Who am I anymore? I had a blast answering Rachel's questions about game day schedules and how interviews are conducted in the clubhouse. If anything, it goes to show if you work hard and do a good job, you too can someday work your way up. Rachel had an interesting observation, "I think it would be very cool to shadow one of the beat writers -- mouth shut, just observing." Funny, because that's exactly what I did and am thankful to Zuckerman for that!

Rachel also realized the dichotomy of covering something with a passion and desire to get closer only to potentially lose some of the magic once you do. "I'm quite aware that given the access to this stuff everyday would take some of that magic away and it has potential to become a grind, just another deadline I gotta meet, story I gotta grind out." That's an issue I struggle with myself - still trying to find the "fun" and "magic" to share with fans, while conforming to the rituals and ages old game day schedule and practices when I'm not sitting in my season ticket seats.

Let Teddy Win had the experience of a lifetime getting to watch the production of the Presidents Race from the control room and he made a fantastic video to show it -- unscripted. Prior to the game, bloggers watched batting practice and had exclusive access to GM Mike Rizzo and asked informed and pertinent questions, manager Jim Riggleman, a few players and Dream Foundation chair Marla Lerner Tanenbaum.

Photos from Blogger Day

The Nationals also tried a new experiment of their own and documented the (series winning!) Atlanta road trip. The blog posts provide behind-the-scenes glimpses into the charter plane, arriving at the hotel, getting to the home team's stadium, and also shadows various media and coaches throughout the series. Give it a look! That's something I'd love to do some day.

Only 2.5 weeks remain in the season before I say farewell (but not goodbye) to my summer family until next spring. Even if the Nats don't make it to 70 wins (looking less likely, but not impossible), I have fond memories of meeting even more new people such as servicemenwomen, one of whom we discovered I photographed throwing out the first pitch in 2009, the t-shirt creator who welcomed his first child this year and I sold my old scooter to, sharing experiences, conversations, debates and friendship with many others throughout the past several season. It's become more than just a game - it's a community.