I woke up this morning and decided to make a change. Not the kind of change that would make my parents proud like getting a paying job or removing myself from their payroll, but more of a change that affects only me.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, I inherited a passion for the Cubs from my father, who grew-up in Northwest Indiana.
Since Indiana’s professional baseball team consisted of the Triple-A Indians, it was acceptable to like a team from another state, so I gravitated toward my dad’s lifelong tea, the Cubs.
My earliest memories of the franchise were attending games at Wrigley Field in the 1990s when they had players like Sammy Sosa, Rick Wilkins, Randy Myers, and Shawon Dunston .
The Cubs peaked my interest in 2003 when Mark Prior and Kerry Wood pitched the team through a post-season run. They would have made it to the World Series if not for a certain team collapse blamed on a geeky looking spectator.
After that season, the franchise and my baseball rooting interest would never be the same.
When I stopped playing baseball and left for college my passion for baseball greatly diminished.
Like most of the country, I fell into the large net cast by college and professional football, turned off by the constant talk of steroids in baseball.
I could argue the NFL benefited most in fan interest during the 2000s, a time in which Major League Baseball and steroids were a hot topic.
See how the Brian Cushing steroids controversy was dealt with so quickly? The media wanted nothing to do with revoking his rookie of the year award that would open a can of worms in the process.
The NFL saw the negative impact that steroids “accusations” had on the MLB and wanted to distance themselves from that type of media circus.
Meanwhile, I still paid attention to baseball even at a distance. I have attended about eleven or twelve Kansas City Royals games at Kauffman Stadium over the last five years, which is a hell of a time with drunk fraternity brothers on dollar night, if you can imagine.
However, I have found it hard to pay attention during an entire MLB game on TV, even with my concentration meds. I usually give up in the fourth inning and catch the highlights and scores the next day.
I would still follow the Cubs and watch part of the games on WGN when I could, but I began to lose interest in the players and particularly the team management.
Alfonso Soriano was overpaid, Wood and Prior were always hurt, Lou Piniella was always making poor managerial decisions, GM Jim Hendry kept on signing over-the-hill bums, and team ownership was a mess (to put it nicely).
Since starting Man Cave Sports, I decided it was important to start following baseball more closely in order to better reach our audience.
I followed the Cubs at the beginning of this year, but I saw no improvements.
Piniella and Hendry are still there, the Ricketts and their new ownership haven’t done anything impressive (partly because they overpaid for the franchise and have little money to acquire new players or make improvements).
The Cubs still do not have a lot of likable guys on their roster. I’m not saying guys like Ryan Theriot, Derrick Lee, and Aramis Ramirez are bad guys, but they don’t have engaging or enigmatic personalities the way Ryne Sandberg, Wood, or Sosa had.
I woke up today and decided I was done waiting for the Cubs to make a change and that I needed to make the move myself.
“Bandwagon” fans are one of my biggest pet peeves. I can’t stand the “fans” that like the Yankees, Lakers, Cowboys, Florida Gators, North Carolina Tar Heels and live in Illinois.
Or the “fairweather” fans that like the local team when they are good, but lose interest when they suck.
Indianapolis is pretty heavy in these types of fans (Indiana Pacers the last six years and Butler Bulldogs this year) .
I kid you not, we went to high school (in Indianapolis) with a guy that looked and acted like "Rain Man" , liked a girl named Alyssa, the Lakers, Miami Hurricanes, USC Trojans, Indianapolis Colts, and which ever baseball team was good that year i.e 2002 Angels and 2003 Marlins. For the record, he went to Purdue for college.
And here I am on May 23, 2010 violating one of my Ten Commandments of being a sports fan and for that I have sinned.
My official Nationals interest began on May 16th when pitcher Drew Storen , a longtime neighbor and friend, was promoted to the roster as a reliever.
Storen, Washington’s other 2009 first round draft pick not named Stephen Strasburg , blew through the minors the past two seasons with a 1.68 ERA before being called up.
In his first appearance at St. Louis, he struck out Matt Holliday in a bases loaded situation, with Albert Pujols on deck.
Today in his first at bat since high school, Storen picked up a hit off Kevin Millwood and pitched one and two-thirds scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.25 in four appearances.
The Nationals won the game in extra innings after Josh Willingham hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th to beat the Orioles and improve the Nats' record to 23-22.
Since 2005, when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals, the franchise has been in the cellar of the National League East, and Baseball America ranked the farm system among the worst in the league.
Give credit to principal owner Ted Lerner for his investment in the city and hiring/firing the right people to put baseball on the map in our Nation’s Capital.
In 2008, the Nationals moved into brand new Nationals Park , a beautiful $611 million park that seats 42,000.
The 2009 hirings of GM Mike Rizzo and Manager Jim Riggleman have greatly improved a team coming off back to back 59 win seasons.
Through the draft, free agents, and trades they have put together a competitive team in the National League RIGHT NOW and have yet to even call up Strasburg. If he’s as good as billed this year, add another 10 wins to the Nats season and their first playoff berth in Washington is not out of the question.
As I finish writing this, I just saw on the news that an SUV crashed through a strip club on the south side.
My dad isn’t home right now, so I hope he hasn’t received word that I will be turning my Cubs hat into Goodwill tomorrow, and in a drunken rage, crashed the car through the Sunday night steak buffet at Club Zeus .
This can’t be considered a huge “bandwagon” jump yet. The Nationals are only one game above .500, but I like their front office and the way they have shown dedication to improving the franchise.
It also doesn’t hurt I know one of their players.
From here on out, it is the Washington Nationals for me. This is a one time thing and I won’t switch back to the Cubs, even if they miraculously get good.
Now I just have to deliver the heart breaking news to my dad, change a few "interests" on Facebook, and buy a Nationals hat and I am good to go.
Oh, and deal with the “hypocrite” and “bandwagon” insults (that I deserve) coming my way.
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