I have enjoyed my colleague A.J Armstrong‘s stories this week about the Washington Nationals. His views about the team I cover clearly comes from his position as a fan of the Atlanta Braves – something that, to his credit, he admits in one his first stories.
There is nothing better than a good Braves-Nationals back-and-forth from fans. I think from a Nationals side, it might be fun if we looked at the Braves fans.
Look, I have many friends who are Braves fans. My brother was part of the Superstation-WTBS production team that beamed Atlanta baseball from coast to coast. I have worked with and for Turner Sports throughout my career and I have great respect for the work they did in making the Braves America’s team.
From Long Beach, California all the way across the country to Washington, D.C., the television version of the Braves have their share of fans — you have “Braves Nation”.
The really funny thing is that where the support for the Braves is really tepid is in Atlanta, of all places. During their run of 14 consecutive playoff appearances that ended in 2005, the Braves were notorious for not selling out some postseason games. The novelty of making the playoffs had apparently worn off, and the local fans had other things to do.
I only have to go back last year for an illustration of this, when surefire Hall-of-Famer Chipper Jones took to Twitter to urge fans to turn out and support the team.
Here is where I have an issue with my colleague. Last season, the Nationals reached 98 wins and won the NL East title; while this change of fortune was happening, they drew 2,370,794 fans to Nationals Park. As fate would have it. the team will top the 2.5 million mark in attendance tonight when they host the Atlanta Braves, with a final four-game weekend series with the Florida Marlins to add more fans to that total.
So in fairness, despite the fact that this team has not lived up to expectations and has trailed the Braves for most of the season, the Nats have actually increased their attendance. I also checked with some friends within the Nationals organization, who indicates that the pre-sale of season tickets for the 2014 are doing quite well as this season comes to a close.
Does winning increase attendance? Of course it does. There are very few teams in sports where losing seasons are accompanied by an increase in ticket sales. So, right here and right now, the Nationals have a fan base that continues to build.
I think that best thing here is that the Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and the Miami Marlins realize the Nationals are a creditable threat to win the division. It will be meaningful each time the Braves and the Nationals face each other for the foreseeable future, and that is great news for both franchises and even better for the fans of both teams.
So to my friends and colleagues who are Braves fans, I say good luck in the playoffs. We still hope to see you there this year but if not, be ready next season. The Nationals, like the Braves, are built to contend for years to come.