Nationals Park: The reading room for Washingtonians

I regularly complain to friends that one of the frustrating things about going to baseball games at Nationals Park in Washington is that people don’t go there to watch the game. Every time I go to the park, I end up sitting behind a group of young D.C. up and comers who focus on each other and talk about their work and social lives.

And there are plenty of place in the stadium where people never go to their seats. They just hang out on benches and comfortable chairs on the stadium’s second level near the barbecue concessions and the bathrooms, completely oblivious to what’s happening on the field.

Washington Nationals fans don’t pay attention.

I thought I was the only one to notice it, but then I saw this on Deadspin:


Just this season, we’ve seen a Nats fan doing his calculus homework at the game, a Nats fan doing his taxes at the game, a Nats fan knitting a scarf at the game. Now, three more examples, all from a single day, of Washington fans reading at the ballpark. …

… what is it about Washington that brings out the distraction? The above photo was posted to Instagram during Sunday’s doubleheader, of a lady reading something on her Kindle. And D.C. Sports Bog has a pair of pictures, also from Sunday, of two men absorbed in their newspapers. …

Nats fans are getting a reputation. So put the reading material away.

My team is the Yankees, and one thing for sure … Yankee fans pay attention. They come up with the most creative ways to offend the opposing team, they’re loud and they’re obnoxious. Years ago, back when I lived in New York, I went to countless games, sitting in the bleacher seats, joining the chants on how much everything sucked:

[Opposing team] sucks!
Mets suck!
Boston sucks!
Box seats suck!

Of course, they’ve come up with more creative insults over the years, but this was my rite of passage as a baseball fan.

And one thing for sure. Nobody anywhere near where I was sitting pulled out a book and read it during a game. Because anyone who did would have sucked!


Catch as catches can’t

I see this amazing baseball catch:

And this:

And would like to believe they really happened.

But the first catch is a Gillette ad. And the second is a Gatorade ad.

Meanwhile, this was real:

Jason Werth, the guy who hit the ball, is now with the Washington Nationals. The guy who caught the ball, without spilling his drinks, hasn’t been recruited by MLB.

Little League World Series: Pennsylvania pandemonium

The Pennsylvania team is putting up some awesome numbers in the Little League World Series. They won tonight’s game 7-5 against Georgia, their third consecutive win since their first game loss against Kentucky.

But Pennsylvania’s huge numbers don’t involve runs or games won. Look at the attendance. The Kentucky game drew 41,848 fans … for a Little League game. (Kentucky has since been knocked out of the tournament.) Last night’s game drew a measly 32,000 fans. Still better than what Major League baseball’s Washington Nationals draw on a work night. (Washington lost to the the Arizona Diamondbacks last night in front of 17,000 fans.)

Pennsylvania plays again Thursday night, and it’s been estimated that when that game is over, Pennsylvania will have drawn 160,000 fans, almost half of the total attendance for the entire World Series thus far. Chances are most of the fans at the other games had come early to see Pennsylvania play. And we’re not even at the championship game.

That’s a home field advantage.

If you want to see the game, watch it on the Web on ESPN3.

UPDATE: Pennsylvania’s run is over. They lost to California 2-0 Thursday night. California faces Montana for the U.S. title Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Japan faces Mexico at noon. The final is Sunday at 3 p.m.

The attendance at Thursday’s Pennsylvania-California game was more than 31,000, bringing the attendance at Pennsylvania’s games in this series to more than 167,000.

Little League World Series: 42,000 for a kid’s game

A team from LaGrange, Ky., and a team from Clinton County, Pa., met in the first round of the Little League World Series last night in Williamsport, Pa. It was an amazingly close game with two exciting plays at the plate by the Kentucky catcher, stopping what should have been two easy runs. And the Kentucky pitcher struck out 12 and hit a home run.

Kentucky won 1-0.

Pennsylvania vs. Kentucky: attendance 41,848

But here’s the exciting part. The crowd totaled just under 42,000 (41,848), breaking an attendance record for an LLWS game. And those records were set twice for championship games in 1989 and 1990.

Now the fact that the Pennsylvania team came from less than 30 miles away from Williamsport probably accounted for a big local contingent, but let’s face it: 42,000 for a first-round Little League game is astounding.

I took my son to the Little League World Series twice when he was just about the age of the players. We were living in New Jersey and the drive was about three hours. The most impressive thing about the event is that the games are free. You can just walk into the complex and watch any game being played. And there are tons of concession stands, so it’s got all the atmosphere of a big league game, and none of the expense.

Even so, there are major league teams that can’t draw 42,000 to a game. As a baseball fan stuck with watching the Washington Nationals, I don’t think I’ve been to a game this season where the attendance topped 32,000. But then, the Nationals suck. As I write this, just before midnight, their record is 59-63, but they’re kicking the butts of the Philadelphia Phillies in the ninth inning of a rain delayed game, so they’ll be 60-64 by the time I finish this post. (Attendance: 37,841, mostly Philly fans from what I saw on the metro heading home around game time. I live four blocks from the ballpark.)

Major League Baseball has done everything it can to screw up its product. No, not scandals over steroid abuse. Its crime is greed: charging astronomical prices for a decent seat to see a bad team; food stands that require a second mortgage if you want to eat at the stadium; beer sales to obnoxious drunks who scare families from the ballpark; keeping playoffs to night games for network money so kids aren’t able to see their favorite teams win a championship. Do these idiots realize we’re in a recession, and a family can’t spend a hundred bucks to see a team that’s going nowhere?

And even though I’m a Yankee fan, there is something wrong when it’s a given that my team is ALWAYS going to be in the playoffs, while other teams owned by people who are just as rich as the Steinbrenners can only manage to give the fans a sub-.500 team year in and year out. (Case in point, the Nationals.)

Yeah, I hear the “But the Yankees have all that TV revenue and buy all the great players.” No, they have smart baseball people, and smart people do exist at other  teams. Read Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball.” Or if you can’t read, go to the Brad Pitt movie when it comes out next month.

The fans are there if the teams really want to give them something they want to see: 42,000 at a Little League game is proof of that.

UPDATE: It turns out that the attendance of 41,848 at Friday night’s Pennsylvania vs. Kentucky game in the Little League World Series exceeded the attendance of all but three major league games that same night.