Kushner: Can The Nats Woo The DC Sports Fan?

Kushner: Can The Nats Woo The DC Sports Fan?
April 29, 2010, 8:55 pm
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Thursday, April 29, 2010, 4:49 PM
By Holden Kushner

So Im watching the third installment of the Washington Capitals Playoff Edition and it hits me: How long will it take for the Nationals to reach the Caps Q rating?

In 2005 when the Expos relocated to D.C., Nationals attendance ranked 11th out of 32 teams. Last year, Nats crowds drew the 24th-smallest crowd in baseball, and through 13 home dates in 2010, that ranking has dropped a spot to 25th.

There are similarities between the Nationals attendance and that of our local hockey team. In 2006, Alexander Ovechkins rookie year, the Caps placed 28th out of 30 teams in the NHL. They climbed to 24th in 2008, the first year an Ovechkin-led team went to the postseason. In 2009 they leapfrogged to 13th and this year sold out each and every game to boast the 11th-highest attendance in the National Hockey League.

Is it possible that the Nationals can take this town by storm the same way the Capitals have?

The Nats do have a few things working in their favor. For one, Washington is eager to root for a winning team. Given the recent failures of the Redskins and Wizards, locals would even jump on the bandwagon of a good tennis team. No, check that. The Kastles won their Championship in 2009, and many of you are learning of it for the first time right now.

Also, the product that the Nationals are expecting to run out to the field over the next two seasons is expected to be quite impressive. George Will, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and a major proponent for bringing baseball back to the nations capital, joined 106.7 The Fan with Mike Wise and I and said, Look at how well they've played this year. I think the Nationals have a good manager, a good core offense and their best pitcher is in AA-Harrisburg. This is already a better and more interesting team. Last year they were bad and boring. Not this year.

The Nats do have the schedule working in their favor to some extent. From June through August there are no other major sporting events taking place, although many would consider Redskins training camp a much bigger spectacle than any baseball game.

On the other hand, there are some factors working against the Nationals in their quest to catch the Capitals as Washington D.C.s second-favorite sport.

This franchise had been dreadful and without an identity every year other than their inaugural season in 2005. Even if the Nats were to get into a pennant race and make it to the postseason, theyd be going right up against the Redskins regular season. The Nationals could appear in the World Series, and Id be willing to bet that a Skins regular season game would outdraw them on television. Thats just the odds theyre up against.

Can the passion for Nationals baseball ever exceed that of the Capitals? Not this year. Even with the Caps early exit from the postseason, local fans have had three years to hop on the bandwagon.

The Nats need to give D.C. a reason to climb aboard. Baseball appeals to a greater number of people because its easier to pick up a bat and ball rather than find an ice rink to play on.

Once the Nationals start winning, attendance will rise and broadcast ratings will too.

We all know that this town is jonesing for a true winner. Lets just hope success happens much sooner than later.