Ted Youngling: Trying times bring out the true fan in all of us

The dog days of summer are upon us. Pennant races are heating up. Contenders are separating themselves from the pretenders, and unfortunately that means another finish in the bottom half of the division for the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals are 56-60 and 20.5 games out of first place; anyone who thinks this team has a miracle run to the playoffs in them is downright crazy. This reality raises a simple question that may be hard for some to answer - why do you continue to watch the Nationals this season? If you know the team's not going to win, then why do you bother watching the games?

Of course, these questions naturally have a pessimistic connotation, but not all of us have the privilege of being a Yankees fan who watches their team seemingly pull tricks out of their hat on a nightly basis. Not everyone is that lucky.

I should mention I am not trying to slight the Nationals in any way, shape or form; I just want to get a sense of the state of the Nats fan base. Of course, for those continuing to watch the games, we all have our reasons as to why we are giving a fourth place team our attention. Whether it's hoping for the miracle run to the playoffs, checking out guys like Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa develop or hoping this is the day Jayson Werth will finally break out of his season-long slump, we all have a reason for tuning in to watch this team.

There is no better feeling than the heat of a pennant race as the regular season winds down, but there's also nothing like the laid-back and soothing sounds of a so called "meaningless" game. I think most fans would agree in that I would watch a game between the two worst teams in the league just because it was baseball. OK maybe that's an exaggeration but you get the point.

For some, turning on the game on a hot summer day has become routine. The thought of not hearing Bob Carpenter get hyped up over a moon shot by Morse or fantastic defensive play by Ian Desmond is an unsettling feeling. It's just something that's hard for the people who don't appreciate the game of baseball to understand. Everyone knows that between the months of April and September, the game must always be on, if not on the television then on the radio, if not the radio then an Internet game cast or mobile phone updates.

Once you pledge your allegiance to a team at a very young age, you don't realize how big a part of your life they play until situations where they are far from good and you continue to follow and check up on them daily. It's an addiction that turns into a life-long investment.

If you've read this far, it likely means you understand where I'm coming from, or at least trying really hard to. To put it into perspective, lots of people say "if your team drives you so crazy, why don't you just get a new one ..." with that all you can do is shake your head and give them the classic response of "if your family drives you so crazy why don't you just find a new one?"

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