Stephen Walker: Choosing to see the rainbows

Lately, in my Ellicott City neighborhood, we have experienced the strange phenomenon of pouring rain falling from half-sunny, half-cloudy skies as thunder booms in the background. Whenever this happens, a rainbow appears right above my neighbor’s house. I can see it from my driveway.

Strangely, a lot of folks who walk or drive by look irritated by the clouds, rain and thunder. Most fail to notice the rainbow. The few that do glance for about 15 seconds or so, then go back inside. Me, I stand out there, gawk and get soaked. I love looking at rainbows.

The last rainbow I saw got me to thinking about how I’ve experienced being a fan of the Nationals, a club giving Washington, D.C., its best season in nearly 80 years. That’s eight decades, people!

So while lots of others, especially the national media, fixate on the coming cloud of the Stephen Strasburg shutdown date, this post is about three rainbows I see when I look at the Washington Nationals.

Rainbow 1 - The 2012 Nationals are a thick-skinned, resilient team

With a nice group of level-headed veterans like Jayson Werth, Adam Laroche, Ryan Zimmerman, Edwin Jackson and Mark DeRosa, blended with driven young stars like Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond, promising rookies Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore - all under Davey Johnson’s leadership - the Nationals have a calm resolve that has resulted in numerous thrilling comeback victories and baseball’s best road record.

They have also overcome injuries to nearly every player in the starting lineup. Even when they lose, they often fight back to bring the tying or winning run to the plate before the game ends. Their character, flair for drama and espirit de corps make them easy to like.

Rainbow 2 - The Nationals have a bright present and a future filled with hope

Currently holding baseball’s best record, the Nationals are poised to make August and September an exciting time in the nation’s capital. Johnson’s club will be a welcome distraction from election year nonsense, the end-of-summer vacation, the return of D.C.’s legendary traffic jams and the NFL.

Equally exciting, the Nationals have a bright future. Few of the players are over 30 and talented prospects like Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin are poised to join the team in the next year or two. Long-term, Lucas Giolito could become another member of a formidable starting rotation that is already one of baseball’s best.

No one knows what the future will hold, but Washington looks to be one of baseball’s most talented clubs over the next three to five years.

Rainbow 3 - Fans across the D.C. metro area are finally noticing the Nationals and falling in love with the team, baseball in Washington and the city itself

With an exciting, entertaining team to enjoy after many years of substandard fare, people are discovering the Nationals. Fans across the area are flocking to Nationals Park in record numbers. In fact, the Nationals are on pace to have one of the biggest percentage increases in attendance in Major League Baseball this season. Television and radio ratings are way up, as well.

Washington, an exciting urban center enjoying population growth, has the demographics to be a good baseball town. The town just needed a good baseball team to root for. If the Nationals remain a strong team for the foreseeable future, Nationals Park could become the vibrant center for a renaissance of both the District’s southwest waterfront and the national pastime. It will be intriguing to watch how the neighborhood grows around the ballpark as the economy recovers. This year, the area surrounding Nationals Park is more vibrant and picturesque than ever. Having grown up in the D.C. area, the return of the Nationals rekindled my love for Washington.

I admit it. When it comes to the Nationals, I’m wired to curse the clouds, bemoan the rain and miss the rainbow. Just ask my wife. Just ask my friends.

However, with an excellent team playing thrilling baseball - after 40 years in the wilderness of losing streaks and the desert of a 33-season rain delay - I’m determined, no matter what the next 46 games hold, to savor this Nationals’ season of rainbows.

Stephen Walker blogs about the Nationals at District on Deck and is the author of “A Whole New Ballgame: The 1969 Washington Senators” (Pocol Press, 2009). His work appears here as part of’s effort to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of the Internet. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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