Rachel Levitin: Inflated expectations on home team's new mascot?

These days, there appears to be a solid distinction in the way baseball fans - in Washington, D.C., especially - view the game. They watch the game and pick its intricacies apart with either a conservative, progressive or moderate lens. Nation's capital puns aside, it's a dichotomy that gets the Nationals' fan base riled up inside the ballpark, via Twitter or in the blogosphere. The baseball conservatives are traditionalists who tend to abide by the unwritten rule book. They say that fans shouldn't boo players during a game because "what good does it really do?" They think doing the wave at the ballpark is blasphemy because it distracts from the sport being played on the field. Their ultimate goal is to continue cherishing baseball for what it once was and for what they hope it will always be - a game rooted in its traditions. Then there is the progressive bunch of fans living in the present. They enjoy the frivolous nature of ballpark entertainment. Before and during (and sometimes after) ballpark entertainment in the form of interactive scoreboard games or - in the Nats' case - games that involve an in-game host or two and even mid-game races on the field are an active part of why modern baseball fans are enjoying their time at the ballpark. They still love to watch the game being played by their team, but they see the in-the-park/on-the-field festivities as more of a perk than the traditionalists who view those more as a distraction. There are, of course, always the moderates who find a common ground in cherishing the better parts of baseball's traditions while maintaining that change is a good and inevitable trait of the game that should be appreciated by all. There is also one item that all fans can hopefully agree upon: Air Screech - the Nats' newest addition to their in-game entertainment revelry - is weird. When Air Screech was introduced at Nationals Park last Thursday, he became the sixth active member of Washington's mascot family. He joined the ranks of George, Tom, Abe, Teddy and regular Screech when he showed up on the third base line in an oversized, inflated costume attempting to dance with a limited range of motion. Air Screech's air body's movement was similar to the likes of a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man from an episode of "Family Guy," but instead of a scary clown-like smile plastered across its inflatable face, there was a beak. After trying to bust a move or find some sort of groove to a medley of songs including House of Pain's "Jump Around" and DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win," Air Screech took to the stands and proceeded to poke its beak at people. The Nats aren't the only team in town sporting an inflatable version of their team mascot. Word came to the We Love DC Sports Tweetdeck during that game that the Capitals have an inflatable Slapshot. That doesn't make the introduction of Air Screech any better or worse, but it does beg the question: Are inflatable mascots what sports fans want or are entertainment departments in professional sports in desperate need of some fresh ideas? If garnering attention for the Nats was the whole point of Air Screech to begin with, though, then Air Screech was a giant success. Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation's capital as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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