Hope is Dead in Natstown

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. --F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Hope, hope springs eternal, or so we are told every year around this time as pitchers and catchers make their way to Florida and Arizona. The smack of horsehide against leather will begin soon as pitchers start to throw. Loosen their bodies for the long season ahead. That will be followed by the clopping of feet as they run from the pitcher’s mound to cover first, from the mound to behind third base, to behind home plate. There is some place for a pitcher to be on every play and now is the time they must learn it. And while they work and struggle to get ready for the far off dog days of summer fans will swallow up every word fed to them hoping that this could be the year. That all the work in February and March will pay off in October.

Now is the time where every team has hope. Even the Astros are tied for first with a record of 0-0. April will change that. After all as T.S. Eliot wisely put it, "April is the cruelest month." It is when the hope of the non-contenders will be squashed as they quickly and suddenly fall to sub-.500 records. The Nationals were there once. They were the team full of hopes and dreams when Spring rolled around, but no longer. 2012 was morning in Natstown. The bright sun broke through the clouds and shined down its glimmering light. With 98 wins and the best run differential in baseball the Washington Nationals were illuminated. That light has remained and the Nationals are predicted, forecasted, projected, and prognosticated to once again be the best team in baseball.  

Where is hope when the expectations are to be the best? The hope rests in the side of the underdog. When the Persians marched on Greece and 300 Spartans stood in their way hope went to the 300. The Spartans lost the battle and all died at the hands of the Persians, but it took days instead of minutes. Hope is William Wallace, Spartacus, and the Alamo. Greek historian Thucydides writing about the Peloponnesian Wars said, "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." The Washington Nationals are the strong.  

Hope is the light in the darkness and in the absence of darkness exists also the absence of hope. The bright light of greatness has found the Washington Nationals and all they have left to do is prove themselves, but in that proving they will only be doing what is expected of them. Hope is for those with nothing left. Hope is what Andy Dufresne had in Shawshank prison. Hope is for those with little who desire much, but for those that have there are only expectations and the future. The Nationals have left the age of hope, the age of building behind them and have entered the era of reality.

The Nationals are set up to be a great team for a number of years, but like a large wave that has risen of the shore and crested all that is left is to break against the waiting shoreline. How distant that shoreline is is unknown, but it waits hungry and savage and cruel. One day in the future the wave that is the Nationals will crash and shatter and recede. Recede back out to sea and the process will begin again, but the fun of a wave isn't when it is slowly rolling towards the shore. The fun is after it crests and starts to break. That is when a wave can be ridden and enjoyed. Hope has abandoned Natstown, but excitement, expectations, and reality have taken its place.    

Enjoy it while you can. One day the reality of this winning era will shatter on the shore. Hope will return, and we, Nats fans will be hoping that the latest prospect can arrive a year early or the latest reclamation project pitcher can find his stuff for one last go round. For now the darkness that breeds hope is set aside, and in the light there is only room for disappointment.

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