Do Home Teams Wear White? Why?

Dear Sports Fan,

Speaking of my teams colors. can you explain the color choices and jersey choices that teams have.  I know there are home jerseys and away jerseys.  What are third jerseys?  What about when two teams play at home (Gians v. jets)?

Thanks,
Pat


 

Dear Pat,

This is something I’ve been wondering about for years! I swear that when I was a kid the home team used to wear white. Now they seem to wear their team color and the road team usually wears white. Arghh — it’s been driving me crazy! Thanks to your question, I did a little research and I think that I can explain it.

Here’s what I think happened. When I was a kid, the two primary sports in my life were soccer (which I played maniacally until my knees fell off) and hockey (which I started watching maniacally in 1993-94. In both of these cases, it was customary for the home team to wear white and the away team to wear a more colorful uniform. On my traveling team we wore white at home and when we drove to Manalapan or Hopewell we wore our sweet orange unis that looked like the Princeton University ones with a little pretentious crest. In the NHL it was the same way. My favorite team, the Penguins, wore their white and gold uniforms at home and their black and gold ones on the road whether I was watching them on my fuzzy little television or playing as them in the classic computer game NHL 93 on my fuzzy little computer screen. The other major sports in the U.S., Football, Basketball, and Baseball were present in my life, but off to the edge somewhere. I’m not sure I made note of their color systems. Since then, these sports (except for Baseball) have become a bigger part of my life while soccer has retreated into the distance (with my knees.) As this happened, the NHL decided to switch (in 2003) from Home = white to Home = color. Anyway, this is how it stands now:

  • Football — Home = Color
  • Hockey — Home = Color
  • Baseball — Home = White
  • Basketball — Home = White

It’s a little confusing, but there are arguments/explanations for both systems. For example — the road team wears darker colors because once upon a time they might not have had access to laundry between games and the darker colors hid the stains better. Or — home teams wear light jerseys because dark jerseys attract the sun which is a competitive disadvantage. Or — (and this is where your third jersey explanation comes in) the road teams wear white so that the home team can use its third jersey. A third jersey is usually another colored jersey that is either futuristic or a throw-back to a previous color scheme/design that a team will wear strategically to sell more merchandise to its fans. Some sports have requirements about when or how much teams can use this third jersey.

Back in my (old)hockey/soccer days I always thought the color scheme came down to a question of identification. Everyone knows who the home team is because it’s the home team! So it’s okay for them to wear white. The color of the road team helps the home fans to know who they are playing against. Later in my football/(new)hockey days I thought it was a subjugation thing — the home team gets to peacock around in its finest colored plumage while the road team is forced to look just like everyone else in white. When there are two “home teams” like in the case of Jets v. Giants or Lakers v. Clippers, the league will designate one of the teams as “home” and one as “away.” Jersey colors, season tickets, and other stuff follows from that.

What really bugs me is that home teams during the NHL playoffs will often do a “white-out” where all their fans get free white t-shirts. This is supposed to be intimidating? To a road team that’s wearing white? Arhg!!!

In case this hasn’t been enough dorky conversation about team colors, check out these guys at ColorWerx™ (formerly The Society for Sports Uniforms Research.™) Whoa!

Thanks,
Ezra Fischer

Why Aren't the Rules the Rules? (Part 2)

Dear Sports Fan,

Reading about the bad call in the Pittsburgh/Atlanta game last night reminded me of something I’ve always wondered. Whether it’s because the ref is looking the other way (literally or figuratively), or because of just plain human error, the rules in sports are often either not enforced, or not enforced correctly. But in many cases, it seems like people just consider that an integral part of the game! Especially given the increasing ability of technology to settle disputes, why not just come up with what the real rules ought to be, and then enforce them as thoroughly as possible?

Thanks,
Erik

— — —

(This is a continuation of an answer to this question. The first half was posted here.)

It will ruin the game:

There is some concern that adding technology to sports will ruin the game by making it too sterile or too slow. Taking the humanity out of the game could be a concern, but as much as people love discussing disputed calls at the water cooler, they also love talking about great (and terrible) performances, and great (and terrible) decisions on the part of the players and coaches. There will always be something to talk about. As for making the game too slow… uh… it could not possibly slow down the game as much as television time-outs, arguing with refs about calls, or in the case of baseball… adjusting your batting gloves, hat, glove, or cup compulsively over and over and over again.

It’s too expensive:

FIFA, the notoriously frustrating international federation of soccer refuses to add video replay to international competition because it would be too expensive for some of its member nations to implement. This is a curious reason since it seems like knowing ahead of time that you will actually know whether the ball crossed the goal line during the game shouldn’t change any element of tactics or strategy.

What do you mean “right?”

This is the heart of the answer to your question. A rule says, “it’s against the rules to trip an opponent” but does that mean “it’s against the rules to trip an opponent” or “it’s against the rules to trip an opponent if you get caught?” It’s clear from these two sports cliches which way the sports world leans: “it’s not a foul if you don’t get caught” and “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”

Sports, particularly baseball is all about cheating. The last twenty years have been shaped by steroids and HGH. Before that there were amphetamines called greenies. Before that teams regularly intimidated officials or just plain assaulted them when they didn’t like the calls they were getting. It’s well know that the 1919 World Series was fixed by a few players on the White Sox and there have always been unproven rumors that the 1918 one might have been fixed as well. Cyclists are jam-packed full of drugs. They have been for a long time but “tiny electric motors…?” That’s a new one.

Even if a player is clean when he steps onto the court, he or she is rarely clean by the end of the game. Some of the most memorable plays in sports history have been the beneficiaries of some incorrect or missed calls. In soccer there is the “hand of god” goal, in basketball, Michael Jordan’s famous shot to beat the Utah Jazz is an offensive foul. Watch the video and notice Jordan’s left hand on his defender’s hip… he definitely pushes off.

Jordan is not great in spite of pushing off, he’s great partially because he pushed off and didn’t get caught.

Another way to state the question is — do we really want to have the game called “perfectly?” Here’s an example of this in the non-sports world. We certainly have the technology to identify each car and driver and what road they are on. Why shouldn’t we simply fine people whenever they go over the speed limit? Why waste all the time, money, and talent of our police departments lurking around trying to catch people when we could just automate it? I know we’ve started doing this with running some red lights, but I think that if we tried to automate speeding tickets on a large scale there would be riots and political parties would shape up around the issue… and I’m not sure which would be worse! It’s the same with most sports — a totally policed game is a boring one.

Thanks for the fun question,
Ezra Fischer

Why Aren't the Rules the Rules?

Dear Sports Fan,

Reading about the bad call in the Pittsburgh/Atlanta game last night reminded me of something I’ve always wondered. Whether it’s because the ref is looking the other way (literally or figuratively), or because of just plain human error, the rules in sports are often either not enforced, or not enforced correctly. But in many cases, it seems like people just consider that an integral part of the game! Especially given the increasing ability of technology to settle disputes, why not just come up with what the real rules ought to be, and then enforce them as thoroughly as possible?

Thanks,
Erik


 

Dear Erik,

Great question! In fact, this is such an interesting question that I’m going to break my answer into a couple blog posts.

The bad call that you’re referring to is this one:

It won’t work:

Sports rules are complicated and the action happens very, very quickly. Assuming that there is no way that we’re going to be able to rework the rules to change something as integral as “if the catcher has the ball in his glove and touches the runner before he touches home plate, he’s out” then one has to wonder how technology will help. Setting aside video replay for a second, let’s look for another solution. Okay, so — let’s put a chip in the ball. Then, let’s put some material in the catcher’s glove such that the ball knows when it’s in the glove. Great — now we’re cooking with gas! Now we have to have either more material covering the runner’s uniform… and hands, arms, head, neck, etc. Or, I guess we could just monitor whether the glove is making contact by putting some sort of pressure meeter into the ball or glove. Except that won’t work because that glove could hit the ground, the ump, or the catcher’s own body. I’m not sure any of this will work, so let’s go back and examine video replay.

Video replay is the most common form of technology in sports. Football, basketball, hockey, even baseball (believe it or not) have some form of video replay in their rules. In baseball use of video replay is restricted to basically deciding whether a ball was a home run or whether it never left the ball-park, did leave but was subject to fan interference, or left but was foul (too far off to the side to count.) Other sports have more extensive video replay rules. You may have noticed NFL coaches comically struggling to get a little red flag out of their sock, pants, shirt, etc. and throw it onto the field — they are “challenging” the ref’s judgement and calling for a video replay. Every goal in hockey is reviewed by a team of video officials in Toronto. The NBA has been able to replay shots at the end of quarters and games and just recently added video replay for unclear out-of-bounds calls.

Tennis has a system called Hawkeye. This is probably as close as it gets to your suggestion. According to Wikipedia, “all Hawk-Eye systems are based on the principles of triangulation using the visual images and timing data provided by at least four high-speed video cameras located at different locations and angles around the area of play.” In tennis the rules are objective and there is technology which insures the calls are too. Or at least can be. The computer has not totally replaced the line-judges or the referee yet… although I could see a time in the not so distant future where they could.

Most other sports are not as tidy as tennis though. Take the call at home plate that started this discussion: here’s how Jonah Keri described it on Grantland.com

If you want to use replay to make a simple yes or no call, you won’t get unanimity. And no, the fact that Lugo acted as if he were out does not constitute iron-clad proof.

Watch the replay for yourself, with the sound off.

Here’s what I did see: Lugo starts his slide well in front of the plate. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals starts to make his safe sign just as Lugo touches home with his right foot. There’s no way Meals has time to process the play and rule that Lugo had already touched home. He’s also not looking at Lugo’s foot, but rather at the swipe tag. (It should be noted that Lugo did in fact touch home with his right foot the first time — the follow-up tap of home with his left foot was unnecessary.)

Either way, replay wouldn’t have resolved the issue. Not to the point where all parties, including a purple Clint Hurdle, would have been satisfied.

And, as Keri also points out, at the time of this call, the ump had been on the field working in a high-pressure environment for six hours and 39 minutes. Furthermore — even Baseball is a nice tidy game compared to Hockey or Football. No matter how many cameras, sensors, and computers you have, there is no chance in hell you’ll be able to figure out what happened at the bottom of a pile with thousands of pounds of angry football player fighting over the ball.

More tomorrow…
Ezra Fischer 

 

What are my Cap Options at a Ball Game?

Dear Sports Fan,

I want to go to a baseball game and wear a baseball cap but I don’t like the home team’s colors. What are my options?

Unknown female name rhyming with Bill


 

Dear Jill,

It seems to be fashion week here at Dear Sports Fans.  If you missed it, glance back at Monday’s column when Dean Russell Bell helped you pick out the perfect sports jersey for your persona.  If you look closely he will also answer the age-old question of why baseball players wear belts. (Hint: the answer is not to hold in their rather athletic guts.)

Today’s question, though, is a hat of a different color, or to be more precise, whether or not it is acceptable to wear one to a baseball game.

In my mind, sporting events are in many ways, like a costume party.  You have:  your neighbor who has spent every waking moment since last October planning out and putting together the perfect customized costume; the group that upon receiving the invite spend about a week putting together a solid outfit; the couple in your office who will run to the store at the last minute and just pick up whatever costume is still available; the girl who shows up in lingerie and black fuzzy ears and tells everyone that she is a cat; and, of course, the guy who will talk non-stop about how stupid and juvenile it is to wear a costume every single day until the party and then show up without a costume at the party to continue his tirade

For you Jill, I think we can immediately rule out the first and the last.  Your objections to wearing a specific colored hat clearly indicate that you are not about to forgo the hat for a full mascot costume or body paint.  On the other hand, given that you are making the effort to wear a hat at all, I think we can safely rule out our costume curmudgeon.  Both are ok.  No one expects you to become super crazy fan overnight, and everyone is thankful that you aren’t going to attend the event just to be the downer in the corner.

That leaves you with three other options for finding the perfect hat:

First, if you see yourself as the last minute couple, willing to make the effort but not overly concerned about the result, I think we can find you a hat that would work.  These days baseball hats are not only a way to support a team but also a fashion trend.  As such, you can buy a team logoed hat in just about any shade or design you want.  If you don’t want to be completely off the wall in your hat choice, try to find a hat that has some relation to your team colors.  Many teams have accent colors that they incorporate into logos or gear that might be a good alternative.  In addition, all baseball teams have an alternate or third jersey that they have or will use on occasion.[1] Sometimes those jerseys involve very different colors that you could consider.

Or, if you are a kitty cat kind of girl, then there is a Pepto-Bismol pink hat with your name all over it.  Some marketing genius in the sports world decided that girls who watch sports are only comfortable doing so in a bumble gum pink hat adorned with rhinestones and glitter.  Despite what my derisive tone my lead you to believe, this isn’t actually a terrible option, if you happen to like pink.  They do have some more subtle pink options, and the hats are official team merchandise so they support your team and the league.

And lastly, and my personal preference, if you are a member of the group, you will realize that the best way to have fun at any type of social event, but especially a sporting event, is to get into it and let yourself have fun.  Go ahead and buy the hat in the official team colors.  The worst that happens is that you own an ugly hat that you will only ever wear when surrounded by a giant crowd of people all similarly adorned in ugly colored garb.  It’s just a hat.   You can easily hide it in your bag and then put it on when you walk into the stadium.   And who knows?  Maybe you will let yourself have enough fun that by the end of the game, you might just forget to remove that ugly hat before you walk out of the stadium.

Have fun,
Lisa Filipek

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. According to Wikipedia, the NY Yankees are the only teams without a third jersey.  I am  going to go out on a limb here and assume that the colors that bother you aren’t navy blue and white.

Why do Baseball Players Wear Belts?

Dear Sports Fan,

Why do baseball players wear belts?

Just sayin’,
Ashley


 

Dear Ashley,

Baseball, to a degree not seen in other sports, is grounded in traditions that have been around for over a hundred years. To us, and even to the players, some of the traditions make no sense – but because baseball is perceived, or wants to be perceived, as “America’s game,” something that’s unchanging and consistent throughout history, the traditions remain.

Which is a roundabout way of saying there’s no good explanation for why baseball players do a lot of things and you can just add this one to the list. When you think about baseball players’ attire, they’re actually more appropriately dressed up to go out to the club than they are to play a professional sport. Their shirt is actually a button-down, unlike every other major professional sport, where they wear jerseys of some sort. The players are given a sartorial choice when it comes to their socks: some pull their pants all the way down to their cleats, some have their socks meet their pants at the knee like an 18th century landowner. So there’s an element of (attempted) style to the baseball uniform that speaks to how the sport sees, or saw, itself.

This is a good opportunity to discuss the uniforms from the major (American) (male[1]) sports. Not how nice they are, but on whether the components of the uniform – jersey/pants/footwear/hatwear – would look most appropriate on a teenager, someone from the 80’s, a yuppie, or one of Dr. Evil’s evil henchmen – ignoring all of the logos, etc. To whit:

Basketball: Teenager. Easiest of the bunch. Tank top with long baggy shorts and sneakers. I just described half of the teenagers in America. Headwear: Some players wear headbands by personal choice – the only one of the major sports where headwear is optional, come to think of it.

Football: 80’s . When you come right down to it, football players are wearing cut-off tee shirts and (long) cut-off shorts – two regrettable legacies of the 80’s. Among many.

Hockey: Yuppies. Hockey players wear sweaters. ‘Nuff said.

Baseball: Yuppie. As discussed above, it’s a button-down tucked into long pants, complemented with a nice belt. Equally at home on the baseball diamond or at happy hour.

Golf: European yuppies. The collared shirts, the tight fitted pants, the visors – throw some sweaters around these guys’ shoulders and they could be on a yacht docked somewhere off the Riviera.

NASCAR: Dr. Evil’s evil henchmen. The jumpsuit is worn by everyone on the team. The driver gets a dark, tinted helmet. If Dr. Evil was sponsored by Home Depot, this is how his minions would dress.

Thanks,
Dean Russell Bell

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. I’m barely qualified to speak on men’s fashion, so if you think I’m going to set my toe in the waters of commenting on women’s fashion, you’re out of your mind.

What is the Most Challenging Ball Sport? The Least?

Dear Sports Fan,

What do you consider the most physically challenging sport that involves a ball? The least?

Thanks,
Crystal

— — —

Okay, so bocce is not the most physically challenging... but is it a sport?

Hey Crystal,

I’m glad you said “physically challenging” rather than simply “challenging.” That makes this a much easier question for me to answer because it rules out baseball. Baseball (only nominally a sport as far as I’m concerned) is extremely technically challenging but virtually no one would say it is the most physically challenging sport. I’m glad you specified that the sport should involve a ball because that rules out hockey, ballet, and cycling. All three of those sports are incredibly physically grueling often to the point of seriously damaging the people who play them.

The most physically challenging ball sport has to be water polo. I know I’ve mentioned water polo before so attentive readers may be thinking that I just have a thing for water polo. But seriously — imagine swimming and treading water for 32 minutes.[1] That’s exhausting enough! Now add playing a sport which involves a lot of time treading water without your hands and arms and tons of times when you drive yourself up out of the water to catch, throw, and block the ball. To that add violence. Tons of violence. Here is an article from the Washington Post written during the 2004 olympics that describes this pretty well:

Water polo players launch themselves out of the water to shoot.

Through the murk of the water, you see elbows swung into guts, knees slammed into groins, hands yanking bathing suits into painful wedgies, guys simply swimming on top of an opponent and holding him under water until he fights his way, punching and kicking, to the surface. Technically, none of this stuff is legal, but the refs working the poolside allow a certain amount of leeway.

The least physically challenging sport is actually a harder question because being physically challenging is one of the elements that usually helps distinguish between a game and a sport. For instance, though many of you might think I was going to argue for golf as the least challenging sport, I would say that if you count golf as a sport, you should count bocce! And bocce is much less physically challenging than golf.[2] No need to limber up to hit a ball hundreds of feet in bocce. No “walking the course” for 72 holes over four days. Bocce consists of throwing not that heavy balls not that far towards an even smaller, lighter ball.

One of the best five baseball players in the world.
TIME FOR TEA!!!

If you exclude bocce, golf, pool, darts, and try to find a true sport sport which is pretty easy to play, then I think it’s probably got to be cricket. I don’t know that much about cricket but I do know that test cricket is played over up to five days. During each day “there are usually three two-hour sessions, with a forty minute break for ‘lunch’ and a twenty minute break for ‘tea’.” I am sure cricket takes an enormous amount of skill and it’s hard to argue that baseball (a sport where one of it’s best players looks like this) is more physically demanding… but…. well, what do you think?

Great question!
Ezra Fischer

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. There are four eight-minute quarters in water polo although because the clock stops on fouls and when the ball goes out of bounds, most quarters actually last around 12 minutes. Players will continue to tread water even when the clock has stopped. We hope.
  2. Excluding cross-country bocce, of course!

Getting Old in Sports

Here’s an article from Chris Ballard that was published on Sports Illustrated recently. It’s an exploration of how age works in an industry where 37 is “ancient.” I enjoyed it for his insight into professional sports, but more for how he connected his own experiences of aging while playing in recreational games with what professional athletes go through.

What is it about this age and sports? Thirty-seven is when Reggie Miller turned into a role player, when Joe Montana became human, when Muhammad Ali retired for the first—and what should have been the last—time. Thirty-seven is where expectations go to die. Fans don’t expect fortysomethings to be All-Stars; if a 41-year-old is even playing, we glorify him. Look at that lovable codger; he’s still going! But at 37 the athlete still carries a whiff of greatness. When he doesn’t perform, we are disappointed. He is not yet lovable. He is letting us down.

Why do Sports Have Seasons?

Dear Sports Fan,

Why are sports played during certain seasons?

Thanks,
Jill


 

Dear Jill,

That’s an interesting question. Oddly enough I could find barely any answer for your question online. So… I’ll just have to make up an answer.

Sports seasons once made sense because the weather fit the sport. Football was played in the fall because it’s best played on cool, crisp autumn days. Playing football in the summer would be tortuous and dangerous for players running around in what basically amounted to heavy leather armor. Baseball cannot be played in the winter and because the season is so long and games have to be canceled on even the hint of rain, it’s important to get started as soon as spring begins to spring. Hockey is played on ice so… winter seems like a natural time for it especially in the days before super-powerful air-conditioners made it feasible to play hockey in South Florida and Texas. Since real Americans don’t play hockey, they needed something else to play in the winter. Enter Basketball, a sport that could be played in the summer but could be played in the winter!

Everything made some sort of intuitive sense until serious money got injected into sports leagues. With few exceptions, the more games a league scheduled, the longer the season, the more teams made the playoffs and the longer the playoffs were, the more money owners and players and television stations could make. This is where things started getting mushy. In 1960, when the NFL began it had a 12 game regular season. The next year they expanded to 14 games which lasted until 1978 when they added another 2 games. It’s been that way since then although they are now discussing moving to an 18 game season as part of the lockout negotiations. The first Super Bowl was held on Jan 15, 1967. This year’s Super Bowl was on February 6! Similar transformations have happened in the NBA and the NHL. The first NBA championship was on April 22, 1947. The Philadelphia Warriors beat the Chicago Stags. This year’s NBA championship ended on Sunday June 12! The NHL is not far behind. Actually it’s ahead. This year the NHL Finals ended on June 15. That’s not hockey weather!! The first NHL championship was back in 1893 and I can’t figure out the date, but the first modern championship ended on April 19. As for Baseball — the World Series has shifted from October 13 in 1903 to November 1.

Everything used to be better. Now nothing makes any sense. Or so says the grumpy old man…

Thanks for the question,
Ezra Fischer

 

What is More Scary — a Panther or a Tiger?

Dear Sports Fan,

What is more scary —  a panther or a tiger?

Thanks,
Raule


 

Dear Raule,

Technically there doesn’t seem to be a single animal called a panther. Panthera is a genus[1] of cats which includes lions, leopards, jaguars, and tigers. In North America we also use the word panther to refer to the couger or mountain lion so I am going to assume that’s what you mean by panther. The panther is the second largest cat in North America (after the Jaguar, the South American form of Panthera) but it is more genetically akin to house cats than to lions. This shows in the sounds it makes. It cannot roar, but instead “hisses, growls, and purrs, as well as chirps and whistles.” It does not frequently attack humans although when it does it can be a serious problem. Full grown males can be up to 8 feet long and 220 pounds. By comparison, the largest tigers can be up to 11 feet long and weigh in at 660 pounds! They are the solitary animals and unusual for cats, they are strong swimmers that enjoy the water. According to wikipedia, “Although humans are not regular prey for tigers, they have killed more people than any other cat, particularly in areas where population growth, logging, and farming have put pressure on tiger habitats. Most man-eating tigers are old and missing teeth, acquiring a taste for humans because of their inability to capture preferred prey.” This really makes me feel good about our species…

Now in terms of sport, I can only assume that you are referring to the Carolina Panthers (NFL) and the Detroit Tigers (MLB.) The Detroit Tigers are having a pretty good season, having won 47 and lost 42 games so far. If the season ended today they would be half a game[2] out of a playoff spot. The Carolina Panthers on the other hand are spending the summer locked out by their owner. Last season they were by far the worst team in the league, only able to win 2 games out of 16.

A fun game to play is trying to categorize all of the team names in a sport. Take the NFL. You may think there are a lot of cat names, and there are: Bengals, Jaguars, Panthers, and Lions — but there are more birds: Cardinals, Seahawks, Falcons, Ravens, and Eagles. The largest category that I can come up with is wild west: 49ers, Redskins, Cowboys, Broncos, Chiefs, Colts, and Bills. Another category I enjoy is the mythical creature: Titans, Giants, Saints… How about industry? This category has a few teams: Steelers, Packers, 49ers (again,) Cowboys (again,) Raiders, and Jets (maybe.) Fun for the whole family!

Thanks for the[3] question,
Ezra Fischer

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Remember “King Phillip Came Over For Great Sex” — Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.
  2. A game behind in wins, but having played one fewer game than the team they are behind.
  3.  Admittedly weird

The Nationals are above .500? Who cares?

Dear Sports Fan,
What does it mean that the Nationals hit .500? Everyone seems pretty excited about it. And, who cares anyway? They all play a bizillion games and then the Yankees win the World Series 8 times outta 10.
Thanks,
Kat

Dear Kat,
There are two things to understand about baseball in regard to your question. First, baseball is a long season and things can change for a team over the weeks and months that can give a fan hope where there wasn’t before. And the second is that it’s all relative. Qualitatively, baseball has teams that usually don’t have much of a chance to win the World Series and teams that usually do have a chance to win. For example (sticking to the past decade for reference), in the usually-a-chance category are teams like the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Phillies. In the usually-no-chance category are teams like the Kansas City Royals, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Washington Nationals. Going into the season, fans of these teams all want to believe their team will be good and might win, however, fans of the former can reasonably expect a winning record and to have a shot at making the playoffs while fans of the latter know that deep down they will eventually reach the point of “there is always next year.”
The Nationals have an interesting history, as they were the Montreal Expos before moving to Washington in 2005 and becoming the Nationals. For a timeline of important events check out the link below. Their history, in a nutshell, is that the  Montreal/Washington franchise, while having occasional success over the years, has not traditionally been a consistently winning team. Focusing on recent history, over the past five years the Nationals have finished below .500 every year and at times been considered the worst team in baseball. The significance of .500 is not really any different than any other sport – the team either has a winning record or a losing record and .500 is the marker in between. For struggling teams, the .500 mark is encouraging because it represents the point at which a losing team can, with one more win, cross over to become a winning team. Obviously, being one game over .500 does not mean great things for a team in itself, but for fans, the mentality shifts a bit as your team is showing signs of hope and a chance for a positive season. In the case of the Nationals, because the team has had so many seasons below .500 (and well below, I might add), fans are excited to watch a team with a winning record. It may also be the case that the Nationals are showing signs of improvement.

In summary, we have a traditionally low expectation team in the Nationals, playing well, relatively speaking, and giving their fans something to cheer about. They probably won’t win their division, make the playoffs, or win the World Series. But over the long summer, Nationals fans can enjoy being a winning team, at least for now, and hang on to the notion of “what if” for a little longer.

Thanks for the question,
John