July 19, 2009

Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape

In the wake of the "harsh interrogation" controversies of the past few months, reference has been made to the SERE training commonly given to U.S special forces, Air Force pilots and others with a higher than normal risk of capture. SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (or Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract for the Brits.) Now I'm not suggesting that being a Nats fan is in any way as hazardous as serving in the armed forces, I'm just saying that no one should be forced to watch this team without a well-rehearsed survival plan. With that in mind:

The typical Major League Baseball Season lasts from early April to early October, not counting Spring Training and the abomination of the World Series dragging on into November. Six months, more or less. That's what you as a Nats fan have to plan to endure. Sure there are other baseball-related activities sprinkled throughout the offseason, but those are easy enough to ignore. Survive the regular season and you're home free. Nats playoff games pose no more threat than unicorns. Spring and summer in DC provide a wealth of alternative activities like the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Independence Day, Screen on the Green, and many more. Plan now to fill up your evenings and weekends, leaving less time for a spontaneous baseball encounter.

Evasion: Thankfully it's pretty easy to avoid the Nationals. Delete MASN from your channel guide and WFED from your radio presets and your odds of randomly stumbling across a Nats game are virtually nil. With no marketing to speak of, accidently exposure to the Nats is almost impossible. You certainly won't be seeing them on ESPN or the MLB Network. In fact you could easily watch a week's worth of Baseball Tonight and risk only passing exposure to Washington's baseball club. Unless of course they're playing the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers or Cubs, which you won't know because you're actively not paying attention. Probably safer just to avoid ESPN altogether. You won't miss it.

Resistance: This is the tough part. Even with no advertising, a pathetic excuse for a television and radio presence and an almost palpable antipathy to fan cultivation, you're bound to hear, see or read something about the Nationals. Maybe they have a promising young pitcher, or a veteran reclamation project is having a career year. Do not get sucked in. Nationals Park is very nice, but it is not now and never has been a fun place to spend a summer afternoon or evening. It is an attractive vessel for a bottomless well of suffering. It's the baseball equivalent of being waterboarded in a Barcalounger. Maybe you're comfortable, but it's still torture.

Escape: If you find yourself, despite all your best efforts, actually attending a Nats game, do not give up hope. Given the frequent invasions by visiting fans, it is possible to convince yourself you are not at a Nats game at all. In addition, there are several areas of Nationals Park which seem almost intentionally designed to divert attention from the product on the field. From the Playstation fun zone and batting cages to the Build-a-Bear workshop and concession lines it's entirely possible to spend hours in the stadium and not watch any baseball at all. You should also note that the Red Porch restaurant and Red Loft bar frequently have televisions tuned to other sporting events if you prefer active rather than passive avoidance. Because crowds are generally sparse, the physical escape from Nationals Park is usually effortless.

There you have it. A basic, 4-step plan to survive the baseball season in Washington, DC. With practice and a little luck you can enjoy the hallmarks of spring and summer in our nation's capital with never so much as a hint of the atrocities being committed on a daily basis just down South Capitol Street.

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