While the Post was busy ignoring the existence of the Nationals and again pretending the Orioles are our team, Dick Heller of the Times was busy with the above-mentioned skewering of our already put-upon-enough Nats.
Heller whips out the latest edition of Unfunny Cliches for the Uncreative Sportswriter and drops these hilarities throughout the misguided column (his presumed reaction to each of his zingers in parentheses):
- Calls the team, get this, the “Gnats” (guffaws)
- Refers to All-Star Break as the team’s “hottest four-day stretch of the season” (chortles)
- Makes tired joke about “36 years and counting” without major league baseball in DC (slaps knee)
- Makes forced Election 2008 reference involving Ralph Nader’s electability and
- This one’s not directly Nats-related, but he mentions “these United States”, a phrase comfortably nestled in the 19th century (nods smugly at cheeky wordsmithing ability)
- Says Chipper Jones could outhit eight Natioinals combined (chuckles wistfully)
- Follows above winning line with quip that “eight guys from the nearest bar” could do the same (ROFLMAO [Ed note: I hate such acronyms, but hate optimism-hating more, thus its usage here])
- Calls national anthem “dramatic highlight” of recent game (slaps both knees, feeling downright patriotic at the same time)
- References some sort of Frank Sinatra song (pines for old days and “real” music)
- Says “Alf, Barry, Jimmy, and Fritz" should race instead of the presidents (???????)
- Makes another forced current events-type reference, this one to “House”, in discussing Nats injuries (admits to self he’s never watched “House” but heard it’s popular and has something to do with medicine)
- Recycles “eight guys in a bar” routine with dagger that uninjured Nats could not “win…on the nearest sandlot” (calls friends to brag about this golden line he just wrote, wonders where nearest sandlot is). One is shocked to find no mention of Sandlot the movie
- Questions the managing acumen of Manny Acta (forever damns his soul)
- Tells some anecdote from the 1920s (destroys fragile reputation of having knowledge of pop culture gained from earlier “House” reference)
- Jokes that the fans in the stands are asleep (hoots and hollers, shouts "Well if that don't beat all")
- Starts wrapping it up by suggesting the Nationals “Throw up a white flag before your remaining fans throw up period.” (writes to Sports Illustrated about starting a column, written by himself, with something like a “Dan Patrick meets Rich Eisen meets Rick Reilly meets Dennis Miller” vibe)
- Deploys word “ennui” (pats self on back for versatility of vocabulary/writing style)
- Just so Nats aren’t alone in his mocking, makes sarcastic ending note of the “almighty” Redskins starting camp soon (submits column and practices Pulitzer acceptance speech)
In all, possibly the worst article to appear in print since Linton Weeks’ similarly awful piece in May of last year.
Back to that “mis-statement of fact” we mentioned earlier. Heller, in his quest for only the most stinging of zingers, claimed the Nationals finished last in the NL East in each of their first three seasons in DC. Well, he can pull out some obscure tale from 1920, but he can’t pull out a copy of last year’s final standings to see that Washington, despite all odds and predictions, finished on top of Florida and securely in fourth (read: not last) in the East.
Those last few “give up now” because you’re “not gonna win anyway” paragraphs are truly the most galling. It’s pure concentrated disdain for optimism. Recently we stated the Nats might simply be destined for suffering this season to bring about a far greater good, that the team is much too resilient for Fate to allow to be healthy, thus the mountain of injuries begetting the non-winning of recent weeks. Heller just advises quitting, and presumably rooting for the darling Rays.
I generally don’t have a problem with the Times. I even enjoy reading DC’s second paper sometimes, but it seems to me the best advice for Heller and his colleagues is to give up now. Since their paper falls far short of the Post in circulation, readership, recognition, and relevancy, and has no hope of ever catching up, they should throw up that white flag now before we all…you know.