Actually, do stop believin’

I know you think I’m going to post another tedious blog item about space and NASA and astronauts and whatnot. But I wouldn’t do that to you. I’m posting another tedious blog item about the Washington Nationals.

I’m not a crazed Nationals fan by any means, but I do find that a Nats game can be a powerful soporific, and that when I’ve got a DVRed Nats on the tube late in the evening I can feel myself settling into the serotonic bliss that immediately precedes total unconsciousness. We all have our techniques for getting through the day and night.

In recent days, the Nats won 5 in a row, and seemed to worth mentioning again in polite company. But could they still pull out a late-season run? No, said my colleague Mike Wise in a column that ran Sunday morning. They’re too far back, he said quite definitively — “unless the Reds completely implode.” I checked the official odds on a Nats post-season appearance, as posted on the ESPN stats page, and prior to yesterday’s game they had a 4 percent chance of making it. That number had doubled from 2 percent in just a couple of days, thanks to the winning streak. So, 1-in-25. A longshot. But I’d take that! Right? That’s not nothing. I mean, that’s PATHETIC, but it’s not zero. I think it actually said 4.2 percent on Sunday morning, before the final game against the Royals. The number I’m worried about is 0.0 percent. That’s the number that tells the Nats that they can start working on their golf game.

Of course they lost yesterday due to some brain-dead defense. Very soon I will have to make a decision about whether to despair of this season, like any logical person already has, or ride the statistical possibilities all the way down to Absolute Zero. When is the right time to give up hope? I could simply declare a strategic retreat.

Or is belief — some call it faith — something innately virtuous, even when divorced from empirical reality? Shouldn’t I feel good that I’m continuing to believe in a totally hopeless cause?

Who speaks for delusion?

We all know the truth about this, which is that any sane existence requires a certain comfort with disappointment and failure. You have adapt and adjust your expectations, and that doesn’t mean giving up hope entirely. Because there’s always next year. The true fan does not say “maybe next year” bitterly. That is the stuff from which we scrape together our civilization, that sense that  the future will be better than the past if we just keep grinding away and maintain a good attitude and find some more help for the bullpen. I’m still puzzled that Zimmerman didn’t cover 3rd on that play in the 8th but we’re not talking about that, okay? We’re past that. What was he thinking? Never mind. We’re over that. We’re looking ahead.

As the GPS woman says: “Recalculating.”

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach | August 22, 2013