The morning after The Choke, when the Washington Nationals blew a 6-0 lead in the National League Division Series final and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, Nats fans needed to mourn. They needed to replay the moments of the game still gnawing at their psyche. More than anything, they needed to attend a Saturday afternoon event right next to Nationals Park and drink from a list of 100 beers at something called the Snallygaster Beer Jamboree.
Here, in the shadow of the crime scene, Nats die-hards such as Adam Silverman, who permitted his occupation to be described only as a federal government executive, revealed that the loss plunged him into a such a frightening place that, after the game, he could not sleep. All night long and into the morning, Silverman watched sports shows, searching for explanations. At one particularly vulnerable moment, he caught himself glued to a rerun of “Happy Days.”
“It was like the cat and dog had just both died,” said the District resident whose friends at the beer festival chided him for not having showered yet and for still wearing the same Nationals hoodie and black tracksuit pants he had on during the game. “To get to that point . . . to have it pulled away, it seems unfair.”
Silverman said he may have cried, just a little. Saturday morning, after dropping his son off at a soccer game, he went to a Starbucks and spread out the newspapers. He dived in. To him, the articles comprised a forensic investigation and a form of therapy. He needed to know that a sports atrocity of this magnitude could not have been rendered by one person.
“I worry that Drew Storen will get the blame for this,” said Silverman, referring to the Nats reliever who allowed the four runs at the top of the ninth inning that gave the Cardinals their come-from-behind victory. “That’s the thing that nags at me. This was a team loss.”
Other grieving Nats fans at the Snallygaster Beer Jamboree were less diplomatic. They hovered in the early stages of the grieving process — somewhere beyond denial but somewhere in the blame-and-anger territory. Was it the fault of Nationals executives, who may have cursed the team by permitting Teddy, the racing mascot president, to finally win a contest after years of always losing?
Perhaps, many fans said. Perhaps even for 100 years.
But to others, this was clearly Storen’s fault and any analysis beyond that is being too polite.
“I blame the closer,” declared Michael Kamen, a computer information technology specialist from Northern Virginia. “Last night, I was so [ticked off] at him that I literally turned off the television after the top of the ninth inning and went to bed. I mean, he walked Yadier Molina. Molina is a terrible baseball player. Then he walked the next guy. Then they got two doubles. A closer is supposed to come in and throw strikes or get the ball infield for an easy play.”
Unlike Silverman, Kamen said he could not stomach the after-action news stories. He deliberately avoided any coverage he feels could inflame his anger.
His friend Ryan Fubini, a construction company owner, agreed that a news blackout was for the best. His three-step healing process: “Get mad. Cuss. Yell,” he explained.
Hugo Giovanni, 38, a Bethesda consultant, who said the loss was “like getting broken up by your first girlfriend when you’re 16 years old,” felt he had to consume the media coverage. “I toil in it,” he said. “You do it so you don’t forget the feeling.”
Jennifer Vessels, a District resident and lawyer for a government contractor, said she cannot shake one moment that lingers in her mind.
It was the top of the ninth. The Nats were one strike away from the win from a chance to earn a spot in the World Series.
“I held my phone out to take pictures of the third strike, of the fireworks,” she said. “And I just held my finger poised over the camera button.”