The Nationals are doing great — but the TV experience sometimes grates


Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper spits a shell before taking the field during the third inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thursday, May 17, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)
John Kelly
Columnist September 16, 2012

I’ve spent a lot of this baseball season warming the bench. And by “warming the bench,” I mean “sitting on my couch, glued to the Washington Nationals on TV.”

I’m not alone. Television ratings for the team are up more than 60 percent from last year. That’s what fielding a winning ballclub will do. But as glorious as the Nats have been, watching them on TV every night has its annoyances, too. Such as:

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

Too many “taters.” A home run is a majestic thing. You might even call it a sacred thing. I mean, it helps rescue stranded men. Call a home run a “blast.” Call it a “shot.” But for the love of God, don’t call it a “tater.”

“Tater” sounds infantile. It sounds diminishing. It sounds like the nickname of an overalls-wearing bumpkin: “Tater done fell in the hog slop again, Pa.”

Please, Mr. F.P. Santangelo, stop calling a home run a “tater.”

We’re jamming. I’m not a big fan of another word F.P. and his MASN booth partner, Bob Carpenter, use all the time: “jammage.” “Serious jammage” is even worse. It sounds like a character from a Harry Potter novel or a 20-minute guitar solo at a Phish concert.

I will, however, countenance no ill words directed at the lovely Kristina Akra.

Spit takes. It’s almost inevitable that when the camera zooms in on a player, he’s going to eventually eject something from his mouth. But what exactly is he spitting? Half the time, I can’t tell. I guess for some, it’s tobacco juice. For others, it’s plain old saliva. But there’s so much of it! Is sialorrhea — excessive salivation — a common ailment among ballplayers?

Some Nationals seem to be spitting out sunflower seed shells, but it’s hard to tell for sure. I remember one close-up of Gio Gonzalez in the dugout where little white things kept spilling from between his lips, like coins from a slot machine. It looked like he had a Chiclet factory in his mouth.

Casino royale, battle royale. Watch the Nationals on TV for any amount of time and you’ll be treated to dueling ads for Question 7, which is some sort of Maryland ballot measure involving gambling. I can’t actually tell what the issue is. All I know is one group says if you vote for Question 7, everyone gets free chocolate pudding for life, and the other group says if you vote for Question 7, puppies all over America will die. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

The two sides have even started using each other’s ads in their ads, which has created a sort of meta-reality, as if consciousness itself was merely a set of Russian nesting dolls.

Fly me. I like listening to the Nats on the radio, too. The weirdest ad there is for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. I don’t get why these people feel like they need to advertise. Do we have a choice when it comes to who’s going to guide our passenger planes through the sky? Are they worried that when I make a flight reservation, I might say, “Can I take a route that uses the American Society of Air Traffic Controllers instead? I think they’re a bit cheaper than the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.”

Stiff upper lip. I’m worried about the mustache on that W.B. Mason office supply guy. I fear it may actually be a parasite that has latched on to a host. The follicles reach into the man’s brain, directing him to hang around a playhouse full of children. Why? I suspect that by the end of the Nationals’ season, we’ll see incipient mustaches sprouting on all the kids’ faces, a sign the infection has spread. Consider yourself warned.

Bankrupt. Speaking of parasites, that ubiquitous PNC Bank commercial has bored its way into my skull. You know the one: The music goes Do do do do doodoodoodoodoo as some cupcakes get frosted. I can’t reach the mute button fast enough.

Dierks Bentley. Who is this Dierks Bentley? Is he the messiah? Is he the chosen one? He must be, given how often he’s plugged on MASN. I can’t remember my mother’s birthday, but there are two dates this year that I’ll never forget: Dierks Bentley will appear at Nationals Park on Sept. 22, and the world will end on Dec. 21. I hope the two aren’t related.

Whatever happens, go Nats. See you in the World Series.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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