The one thing sports fans usually can count on during the summer is local baseball on television.
Not in Washington.
Having a team in the city has been wonderful this year, and having gone to a few games, I can see that the city has gotten behind the Nationals. RFK Stadium may be a bit worn, but it is rich in sports history.
I understand that a rich fellow in Baltimore wants people to watch the Orioles all the time and fears that we might love our Nats so much that we won't be concerned with the O's. But something must be done. The home team is making a run toward the playoffs during its inaugural season, and we can't watch it on TV.
How appropriate that last weekend, while the Nationals were sweeping the Colorado Rockies in a half-filled, cold Coors Field stadium, The Post ran an Aug. 15 front-page story about the stadium development that will re-create the Southwest waterfront.
There's a valuable lesson in the hills of Colorado. Just 10 years ago the expansion Rockies set numerous attendance records -- so much so that the team added seats to accommodate all its fans. But once the novelty wore off and the team struggled, many fans stopped going.
So, regardless of how our new stadium looks or how much we spend on it, fans will come to games -- and support the businesses outside the stadium -- only if the Nationals keep winning. With the hundreds of millions in revenue that the Nationals will lose because Major League Baseball will be transporting the team's TV money to Peter Angelos, the Nationals' long-term competitiveness and the District's economic future are at risk.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig knows how difficult it is to build a winning team. That's why his decision to make Washington the only team in all of baseball without full TV rights is colder than any game played in Colorado.
If you drove by my house, you'd see that the trash was out on time most days, that my boys keep the grass cut and that I take pride in keeping my gutters clean -- the key to a dry basement. But you also would see the Washington Nationals flag flying over the front porch, the Nationals bumper stickers and license plate frames on the cars and the Nationals windsock fluttering in the back yard.
Yes, I have "Nationals Syndrome." It's a lifelong condition that is beginning to infect thousands in the region.
Symptoms include staying up until 2 a.m. to listen to the radio when the Nats play on the West Coast; the Herculean ability to make RFK Stadium shake; and the deep belief that Frank Robinson's image should be added to Mount Rushmore.
I have done some crazy things since that beautiful September day, when I heard Mayor Anthony A. Williams announce that my beloved home town was getting a baseball team:
* I got to RFK so early on opening night that the security people thought I was late for a soccer game.
* At 1 a.m. on the night of the 21/2-hour rain delay and the Nats' bottom-of-the-ninth win over Chicago, I told my family I wanted to sit a bit longer at RFK to enjoy the atmosphere.
* I went online to buy my first baseball cards since the Washington Senators played at RFK.
At my office, the talk has shifted to the Nationals, their incredible character and the great response they've drawn from the people of the area. My wife and daughter, baseball novices just three months ago, now can explain why Brad Wilkerson should lay down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner up.
My doctor says he is seeing many cases like mine, and he has identified three defining characteristics of Nationals Syndrome: joy, optimism and health.
Nationals Syndrome. May it last forever!