On the heels of yet another walk-off loss, the Washington Nationals — and their fans — are adjusting to the idea that the postseason really might not happen.
No baseball means . . . offseason vacation! But what to do? Where to go?
It seems like national parks will be the hottest go-to location for Nationals fans come October, as the Nationals subreddit transformed into a guide to national parks Tuesday because one user simply said, “I don’t wanna talk about baseball for a little bit.”
It started innocently.
“Thinking of doing a camping trip,” one user posted on r/nationals, a subreddit dedicated to the Washington Nationals with more than 12,000 subscribers. “Which is better, glacier or Yosemite? I’m looking for medium to hard hikes, I’m okay with cold, and I love mountains. What do you think?”
Quickly, a subreddit that was once filled with memes, complaints and rants about the Nationals’ turbulent season was filled with links to “The Least Visited National Parks in the United States” (Isle Royale National Park in Michigan was the least popular with 16,274 visitors), suggestions on how to visit nearly ever national park in one “epic” trip and pictures of people on their most recent national park visit.
Within hours, one Nationals baseball fan had an idea.
“Petition to turn this subreddit into a National Parks themed subreddit,” the user, Vinster271, posted. “I don’t wanna talk about baseball for a little bit.”
Vinster271 then went to bed thinking the post would disappear.
“When I looked this morning I was a little shocked about how everyone latched on to the idea,” said Vinster271, who did not want to be identified by name, in a Reddit direct message. “I definitely did not expect this reaction.”
“This would actually make me feel a lot better,” another user responded to Vinster271’s idea of a petition.
“Seconded,” added another. “Need a new banner [photo].”
Within an hour of that comment, a fan had found a new picture to head the subreddit page: a stone bridge with a small arc over a creek in the middle of a golden-lit forest.
“Beautiful scenery is just what we stressed out Nats fans need . . .,” another user said.
It sure is. And the moderators of the Nationals subreddit knew it, which is what prompted them to switch the theme of the page after they saw the initial post.
“I chuckled a bit [when I saw the petition post],” moderator Mispelling said. “[I] went into the comments and someone mentioned they would be okay with it as long as Ray Knight was still our sidebar picture. Someone suggested to have him in a park ranger’s hat. So I spent about five or six minutes badly photoshopping [it]. And that’s how it really got started.”
The Nationals subreddit isn’t the first sports Reddit discussion board to change themes after its team, well, went south. Previously, the Philadelphia Phillies’ board was dedicated to Wawa convenience stores, the Toronto Blue Jays’ group shifted focus to the Ripley’s Aquarium, and, earlier this season, the New York Mets’ subreddit was the place to talk about the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“We’ve been following the team for a while, and things generally get pretty negative on discussion boards when the season, team or players disappoint,” said purplepenned, another moderator. “But I think good moderation also means trying to keep things from spiraling too out of hand emotionally. So cracking jokes and making light of the situation can be a fun way to pass the time and release some stress.”
First it was just a few comments about national parks, which the moderators say they would usually delete. But this time, they went with it. As the number of national park advice-seekers grew, so did the moderators’ dedication to the new theme.
They changed the icon on the subreddit to a picture of hikers, the banner to a photo of Yosemite National Park, the logo to that of the official National Park Service and the page’s description from “Nationals Fan” to “Outdoor Fanatics.”
While the change of subject — from the struggling Nationals to the wonders that are national parks — has been a nice break for Washington baseball fans, the Nationals subreddit moderators say that as the trend dies down, which they expect to be a day or two, the page will transition back to normal.
So, Nationals fans, prepare for a return to reality. And national park lovers, get it all out there now.