It is September in Washington, and that is made more difficult by the memories.
Right now, still, you could buy a ticket to a Nationals ballgame. Good seats are going for $30. If you are lucky, you might even hear the crack of a big bat a few more times.
But if you are sensible, then you will probably stay home and find something to watch on television. I've been enjoying Ken Burns' Baseball, which is at least a little cowardly.
Washington – contemptibly scratched from the playoff picture at the break by smart baseball fans who knew better – is fading from the National League wild card race.
Labor Day has barely dropped off the calendar, and the first football Sunday in September has not yet arrived as the Nationals – who were 98-64 last Oct. 3 – are chastised by rookie ace Jose Fernandez and the humble Miami Marlins in a 7-0 two-hitter on the evening of Sept. 6.
As of today, we have allowed 21 more runs than we have scored – one for each year Fernandez waited to watch his big-league-no-hit bid evaporate in the sixth inning after a swinging bunt by a rookie call-up who waved goodbye to Danny Espinosa not long ago in Syracuse.
Turning on the radio at 7 o'clock is becoming difficult. I do it anyway, every time, because that is winter you can smell in the air now. Frozen gusts driven by the beating of colossal bat wings, sweeping away, for good and for all, the cheers of game four.
Like the game-winning, season-saving home run that kept hope alive, the 2013 season is going, going . . .
And we remember how Jayson Werth, like Bobby Thomson, lunged for home plate and into the mob.
How Michael Morse galloped into left field after Atlanta handed us the division, showering the fans and himself – mostly himself – with beer like foam from a crashing wave.
How the marvelously ambidextrous bullpen read 50 Shades of Grey – aloud.
How Stephen Strasburg returned.
How Bryce Harper arrived – it was only April.
And the games become harder to love, when there is a reason other than love of the game to put on your red hat and head down to the park.
All year as our bats fell silent, as the back of our rotation collapsed in a heap, as the arms and the gloves at the corners of the infield turned from gold to lead through the dismal alchemy of high expectations.
But I have my ticket for the last home game of the regular season. Section 110, row L, seat 19. Sunday, Sept. 22. They'll be giving away red scarves (with a curly "W") at the center field gate – the better to stay warm with over the long winter that begins, in all likelihood, this October.
World Series, or bust.
-Silver Spring, Md. (10 miles from Nationals Park), Sept. 7, 2013.
Photo by @BinkValdellon, via Nats Enquirer