Considering that the Nationals have slogged through five months of underwhelming and incredibly disappointing baseball, their attendance has been fairly solid. This season's average of 32,095 fans per game as of Thursday would finish as the second-highest since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.
But in the last two days, Nationals Park has seen two of its three smallest crowds of the season as 24,616 showed up Tuesday and 24,394 -- the smallest crowd of the season -- showed up Wednesday.
There are several factors that explain the Nationals' recent crowds/intimate gatherings (other than the fact that they are seven games out of the wild card with 30 to play): School's back in session, the weather hasn't cooperated over the last few days, they're playing the Marlins -- who should probably pay people to watch them -- and perhaps most importantly, football season is on the horizon, and we all know that the Redskins take precedence over every other team around here.
Bryce Harper isn't having any of that. In an interview with CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman, Harper commented on the dwindling fan support:
"Coming to a game without any fans isn't fun," Harper said. "Last night we didn't have that many, and we need that for this last month. I think us playing well and fans coming to the game and really being here every single night we play is huge for us. Hopefully we can get going in this last month, especially when we're at home and we're playing the Mets and Marlins and Phillies, or anybody.
"I think it's tired, I really do. Just 'cause football season's coming up, we're still in it. I think having support is hopefully going to help us in this last month. I think fans know that guys feed off the crowd. They've got a whole winter to watch RG3. I think we're all looking forward to that. But we could possibly get into the playoffs and go farther from there."
It's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the Nationals, with a favorable schedule against the Marlins, Mets and Phillies for the next three weeks, could make a late playoff push. And if they do, the fans will come back. Let's face it: D.C. is an event-based town. Like a show at the Kennedy Center or an opening of a José Andrés restaurant, the Nationals were the hot ticket in town and Nationals Park was the place to be until they started losing. Then they became unfashionable.
That begs the question: If the Nationals play their best baseball of the season (they've won 13 of their last 18), but hardly anyone is there to see it, did it actually happen?
Of course it did. It's just that hardly anyone was there to see it.
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