I wrote over the summer about what I learned from the U.S. winning the World Cup. The U.S. World Cup Team captured our hearts and made us proud because they were such a force. France, England, and the Netherlands all made the games interesting but for the most part we watched those women charge ahead and win, win, win. It was exhilarating and fun to watch. It’s easy to draw lessons from a team like that and that’s often what we do. We look at someone who has achieved success. They are the ones onstage telling us how they did it so we can absorb those lessons and try to mimic those achievements.

But we don’t always win like that and this month I was prompted to ask the question: What can we learn when we don’t win? I had a whole blog post ready to go about learning from our losses. Then my team surprised me.

I’m from Washington, DC and have been a fan of the Washington Nationals since they came to town in 2005. Having a stadium in DC again made a huge difference to me and my family of die-hard Washington sports fans. So, along with the rest of the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia metro area), I was positively giddy about their wild card win to get into the playoffs, thrilled about their charge through the Dodgers to win the Division series and happily surprised about them sweeping the Cardinals to win their first ever National League Conference Series.

They started the World Series in Houston against the Astros and won both games. Vegas bookkeepers and Astros fans watched in shock as the Nats defeated a team that had the best record in baseball. The Nationals came home to a deafening crowd in a city that hadn’t hosted a World Series game since 1933. And they lost all three games. As a fan it was absolutely heartbreaking to watch these games.

If you’re not a fan of baseball (and as I have watched these games over the past few weeks I’ve learned just how many people are NOT baseball fans) then the above paragraph probably sounds like part gibberish/part every sports story ever. You wanted your team to win and they didn’t, so what? And in response I say something that I know non-sports fans hate to hear: It’s about more than sports.

The thing is, the World Series is a 7 game series. It wasn’t over with the 3 home town losses. The Nats were down, but not out. They won the final two games at the Astros’ home stadium, making them the only team in World Series history to win 4 games on the road. They won those two games and won the whole thing. I watched every minute of the games and went downtown to celebrate with the DC masses, who, in retrospect, were mostly much younger than I am and didn’t have to get two kids to a school Halloween parade the next morning. Still, I have no regrets.

With that in mind, and to remind us all that we win some AND lose some, here are some things I learned from watching the Nationals this season.

  1. Just because you’re down, doesn’t mean you’re out. The first draft of this blog post was written with pre-emptive pessimism, a feeling I’d like to root out as I finish out the year.
  2. There’s no one recipe for success. The Nationals were definitely the underdog of this World Series. I was at one of their last regular season games and actually told one of my clients it would probably be the last game I went to this year. Fast forward to a few weeks later and I was at the first World Series game to be played in DC since 1933. How did they get there Sports pundits have been scratching their heads but maybe it’s that they are weird and non-sensical and fun that they achieved things people thought they couldn’t.

“Sometimes things in sports don’t make sense. The Astros built one of the best teams in MLB history, a perfect blend of pitching, hitting, and defense. The Nationals have two aces, a 20-year-old kid who does weird crouch dances, a bunch of old guys, and Baby Shark. Sometimes that’s all you need.” Nate Scott | USA Today, October 24, 2019

3. When you can bring your whole self to work, you bring others with you. Win or lose, the Nationals solidified DC as a baseball town. The fun, the weird – it was all part of the World Series experience this year. We saw these grown men dance, sing, and hug and also win some great games. It was a welcome reprieve from the toxic masculinity we associate with professional men’s sports. And it was just nice.

4. Save the beers.

That probably wraps up the sports related content for a while. Until next season!