Well, Happy Stras-mas everyone! The debut of Stephen Strasburg is an exciting and important event, important enough to keep The Common Man from tuning in to at least part of the Twins game tonight. His debut and yesterday’s selection of Bryce Harper in the Amateur Draft also provide a nice excuse for The Common Man to objectively assess the quality of the Nats’ nickname, so that Mrs. Strasburg and Harper know what they’re getting into.
Definition: A citizen or subject of a particular nation who is entitled to its protection (dictionary.com)
Characteristics: unremarkable, faceless, in need of protection
Best thing about being a National: You know that somebody has your back. Indeed, everyone who qualifies as a national has some government entity who is supposed to ensure that their rights are protected. Some of these government entities, such as the former Soviet Union, do a pretty poor job of it. Others, however, such as the United States and Canada, have historically done a pretty decent job of protecting the rights of their citizens, particularly when those citizens are visiting overseas. It’s reassuring to know that someone, somewhere, will have your back when you get into trouble, which the Nats have been doing for several years now.
Worst thing about being a Nat: Anonymity. In general, the rights of the country from which you hail apply to all citizens of that country. Indeed, there is nothing terribly special about a national, beyond his or her nationality. What TCM is saying is that a prototypical national is Jason Marquis, a guy no one really knows a lot about, isn’t a difference maker, and has been largely forgotten about on the disabled list. With such big time talent coming into the organization, potential stars like Harper, Strasburg, Storen, and Zimmerman will have to do something really noteworthy (like go hiking in Iran, or swimming into Burma) to get really noticed.
More good news: Nationals can have a very strong sense of belonging, which will be important if the Nats want to keep Strasburg and company around for more than the required initial six seasons. If the Nats treat them right, the team’s up and comers will remain loyal, retiring with 348 wins and 620 homers respectively 20 or so years from now. Also, some of the countries that nationals hail from are particularly awesome. TCM has already covered the Yankees, and how being from the U.S. rocks pretty hard. Canada’s also very pretty. TCM’s uncle just came back from the Dominican Republic, which he said was gorgeous. But TCM’s thinking he didn’t make it to the heart of Santo Domingo.
On the other hand: Just because you’re from somewhere awesome, doesn’t mean you yourself are awesome. For instance, Sir Sidney Ponson is from Aruba, and TCM thinks we’re all in agreement that he’s pretty much a waste of a decent right arm. Maybe he’d have been less of a lout if he wasn’t sweating gin. Anyway, it’s also worth noting that, because of the anonymity problems mentioned above (seriously, name a Nat that isn’t Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Storen, or Strasburg), nationals will always generate fewer product endorsements than their counterparts. Also, the lack of a real affiliation with each other (all players are nationals, but may be nationals of someplace else) could lead to a lack of team identity and team unity. Finally, the relegation of a human being to a single defining characteristic that only refers to their nation of origin is pretty dehumanizing, isn't it?
Final analysis: This is tough. It really depends on which country a person is a national of. Some countries (the Sudan, for instance, or North Korea) don’t inspire the kind of awe and reverence that you’d typically like from a national affiliation, and do a piss poor job of respecting the rights of their citizens. Indeed, without more detail, The Common Man would normally forced to give the Nationals an incomplete, and ask them to resubmit by Friday with more detail. If they are unable to provide a better account of themselves, The Common Man is going to have to give them a C-.