By Dan Steinberg, Washington Post
Washington, D.C., September 8, 2014 - A few years ago, a Nats season ticket holder named Wayne Cimons started a cheer in section 313, located behind home plate, just underneath the Nationals Park press box. After the home team scored, Wayne would stand and announce how many runs had crossed the plate; “N-A-T-S Nats Nats Nats!” his fellow fans would then cheer, repeating the mantra twice for two runs, thrice for three runs, and so on.
Now, this isn’t exactly a novel cheer. There’s the “J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!” thing. There’s the “C-A-P-S Caps Caps Caps!” thing. You could probably do the same cheer for any four-letter team, if you wanted.
In any case, some fans in section 313 jumped on-board immediately. Others, like Kim Sheridan, were hesitant.
“I really didn’t care for it to begin with,” she told me this week. “But I kind of realized I could either be miserable and not like it, or I could have fun.”
And so Sheridan opted for fun. She adopted the cheer, but with a merry twist: she started shouting “Woo!” after the final “Nats!” cheer. Why Woo?
“Because “Woo!” makes everything fun,” she explained. “Try it in life. Just start saying “Woo!” some more. I’ll bet you’ll be a happier person.”
Couldn’t hurt. Anyhow, both the ‘Nats Nats Nats!” and the “Woo!” picked up steam. The cheers spread beyond 313 to the rest of the 300 sections behind the plate. People in the 400 levels started looking down near Wayne and his pals to await their cue. The chant can be heard from the press box and on the television broadcast; Sheridan’s neighbors — who have season tickets but now live in Nairobi — excitedly text when they hear the chant on the radio broadcast.
These fans, I should point out, are pretty hardcore about the team. Many keep score by hand. Many attend nearly every home game. Sheridan herself has been to 81 and 78 home games the past two years; her attendance this year was diminished only by foot surgery. Heck, she moved from Del Ray to Southeast D.C. partly so she could live within walking distance of the park.
Anyhow, about that foot surgery. Sheridan’s birthday was Aug. 15, and she was determined to attend the game. She was sitting in her regular seats, but she eventually got so uncomfortable that she suggested moving to some unoccupied nearby handicapped seats. Her regular usher wasn’t quite sure if that was allowed, but it just so happened that Valerie Camillo — the team’s chief revenue and marketing officer — was wandering through section 313 at the time. She checked to make sure that the seats weren’t claimed, and told the usher to let Sheridan move seats.
As all this was going on, the Nats scored. The fans cheered. Section 313 did the “Nats-Nats-Nats” bit. The usher, as usual, joined in. Sheridan and others, as usual, added the “Woo!” coda. They all started talking about the cheer. And finally Sheridan mentioned how a friend of hers who owns a sign shop had joked about surreptitiously painting the cheer on a nearby wall.
“Ooooh,” Camillo said. “I kind of like that.”
“So the next day I saw Mark Lerner,” Camillo said, picking up the story. “He’s very into the aesthetics of the park, and we consult him if we change anything. He’s mentioned before that he likes the chant. So I said ‘Hey, what do you think about putting up a sign for them?’ and he loved the idea. Within 24 hours, he had the facilities people working on it.”
And by the time Sheridan and her friends came back to the park for this homestand — which began last Friday — section 313 had a new addition, seen here: the entire chant, painted in white on a blue background.
Before it went up, Camillo had e-mailed Sheridan, asking how you spell ‘Woo!’ After first going with the standard ‘W-o-o’ spelling, Sheridan later followed up, saying that upon reflection she thought maybe the ‘Woo’ was not actually an official part of the cheer, and was merely an exclamatory after-note that did not need to be spelled out.
Lerner, though, “was adamant that the ‘Woo’ was going up,” Camillo said with a laugh. “He loves the ‘Woo,’ so the ‘Woo’ is there. And we looked at images with and without it; it looks better with the ‘Woo.’ It balances it.”
[Note: This is all for fun. Please do not leave a comment about how the team needs to spend more time worrying about its closer and/or postseason pricing, and less time worrying about 'Woo' stuff. If you find this entire topic not fun, there is surely an article about the Redskins special teams problems that might be more your speed.]
Now, there was actually at least one person in section 313 who worried that this newest addition to the park was placing too much formality on what had always been a grassroots cheer, something that emanated from the fans themselves and not the scoreboard or the PA announcer. But both Sheridan and Camillo said that what makes the cheer great is the fans — their devotion and their creativity — so it’ll all work out in the end.
“It’s authentic, it’s something fans do on their own, and if other people find it enjoyable and start doing it, great,” Camillo said. “We just want to be responsive to our fans. Our fans have such a vested interest in the team, and when you meet fans like that, you just want to give something back, a part of the park they can feel is partly their own. A lot of people in that section are very connected to that cheer, and it was just something we wanted to do.”
“Last year it was really pretty popular, but this year it’s kind of taken on a life of its own,” Sheridan added. “Organic is kind of an overused word, but it just started with the fans, and that’s kind of a neat thing. Washington really has baseball fans. The team has caught on….We just want it to be a cheer, an old-fashioned baseball stadium cheer.”