- - Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Nationals got off to a 19-31 start but didn’t let it stop them from clinching a postseason berth Tuesday. That accomplishment led to an epic clubhouse celebration, a raucous bash that World Series champions would struggle to top.

Cue the party poopers.

“Act like you’ve been there before,” they sniffed on social media. “Celebrate when you actually win something.”

No offense to any grouches, killjoys or sourpusses, but please go far away and stay there.

Something’s wrong with your ticker if it didn’t get toasty at the sight of second baseman Brian Dozier, shirtless and singing in Spanish, surrounded by Latino teammates dousing him with beer as they sung along. Your facial muscles need electric stimulation if they didn’t reflexively form a smile as Celebrator-in-Chief Gerardo “Baby Shark” Parra was in the middle of jubilant teammates clapping to the infectious children’s song.

The scenes from Nationals Park after Washington beat Philadelphia — and Pittsburgh beat the Chicago Cubs (on the centerfield video screen) — epitomized unbridled joy.

Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez turned into a different sort of whistleblower, leading a conga line through the clubhouse. Centerfielder Victor Robles and an unidentified teammate engaged in some up-close dancing and gyrating that was funny, if a bit uncomfortable.

It was all too much for cyberspace complainers who frown on such joy unless a title has been secured. According to that school of thought, spraying champagne and carrying on is reserved for division winners, followed by league champions, and, ultimately, World Series victors.

One whiner on Twitter posited that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots don’t engage in such revelry for simply reaching the playoffs. Another was confused by a celebration so boisterous it easily could be mistaken for Fall Classic carousing.

I’ll address the latter later. But comparing football to baseball is like comparing dimes to dollars.

NFL teams play one-tenth of the games that MLB teams play. Quite a bit of emotion builds up over a six-month season that contains just a handful of days off. To be among the 10 teams that advance, opposed to the 20 that start vacation, is to experience a release unrivaled in the NFL or other major leagues.

Though I suspect the Nationals will be more subdued if they advance to the National League Division Series next week, I don’t care if they repeat Tuesday’s wingding. With the potential for three more rounds of celebration after that, they might want to pace themselves. But I’m not going to suggest they slow down just because an abundance of parties could be boring and repetitive. That would be a great problem.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand “act like you’ve been there before” in certain contexts.

It works well in business negotiations that involve figures beyond your wildest dreams. The same is true for very formal social settings, unless you want to stick out as an uncultured bumpkin. And I strongly recommend the posture if you find yourself in shady environments with dubious characters.

But I’ve always had a problem with the philosophy’s original use. Legendary college football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant supposedly uttered the quote in 1967, an edict issued to a kick returner who danced after scoring a touchdown.

Telling players not to celebrate (or how to celebrate) — whether touchdowns or National League wild cards — is to rob them of individual expression.

You want to simply hand the ball to an official or shake hands with teammates within a dry clubhouse, great. But if you want to devise elaborate end zone routines or soak everyone in reach with bottles of champagne, that’s great, too.

And as for the “Nats haven’t won anything yet” crowd, check the standings. They secured a wild card. That’s actually a real thing, one of two available playoff berths for teams that don’t win their division.

Besides that, the manner in which the Nationals won is cause for jubilee. No one figured October baseball was ahead after a four-game sweep by the New York Mets in May. Odds were that manager Dave Martinez wouldn’t survive the regular season, let alone lead Washington to the postseason.

“Everybody in this clubhouse envisioned this exact thing right here,” shortstop Trea Turner told reporters Tuesday. “We talked about it when we were 19-31, we talked about how we were going to laugh at everybody else outside of this clubhouse for everything that they said about us.

“And we are here now.”

No matter what happens next, the feat called for celebration, not moderation. The Nationals realized as much and joyously obliged.

Party on.

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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