As a transplant to the DC area, I have observed the curiously fragile Washington sports fan psyche from a safe social distance. I root for most of the local teams now, but they are not in my blood stream like the teams of my youth. Let’s just say I don’t own a burgundy and gold tie. Lifelong DC fans are easily tricked into thinking that a championship is around the corner after a preseason win streak and equally deflated into clinical depression by the slightest dropped pass or missed bunt sign. In short, they are delusional when estimating their proximity to the mountaintop but also the depths of chasm from whence their teams must climb. The past week’s news items are representative of the highs and the lows of the Washington area sports fan:
Baseball’s perennial basement dwellers started the season 14-4 and their potentially great pitching rotation no longer demands the word “potential” as a qualifier. They are great today. Of course, they need to be since the Nats’ hitting is anemic, and that’s being kind. Strasburg, Gonzales, Zimmermann, Jackson, and Detwiler are erasing the memories of Palmer, Cuellar, McNally and Dobson, baseball’s last staff with 4 20-game winners. That vaunted Orioles rotation was backed up by Frank Robinson and Boog Powell, who would probably be able to bat 3-4 in this current Nats line up if they showed up on the field this afternoon. Who cares, Washington fans, we are winning! As someone posted about local sports writer and eternal optimist Tom Boswell, he attended a game last week because he heard the team might clinch the division.
Fast forward one week – The Nats were swept this weekend by the Dodgers, the first good team they have faced. Their disabled list now includes 3 all-star caliber players (franchise face Ryan Zimmerman, clean up beast Michael Morse, 43 save closer Drew Storen). Their bats are still on back order from the manufacturer. Teddy has yet to win a President’s race. Reality bites. At least Bryce Harper hasn’t been arrested yet for domestic violence or a drunk and disorderly. Then again, it’s only April and he’s only been with the big club for 2 games. Philly in town this weekend – as a precaution, ownership might consider taking the shoelaces out the Nat’s fans shoes as they enter the park for the fans’ own protection.
Skins in the Game
The Skins did what everyone expected them to do when they mortgaged the future for the rights to draft RG3. The fans in DC are so excited that Dan Snyder was able to sell personal seat rights for RG3’s Canton induction ceremony in 2031. No one knows if the kid from Baylor can produce at the pro level or what RG3 even stands for anymore. They do know that compared to RG1 (Sexy Rexy Grossman), anyone is an upgrade. True to form, the Washington Redskins have won the off season Super Bowl a record 6 times in the past decade. Good time to quietly raise the parking rates at FedEx again, Danny Boy!
Fast forward one week – The Redskins announced that they have released the almost legendary John Beck, the 3rd string quarterback with such unlimited potential that Football Czar Mike Shanahan said he would “stake his reputation on” Beck’s success in his magic system. Hey, Mike, how's that reputation holding up?
Without John Beck, who will the fans mock now? This market needs a Patrick Ramsey, a Heath Shuler, a Jeff George. Without a journeyman quarterback that is foisted on the fan base as the next big thing, people might turn their attention to the rest of the roster and realize that it’s the same team that limped to 6 wins last year.
After enduring a roller coaster season that included the firing of their winningest coach in history and long stints on the injured list for their best player (Backstrom) and the guy who we keep getting told is their best defenseman despite all evidence to the contrary (Mike Green), the Capitals punched their ticket to the Big Skate tournament. Once you’re in, anything can happen, and this week, what happened was positive. The Capitals embraced the role of underdog and knocked out the defending Cup champion Boston Bruins in 7 games. The victory was memorable for the manner in which they achieved it – stout defense, not a Capitals’ signature these past few seasons. Local media types stopped preceding Coach Dale Hunter’s name with the word “interim”. With the Penguins out of the way, this is the year the franchise takes the next step and competes in June for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Fast forward one week – The Capitals lose Game 1 of their second round match up to the #1 seed N.Y. Rangers and rookie superhero goaltender Braden Holtby is unmasked as mortal by a few soft goals. Clearly, an embarrassing sweep is in the making. Tee time reservations have been made. The rabid fan base, accustomed to annual April flame outs, starts burning their week-old Holtby jerseys in memorium. Local media types reinsert the word “interim” before Coach Hunter’s name. Hope is on ice after one loss.
Take a Bullet…Please!
The undermanned and outgunned Washington Bullets won 5 straight games to end the season on a high note. Their savvy roster move of unloading the lazy, self-absorbed show boats that they drafted and signed in exchange for hungry community college intramural bench talent paid off. This could be a winning strategy. Convince your competition that your squad is so bad that they don’t even dress their best players in order to beat you, and you might have a chance. Run the picket fence and get the ball to Jimmy Chitwood for the last shot.
Fast forward one week – The NBA season is over and it’s a trip back to the ping pong ball lottery for this woeful franchise. Come to think of it, the season ending is actually good news and a chance at a lottery pick is good news. The season ended without an All-Star on the team but there wasn’t a felony, wither. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right, Ernie?