Sports in DC

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


Remember when the Capitals were the hot, up-and-comers in the NHL? Remember when Ovechkin, Semin, Green, and Backstrom were all under 25? Remember when they won the President’s trophy? Remember when it felt like Ovechkin would be MVP every year? Remember when it looked like the beginning of a dynasty in DC?

Here’s the Wikipedia summary of how that dynasty played out:

Lost Conference Quarterfinals vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 3–4
Lost Conference Semifinals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 3–4
Lost Conference Quarterfinals vs. Montreal Canadiens, 3–4
Lost Conference Semifinals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 0–4
Lost Conference Semifinals vs. New York Rangers, 3–4
Lost Conference Quarterfinals vs. New York Rangers, 3–4

Six playoff appearances, six failures to make it past the second round.

Last year the Capitals finally missed the playoffs. The manager was fired. The coach was fired. It might not be the end, but it sure felt like one. Some dynasty.


Remember Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison? Remember Arenas draining a buzzer beater in Game 6 against the Bulls? Remember when they added Caron Butler? They weren’t favorites, but they were at least contenders.

Here’s how that era turned out, according to our good friend Wikipedia:

Lost Conference Semifinals (Heat) 4-0
Lost First Round (Cavaliers) 4-2
Lost First Round (Cavaliers) 4-0
Lost First Round (Cavaliers) 4-2

Of course, this all ended in spectacular fashion, with Arenas blowing out his knee, subsequently signing a 100 million dollar contract, blowing out his knee again, and then bringing a gun into the locker room. This is now the defining moment of Arenas’ tenure in DC. Four years later, the Wizards are just beginning to crawl back into relevance on the shoulders of their young backcourt.


The Redskins were never a great team. At their best, they were a good team. The kind of team that squeaks into the playoffs as a wildcard with 9 or 10 wins and wins at most one playoff game. That was their ceiling. Then, they drafted RG3. Or, as he was known then, Black Jesus.

RG3 lived up to the hype right away. In his rookie year, he led the Redskins to their first division title in my sports-viewing lifetime. And he wasn’t just a winner; he was a spectacle. He was a blur on the field. Every time he lined up to snap the ball, you held your breath knowing the potential was there for an awesome play.

Of course, this being DC, RG3 would wreck his knee in the first round of the playoffs.

He didn’t look the same in his second season, but he was coming off a gruesome injury. It would take time. Then, just a few weeks ago, RG3 hobbled off the field yet again after falling awkwardly on his ankle. In that moment, the hopes for RG3 as franchise centerpiece seemed finally to cave in. Because I’m an idiot, I’m still holding out hope he’ll prove everyone wrong, but it’s looking grim.


DC might not be Cleveland, but, well, it’s DC. Every few years hopes rise and pulses quicken. And then we watch the deflating balloons that are our teams sputter in every direction until they come to a rest, defeated, on the floor.

Two years ago, after what felt like an eternal cycle of awfulness and high draft picks, the Nationals broke through and finished with the best record in the National League. In Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs, up 7-5 in the 9th, it looked like the Nationals streak would continue. Four runs later, the Nats were headed home.

Still, hopes were high the following year. The Nationals had so much talent. Hell, they had benched their ace, Strasburg, before the playoffs began to protect his arm after receiving Tommy John surgery the year before. Now, fully loaded, with a year of playoff experience under their belts, the Nationals would be ready.

Not quite. The Nationals struggled to keep pace with the Braves all year, eventually finishing 10 games back. “Frustrating” was the buzzword all year.

This season, after a so-so start and bubbling anxiety that we were in for a repeat of the previous year, the Nationals finally found a rhythm. There were bumps along the way, but the Nationals rode a strong finish to the best record in the National League. They arrived at the playoffs looking invincible. Everyone was healthy. Everyone was playing well. The Nationals biggest problem seemed to be that they had too many good starting pitchers.

But you know your history. You know what this really meant. It meant that when the Nationals found a way to blow it, it would be that much more agonizing for DC. The best fans could hope for was that the collapse would be quick and undeniable. Instead, we were treated to a narrow 3-2 loss in Game 1. And then Game 2 happened.

Jordan Zimmerman was one out away from pitching a shutout and tying the series. One out, and the Nats win 1-0. Joe Panik came to the plate. Zimmerman walked him. So Zimmerman was pulled, and Storen came in and promptly blew the save, just as he had done in Game 5 two years before. The night lasted 9 more innings, another game altogether. It was the longest postseason game in the history of baseball. The Nationals lost 2-1.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

P.S. No, this isn’t just a 1000 word reverse jinx. That would be pathetic.


Photo Credit:
1. Scott Ableman via photopin cc
2. clydeorama via photopin cc
3. Keith Allison via photopin cc
4. bmward_2000 via photopin cc
5. MudflapDC via photopin cc


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