I love D.C. sports. That is really all you need to know if you’re reading this Blog Post.
That is why tonight’s Eastern Conference Semifinal games for the Capitals (Game 7) and the Wizards (Game 5 – which may as well be Game 7) has the District petrified, anxious, and just slightly full of hope.
For years – 19 years, to be exact – Washington D.C. has been labeled as a loser sports town. Since the Capitals last made the Stanley Cup finals (1998), no major team from the District has made it to the Conference Finals. It is, by far, the worst stretch in modern sports. That’s 66 combined seasons (including the Nationals formation in 2005) of losing.
To really understand us fans from the Nation’s Capital, you first need to understand the heartbreak. The blown 3-1 leads from the Capitals. The blown leads in game 5’s by the Nationals in the NLDS. John Wall’s broken wrist against Atlanta in 2015, in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Botched snaps or blown-out knees or no-showing at CenturyLink Field whenever the Redskins happen to make it to the NFL playoffs.
The hardest part of the constant losing and playoff failures is they have come before any Conference Final or Championship. D.C. fans have become so sad that we anguish over Conference Semifinals, and not the actual finals.
If you just read that and laughed to yourself, then you know how sad the last two decades have been.
All of that brings us to tonight. The Capitals play at home against the Penguins in a winner take all to advance to the Conference Finals. With a win, Alexander Ovechkin advances past the second round for the first time. The Wizards take the court in Boston with the hopes of tilting the Eastern Conference Semifinals in their favor (the winner of Game 5, in a seven game series, ends up winning the series over 80% of the time).
Basically, tonight is a night any sports fan dreams of. And yet, in D.C., we are all scared and nervous.
Most of us expect a loss or letdown. But, perhaps it will happen. Perhaps there is a beacon of hope. For a jaded fan base, to quote the great Eric Bickel: “due theory” has to come into play at some point.
The Penguins, who have won three Game 7’s against the Caps, are ripe to be taken apart. Between the third period of Game 5 and late into the third period of Game 6, the Capitals outscored Pittsburgh by a 8-0 margin. After losing their first two games in Boston by a combined 22 points, the Wizards came home and tied the series, defeating the Celtics by a combined 46 points. Everyone remember’s Isaiah Thomas’ 53-point outburst, but let’s not forget that the fact that John Wall and Bradley Beal narrowly missed their potential game-winning shots in Game 2, that would’ve avoided the overtime session.
I do not know where you will watch. I do not know if you believe this curse will end. But I beg you to cling to that hope. It is what makes great sports moments memorable. Day dream of Ovechkin ripping a Power Play goal to win and (finally) defeat Sidney Crosby. Imagine Wall racing past Thomas — and that traitor Al Horford — and the rest of the Celtics, making that game-winning lay-up, and earning a 3-2 series lead.
Believe these teams will finally give us more than sorrow!
Typically, I factor in stats or quotes when I write. But today, I merely just want D.C. fans to believe that this endless losing streak has to end.
Will it end? We’ll know about 12 hours from now. Until then, nobody knows. But I do know that when the puck drops at 7:30pm tonight, I will be wearing Wizards shorts, a Caps T-shirt, a Caps pull over, and a Caps Hat. My fiancée will roll her eyes and day dream about a time with no sports. My dog will slumber off to bed thinking ‘here we go again’. And I will be standing on the couch like I am part of the team.
Because, if we are being serious, I am part of the team! Like I said: I am an unapologetic fan and love these teams. It is what I grew up with. Losing is what my generation of D.C. fans grew up with. A simple taste of just ONE Conference Finals is all we ask.
Is that sad? For fans in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and even Chicago, in addition to most others cities, it is.
But not for us. Not for the fans in the District of Columbia. Our four beloved professional sports teams, with all their young talent, have given us nothing but heartbreak these past two decades.
The chance to re-write that narrative starts tonight.
God speed. To all of us in this great city.