Saying Goodbye To A Brutal Year in D.C. Sports
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If 2012 was a year to treasure for Washington fans with the Nationals leading the majors with 98 victories, the Redskins winning their first NFC East title in 13 years, and the Capitals upsetting the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the playoffs, 2013 was supposed to be the year that at least one of the local teams ended the city’s major pro championship drought that stretches back to January 1992 (apologies to D.C. United and the Kastles).
Instead, 2013 was pretty brutal in Washington. Let’s review the damage (Hey, I was a history major).
The year began with the Redskins losing a 14-0 lead and the playoff opener to visiting Seattle, and worse, much worse, losing record-setting rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to two torn knee ligaments which required surgery three days later. Coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to allow an obviously hurting Griffin to remain in the game has haunted the franchise since as Washington crashed from 10-6 to 3-13, the worst collapse in Redskins history. By Week 14, Shanahan had sat Griffin down, supposedly for the much-hit quarterback’s future, but seemingly in a power play with owner Dan Snyder. This year’s plunge already cost coach Mike Shanahan and eight assistants their jobs with maybe half the roster to follow whether through free agency or outright release.
The Nats swept their opening series, but by the end of April, they were 13-14. Bryce Harper, the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year, had two early-season collisions with outfield walls and fences, missed 44 games and never fully regained his mojo. Washington bounced back to 20-15, but didn’t get back to four games over .500 again until July 7 by which point it trailed Atlanta for good in the NL East. The Nats then lost 11 of their next 13. By the time they climbed back to four games over .500, they were 12 games behind the Braves and done. So much for outgoing manager Davey Johnson’s “World Series or Bust” boast from spring training.
The Caps, who waited out a 113-day lockout to get going under new coach Adam Oates, started 2-8-1 before finishing 25-10-2 to win their fifth Southeast Division title in six years as sniper Alex Ovechkin regained his seemingly lost goal-scoring touch. But after winning Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New York Rangers on Mike Green’s overtime goal, they were blanked 6-0 over the final two games to lose the series.
The Wizards started 4-28, making their 25-25 finish pretty meaningless as they missed the playoffs for a fifth straight year.
While the Kastles defended their World Team Tennis title and the Mystics made the WNBA playoffs for the first time in three years, D.C. United was the worst team in MLS, scoring just 22 goals in 34 games. Tiger Woods didn’t play in his own golf tournament at Congressional because of a sore elbow, leaving Bill Haas (who?) to triumph in a weakened field. Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro took the Citi Open tennis title over another bunch of relative non-names.
Georgetown was the only local Division I team to make the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but the Hoyas were stunned in the first round by Florida Gulf Coast. The Maryland women were crushed by eventual national champion Connecticut in the Sweet 16.
Virginia Tech improved enough to qualify for a decent bowl game as the ACC’s fourth-best team and Navy also returned to postseason. Maryland went bowling for the first time in three years thanks, in part, to a weak September schedule, but Virginia went 2-10, its worst record in 32 years.
As the year ends, Georgetown, Maryland, George Mason and Virginia are all off to disappointing starts in men’s basketball. However, Brenda Frese’s Maryland women are their usual sterling selves, and Mike Lonergan has the GW men at 11-1.
The Caps, thanks to their success in shootouts and their membership in a surprisingly weak division (other than Pittsburgh), are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference at 20-15-5. The Wizards are at .500 (14-14) this far into a season for the first time since April 2008 (when the last made the playoffs) and are in poised to end their postseason drought in the horrible Eastern Conference in which they’re also currently in fifth.
So maybe, just maybe, 2014 will be better than 2013 to which we can finally say, good riddance.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011.