If losing is an art form you can call D.C. fans Leonardo da Vinci. For us, simply losing is not enough. It has to be a gut punch.
To be a D.C. sports fan is to know what a kick in the face on a Sunday evening feels like. It is watching your franchise QB tear his knee while your team’s playoff hopes, and aspirations for the future, slip away in silence. It is a perfect night in October watching in slow motion as a young and promising baseball team blows a six-run lead in an all-or-nothing playoff game. It is getting hit with a dump truck in game 7 of an NHL playoff series, at home, against our most hated rival.
It’s the endless second-guessing that follows all of this. It is why we can’t even embrace the beautiful display the Wizards treated us to this spring without asking ourselves “Will they ever get over the hump?”
Haven’t we been here before?
Before you jump off the ledge let me pose an important question: Who among our beloved teams is closest to returning D.C. to glory? All it takes is one and then the championships fall like Dominoes. Right, Boston?
When I was eight years old, I thought the Redskins would win a title every three years. I was a stupid tow-headed kid who probably ate glue, but from 1983 to 1991 I was a champion. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how many things have to line up perfectly for a team to win a professional championship.
As an adult I have realized that sports are much like life in that nothing is guaranteed. The best or most deserving team doesn’t necessarily win. Sports teach us how difficult it is to be the best. In professional sports, 96 percent of teams end the season big, fat losers.
Sure, a late playoff push may breed optimism but go ask Peyton Manning how fun last season was for him and he’ll use his giant forehead to bash your skull in. Then he’ll sell you a Buick.
A championship is everything. It’s the only thing that will wash away the stench of losing and pessimism that seeps from our decaying fan base. So the question is, who has the best chance to turn things around for the D.C. sports landscape?
1. Nats (Vegas says 12 to 1) – This one is a no-brainer. They have the best odds; they have the best players; they are young and they haven’t nearly peaked. Plenty of experts have picked them as pre-season champs these past two seasons and there is no reason to believe they can’t win it all. The operative word here is “potential.” Will this team ever have the cliché “It-factor” that all championship teams develop somewhere along the way? We still don’t know. 2012 felt an awful lot like magic; but we know how that ended up.
A championship is by no means a guarantee for this team but if we consider the nature of the questions we are asking combined with the expectation of a division title every year, I think it is safe to say that this team should be competing for a championship through the end of the decade.
2. Skins (Vegas says 55 to 1) – ETERNAL OFFSEASON HOPE!?! Not so fast my friend. The reason the Skins have the second best shot at a championship is not so much due to their exceptional talent; on the contrary, it is due the nature of the NFL playoffs.
If you are one of the 12 teams who survive the NFL regular season, you genuinely have a chance to make a run and win the Super Bowl. Yes you have to win three or four bloodbaths to get there but in any other sport your team has to find a way to beat the other elite teams 16 times (11 or 12 in baseball). Give me a QB who makes few mistakes and an aggressive defense and we can play ball with anyone in January.
Logistics aside, the Redskins are only two seasons removed from an immaculate late season run and a 14-point lead at home against a team that went on to win the Super Bowl a year later. Don’t get me wrong, I am not prepared to pass last season off as an aberration nor am I expecting RG3 to progress overnight but the Skins should be a middle-of-the-pack team this year.
If they continue to solidify the defense and sure up unforgivable miscues on special teams we should be right back in the discussion. Of course, if we have already seen RG3’s ceiling and he never learns to run an NFL offense then please blow it all up and kill me now.
3. Wiz (Vegas says 35 to 1) – Basketball is a no-fluke sport; the season the Wiz just gave us deserves better than third-string treatment, I know. However, the harsh reality is that in the NBA, more so than any other sport, the best team will win the championship at a higher percentage than any other sport.
I’m assuming you hate math just like I do so I will skip the number crunching. Bottom line, in basketball the best players play the most time and have the best chance to control the game. How else can you explain the fact that in the last 16 NBA seasons the Spurs, Heat and Lakers have won all but 3 championships? Those teams spend more time in the White House than the Bush and Clinton families.
As good as the Wiz looked this year they are still a tier below the Spurs, Thunder and Heat of the world. The NBA is a lawless arms race right now and it doesn’t appear that the Wiz plan on throwing their hat in the big free agent ring until at least 2016. The Wizards remain the second most exciting team to watch in this city even though Randy Wittman can’t figure out how to coach the last 90 seconds of a basketball game.
Hey, let’s hope I’m wrong. Maybe LeBron leaves the conference and the Bulls don’t sign Carmelo. Maybe the East becomes the Zards’ conference to lose as Beal and Wall continue to develop together. As my grandmother used to say, “Wish in one hand and crap in the other and I bet I can tell you which one gets filled first.”
4. Caps (55 to 1) – The Thompson Creek Window of opportunity for the Caps is closing more quickly than Ovie pours his next drink. This is a team without an identity or a leader. I blindly love #8, mostly because I once saw him wearing a Sean Taylor jersey, but the guy makes more tactical mistakes and overtly lazy defensive plays than anyone I’ve ever seen donning the C on their chest.
It seems like a foregone conclusion that his style of play will never lead a team to playoff success, but if that is the case shouldn’t we be hitting the reset button by now?
The ex-player as head coach experiments with Hunter and Oates were a miserable failure. Sadly, it feels like we are entering the Jim Zorn era of Caps hockey. Where we are now I don’t think we realize how bad it can get. We are one failed season away from a fire sale. Look on the brightside, with that $20 tickets will return!
As the Kings showed us once again this year, you don’t win the Cup without goaltending, defense and toughness. We have not seen consistency in any of those three areas in the past decade. Yes, we still have enough talent to eek by in the regular season but when hockey matters we aren’t equipped to compete mentally or physically. It feels like just yesterday that the Caps were the belle of the ball and now I am ready to put them out of their misery.
So the question remains, will this town ever win a championship? Who knows. This has been a journey into the mind of another felted D.C. sports fan. Give me ALL the booze. You can call me a pessimist, you can call me a cynic, but I blame the Redskins. It was they who jaded my youth. In this area between 1982 and 1991 they cultivated a generation of fans who came to think that championships were a rite of passage. Then the house of cards crumbled.
Now we are the world’s problem. We are impossible to live with. We are 30-year-old Uncle Ricos who just wish we could go back in time.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @RubGun and send your hate mail, questions and topic suggestions to Cannon1067@gmail.com.