The Nationals and Capitals are different teams in two completely different sports, who happen to be representing the same city, and also happen to share a similar inability to advance to the semifinal round of their respective playoffs.
This has had an obvious broken-record effect on their shared fans, the amplified nature of which is beyond each teams’ control, though the Nats, Caps, Wizards and Redskins are viewed through the D.C. Sports prism all the same.
And the fact remains, neither of these teams have advanced to a conference final in their respective sports in 19 years. The Capitals were the last to do it, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998, where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Not since 1992, and the Redskins’ victory over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI, has one of D.C.’s big-four professional teams won a championship in its respective sport.
The Nationals did their part in perpetuating this cursed legacy, being eliminated (at home) by the Cubs in Game 5 Thursday night.
And, despite Caps coach Barry Trotz’s effort to dispel the demons for all with his ‘winning is contagious’ speech two and a half years ago, the results since have remained literally the same.
Caps defenseman John Carlson was asked, in an interview with Chad Dukes on 106.7 The Fan Friday, whether players feel a “burden of expectation” to win once and for all for the entire city.
“Is there a burden of expectation that is shifting back and forth about this conference championship-round drought,” Dukes asked. “It’s something we talk about in sports-talk radio quite a bit. I can’t imagine it comes up inside of the locker room. But is it something that you guys are aware of when you’re out there competing?”
Carlson admitted that, yes, this is a thing.
“Yeah. I think everybody’s definitely aware of it,” he said. “How much it affects you, I really can’t quantify that. I don’t think it changes anything to do with my preparation or performance, in terms of that, but certainly it’s question after question.”
Even in Carlson’s own response lied an inadvertent but haunting reminder of defeat.
“We’re even getting questions already, and we’re at Game 5 of the season, about our expectations and what’s happened in the past,” he said. “Obviously, we haven’t broken through, which is the reason people keep asking, but it’s definitely there and it’s definitely a hot topic for people to ask you all the time.”
“Yeah. I don’t mean to be asking you about your situation,” Dukes said. “But it’s just weird because, I know taking the calls and reading the tweets, like, people will get mad at you for something the baseball team has done, or vice versa, and it’s like, I don’t think this is fair for these guys.
“They’re going out there and trying to compete in their sport. It’s difficult winning championships. It’s difficult, certainly in your sport where the series are so long, and it’s so arduous and physically grinding. I just think it’s something the fans are putting on the individual athletes and the teams themselves, and I don’t necessarily think it’s fair.”
“Yeah. Well, I think, too, baseball players and us, I guess that you’re talking about,” Carlson said. “I think a lot of work goes into what we do and our craft. To kind of have a false impression that we don’t want it bad enough is a little bit shortsighted. I think these guys work hard, and I know that the guys on our team work really hard and want to win, I guarantee, more than any other fan that’s watching the game.”
“It’s a tough thing to win,” he said. “And hopefully we can change that this year.”