“Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart; you just gotta poke around.”
-Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter
A funny thing happened on the way to another Redskins dominated spring here in DC. Other teams were winning, often in dramatic, headline grabbing fashion. It’s true; on big stages in front of big crowds with big stakes on the line, DC was winning (and rising of course; #DCRising).
Was DC becoming a “sports town”? Had it already been one that had just been laying dormant prior to this B-12 shot of winning?
I can’t answer with any certainty if DC is a “sports town”. I do know DC is a town that likes to talk about if it is a “sports town” an awful lot, and just when you feel like the city is turning the corner on sports fandom, you walk into what is ostensibly a bar that plays sports games on TVs only to find screens dedicated to Kentucky Derby pregame coverage and infomercials while a Capitals playoff game is cresting towards it’s dramatic conclusion (true story, sorry Bar Pilar, but there’s no excuse for such a gaffe).
The DC Sports Bog’s Clinton Yates wrote a great piece documenting his journey through Northwest DC in search of the perfect place to watch the rare Caps/Wizards/Nats triple header back in April. Not surprisingly, it took several detours along his route before he found a bar stool worthy of a prolonged stay amongst the red and white clad masses.
On this same night, Matt Valdez (producer for The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan) laid 10-1 odds a few weeks back that the Wizards, Capitals and Nationals would all win on one April night. It was only the third time ever that the Caps and Wizards had playoff games on the same night as a Nats game. The Wizards won outright as 6 point dogs over the Raptors, the Caps took down the Islanders in OT and the Nats hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th to take care of the Cardinals, a team that owns them. Valdez was most definitely footing the bill at Ledo Pizza that afternoon for the entire office.
And just last week, the lights went out on F Street after another disappointing end to a postseason for the forever snake bitten Caps, leading to two local writers moving beyond typical internet muscle flexing and going mano a blogo on Chad Dukes drive time afternoon show on the The Fan.
A search for the perfect sports bar? Impulsive gambling? Sports radio theatrics? Sounds pretty sports townish to me.
Purposefully, I used a lyric from a band that was formed 3000 miles away from the Capital Beltway to start this post, since lots of DC sports fans hail from other parts of the country, myself included. It’s a familiar refrain when discussing the DC fanbase. Transient, white collar fans, who move to the area for a job after college aren’t going exactly a solid foundation for a devoted and loyal base.
Neither is losing, and DC has seen it’s share. The last DC area team just to make a conference finals in any sport? The 1992 Redskins. That’s an entire generation of DC fans who cling to fond memories of Mark Brunell.
Speaking of the Redskins, kudos to both ESPN980 and 106.7 The Fan for giving these last few weeks the coverage it deserved, particularly The Fan. Winning cures all and also helps ween off all local media from the comfort and security of the Redskins teet. I understand page views and callers and such, but we can wait until OTA’s to hear about the Redskins new long snapper.
Is DC a hardscrabble, beer and a shot town where construction workers clock out of work to go drink Budweiser in the Nats Park upper deck? Not even close.
But underneath the lobbyists wearing brand new Ovechkin jerseys over their Brooks Brothers dress shirts at Verizon Center and the dopes who stand on line at Shake Shack and miss 2 innings, there are good fans in DC for all 4 major teams. Hell even DC United regularly draws 16K to RFK, a stadium that’s likely on the short list of Guantanamo Bay replacements, once United moves to Buzzards Point.
In the end, does the “sports town” distinction even matter?
“Love your life, like your sports.” That used to be in Colin Cowherd’s Twitter bio a few years back. Cowherd is in Skip Bayless territory when it comes to my ESPN disdain, but I do agree with that sentiment.
Still, when I walked out of a Monday night Nats victory over the Marlins and strolled past a brass street band and into The Bullpen across the street from the stadium to watch the final moments of a Capitals playoff victory, I was high fiving strangers. A few days later when Bryce Harpers walk off homer against the Braves was followed up by a Paul Pierce buzzer beater 30 minutes later, I was getting texts from people I hadn’t spoken with in years.
Sports are fun, especially when everyones winning and everyones showing up at each others games. However, in the end it wasn’t meant to be for the Wizards or Caps this season.
The championship drought for DC will march on until at least October, where it’ll be the Nats turn to try and break the curse (currently sitting at 7 to 1 to bring a championship parade to South Capitol Street SE.)
As for DC being a sports town? The spirit, loyalty and dedication is there.
You just gotta poke around.