For DC Sports Fans, It’s Time to Let Go of the Old Skepticism
With the new year comes time for new optimism about the state of sports in Washington.
Everybody knows a Boston sports fan. They are typically loud, a bit obnoxious, and always ready to talk about the Patriots. The Boston sports fan wants to explain why their teams are so much better than yours and why it will probably remain that way.
This wasn’t always the case.
For much of the franchise’s history, the New England Patriots were awful. Prior to Mr. Gisele Bundchen’s arrival, New England had appeared in two Super Bowls and was soundly beaten in both.
Now, with all-world quarterback Tom Brady, Pats fans get to act like NFL royalty.
What does this mean for us? Not much, yet—except that having an all-world quarterback sure can change a football franchise.
The bigger point: Redskins fans, and Washington sports fans as a whole, need to move past the tortured and frustrated souls we’ve become. The future is bright.
Sure, much of the past 20 years has been a sports wasteland. The closest the city has come to a professional championship over the past two decades came in 1998, when an overmatched Capitals team was swept in the Stanley Cup Finals by an all-time Detroit Red Wings side.
Beyond that, there hasn’t been much. The Skins have made a couple playoff runs, but nobody seriously considered those teams title contenders. We had some fun with Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards in the mid-2000s, but deep down we knew the Wiz wouldn’t beat the Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, or the LeBron-led Cleveland teams of the time.
There have been a few teams we thought could contend. After that 1998 Eastern Conference title run, the Caps were down for a few years. But the acquisition of Alex Ovechkin changed all that.
Ovi brought a fun, fast-paced winning hockey team back to DC. Caps attendance exploded, and people around town began to rock the red, but in the playoffs the Caps gave DC little more than heartache. The best Caps teams choked, and the plucky ones lost in seven-game playoff thrillers.
The Caps gave DC excitement, but still no title, which was still better than what we got from the Nationals—until this year.
By any measure the Nats were dreadful for almost their entire existence. But this season, the team performed. Young players delivered on potential, and the entire city got swept up in pennant race baseball.
It was an incredible feeling with a brutal ending. But despite the sports waterboarding DC got in Game 5 against the Cardinals, we all know the Nats have the talent and potential to compete for World Series titles next season and in the future.
So what does any of this mean? It means the collective psyche of DC sports fans is beat up and battered. It leads us as fans to maintain an unhealthy skepticism of our teams and our future. It is understandable, but it’s time to end.
The future is bright. Just think about the young stars in town.
We have Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg on the Nats, Ovi and Nicklas Backstrom on the Caps, and there is no bigger star than Robert Griffin III. RG3 has made Redskins football more relevant this season than it has been since George H.W. Bush was in office.
After so much mediocrity it is hard to say with conviction, but the 2012 Redskins are a good team. The rest of the league fears playing them. And the best part is the Skins will only get better.
RG3 will improve. He will learn when to risk a big hit instead of sliding or getting out of bounds. His arm is already one of the most accurate in the NFL. The guy has thrown 18 touchdowns and only four interceptions. As a rookie!
There are five quarterbacks in the NFL with a passer rating over 100. Two of them—Peyton Manning and Tom Brady—are first-ballot Hall of Famers and in the discussion as greatest quarterbacks of all time. Another member of the club, Aaron Rodgers, has taken home both a league MVP trophy and a Super Bowl trophy.
This season, RG3 actually ranks higher than both Manning and Brady, and is just below Rodgers. The kid is special, and he will lead our Redskins to meaningful playoff games for the next decade.
Championships are never guaranteed. It takes a special blend of talent, skill and luck to win a title in any sport, and that can hardly be predicted. However, it is not hard to know who will contend for a championship in any sport from one year to the next.
The Redskins are not among the primary championship contenders today, but they are on their way. With Griffin at quarterback, and a talented complement of young players on both offense and defense, the Skins have that chance.
The time for skepticism is over for DC sports fans. A new year is coming. It’s time we developed a new attitude.
Sports will always deliver heartbreak—it’s part of the intoxication. That won’t change. DC sports fans have experienced enough over the past 20 years to last a lifetime. That will change.
So next time you hear that Boston accent bragging about Tom Brady, just soak it in. And know that in a few years DC fans from coast to coast can be singing the same—albeit less obnoxious—tune.
Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.