I remember the first ice hockey game I ever really watched part of. It was last Thursday night.
Like a kid who hears the thunder but misses the lightning, I was a thrilled mix of confusion and expectation and a little panic. But what I really love about ice hockey so far is how I won the Stanley Cup. If you live in Washington, you probably won it, too. If you won it how I won it (exuberantly), you probably considered scaling a cop car before being dissuaded by a loved one. If you won the Stanley Cup as I did (efficiently, in a single evening really), you probably woke up Friday morning sort of surprised to discover you still felt really, really happy about it.
Washingtonians dressed in long-sleeved Caps sweaters that morning despite the face-melting humidity, and I was buoyed to see their commitment matched my own joy. The authorities insisted that we not travel to Dulles to personally collect our Cup, which was disappointing, but otherwise my first full day as the winner of a tremendous drinking vessel passed in shared euphoria.
Since then, the Stanley Cup got a sky box for the Nats game. It fountain-bathed on the Georgetown Waterfront. It dined at Cafe Milano. It’s been drunk with power’s proximity. It’s been Reliable-Sourced and Page-Sixed. Personally, I have yet to actually see the 3-foot-tall silver topiary, but I have already felt its presence in this town like a high-five to the heart.
All this happiness the Stanley Cup is stoking has me thinking that maybe I, and also probably you, don’t dislike Washington—not as much as we imply and sometimes flat-out insist we do. That in some part a Washingtonian’s distaste for Washington is performative, a coded declaration that we’re normal, that we’re in this city but not of it. DC is a hard hometown. Outsiders feel uniquely entitled to diagnose what’s wrong with us. So when someone from beyond these cloistered borders asks if I like it here, the “Umm, you know, parts of it” means I don’t like the Washington I assume they’re asking about, the metonym for politicians schmoozing their way through life and wood-paneled steakhouses.
But the Washington where I live and invite friends over and, now, watch the Caps play? I like it. Maybe one reason this town’s so ecstatic for the arrival of that beautiful, burnished 35-pound chalice is because we like Washington and usually we’re not allowed to show it—not here in the icky, rusty heart of that which won’t be drained.
But today is Parade Day. Today we don’t have to dislike this town or even pretend to. It’s a hall pass to wear the (very recently purchased) red jerseys featuring names of players we’re 80 percent sure how to pronounce and proudly scream that we won, that Washington won. I won! You won! We won! We’re an us. And us? We’re winners! Want us to prove it? Just look at the giant cup!
And then maybe tomorrow when people ask if we like DC, we’ll think of Parade Day and say, “Umm, yes, mostly.” Maybe we won’t use our jobs to justify that we have to live here or why, even though we live here, it’s okay because we’re not part of thaaaat Washington. And maybe eventually when a stranger or tourist or person we cold-emailed to ask to coffee (because it is DC) asks where we’re from, we’ll stop rewinding all the way back to where our parents chose to live when we were born. We’ll just say Washington and leave it at that.