Monday, January 6, 2014

A Fan’s Catharsis

As published in The County Times ( in May 2010

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

These are perhaps the darkest of days for D.C. sports fans (a jaded and somber group of which I’m a card carrying member).  One could argue, without much debate, that the state of sports in D.C. is the worst in the country.  Of the cities with all four major professional sports franchises, by my count none has gone longer and only one (Minneapolis) has gone as long as D.C. has without a championship.  While that point is noteworthy, and may even conjure up some sympathy from fans of other locales (as if Philly or Dallas fans are capable of such a decidedly human emotion), it only begins to convey the suffering D.C. sports fans are experiencing.  Oh no, to truly appreciate just how bad things have been and how completely awful the last year was, you have to go blow by painful blow.  It is a tale of nearly unbelievable cruelty.  [MSOffice1] 

The rightful place to begin the gory account is at the top of the D.C. sports food chain with the ‘Skins.  I’m convinced this whole terrible mess began when Joe Gibbs left the first time.  In the 17 years since, countless coaches, quarterbacks and glamorous free agents have produced a paltry 2 playoff wins and a bunch of seasons that were over by Thanksgiving.  Not even the return of Coach Gibbs himself in 2004 could exorcize the gloom that consumed the franchise after Daniel Snyder became owner.  It’s been so demoralizing that it’s difficult to get excited about the arrival of Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan.  You almost want to offer them condolences for the unfortunate circumstances that landed each in this athletic wasteland.

And what of our newbies?  The arrival of the Nationals in 2005 was exciting but the boys of summer have prompted few smiles in the years since.  After a horrendous 2009 season, realistically the team is years away from contending and frankly has only one reason to care (Ryan Zimmerman).  The most exciting thing about the franchise is a mythical, rookie pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, that’s yet to occupy the bump in a major league game.

And then you have the Wizards, our lovable (or laughable) losers.  For a minute there I thought Gilbert Arenas and his merry men were going to break the franchise’s multi-decade curse.  But alas, after Arenas paid homage to the team’s previous name (the Bullets), the Wiz have been dismantled (again) and have returned to more familiar surroundings: annual participants in the NBA’s draft lottery. 

Still, until recently my resolve was strong.  Even in the face of the embarrassing end to the Jim Zorn experience (his “swinging gate” special teams play will live in infamy), the gut-wrenching conclusion to the Terrapins men’s basketball season and Arenas’ much celebrated return ending with him in a halfway house, I had hope.  That hope was riskily hitched to the sexy Washington Capitals who screamed through the regular season and seemed poised to make a run at the Stanley Cup.  Believing there was only so much evil in the world, I foolishly thought the Caps would break their historical playoff form and provide a spring to remember.  After losing in the first round and blowing another 3-1 series lead, I cannot forget them quickly enough.  Oh I rocked the red alright…in the form of my bloodshot eyes and beet-red face at the end of game 7.  It was an ending all too familiar.

Whew, having said all that, I feel much better.  I hope you do too, my fellow D.C. sports fans.  Still, my will to support the teams I love is wavering.  I’d be hard-pressed to identify another life-experience where I’ve given so much and had so little returned.  In The American Crisis, Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  I know now that Paine’s words had a dual meaning: to characterize our country’s revolutionary struggles and the modern struggles of the D.C. sports fan.  His words are comforting.  For now I, and I hope you, can muster the courage to keep hope alive for brighter days and ecstasy in our fandom. 

 [MSOffice1]Move to end???

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