Saturday, January 28, 2017

Just Access

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

As the words rifle across the screen, this week’s “View” feels small and insignificant against the large and consequential political backdrop.  Ah, but maybe small and insignificant in this case is also well-timed and therapeutic. 

With that, happy silver anniversary, D.C sports fans.  Let us weep together. 

It has been 25 years since Washington’s once dominant football team claimed the city’s last major professional sports championship.  The event was Super Bowl XXVI.  The date was January 26, 1992.  The location was the Metrodome in Minneapolis.  Washington QB Mark Rypien exited the field through a confetti storm with the MVP Award.  Head coach Joe Gibbs, the most important figure in the greatest sports era in D.C. history, claimed his third Lombardi Trophy and put himself in the discussion with the NFL’s greatest coaches.  Strike up the band.  Pop the champagne.  Schedule the parade.  Again.

There was no indication that this latest championship moment was some final act of glory.  Yes, the basketball team – the Bullets at the time – stunk, the Capitals were a perennial playoff flop (sound familiar?) and the baseball team was still 13 years from its move south.  No matter.  The football team was a machine that produced an annual contender and a championship every 4-5 years.  Super Bowl XXVI was grand; more would follow.

We were so naïve.  The party caravan drove off a cliff on that distant January night.  The needle skidded across the record, stopping the music abruptly.  Without even a “last call” or “last dance”, the lights were turned on and everyone was ordered home.  The fairytale was over; a long, dark period of relentless suffering began. 

A quarter-century later, the gloom persists.  The losing during this depressing period has been a combination of persistent – the ‘Skins and Wizards have combined for just six playoff game/series wins - and heartbreaking – the Nationals’ and Capitals’ recent playoff meltdowns.  If Jim Cantore was on location, he’d be predicting an endless cycle of morale-sapping storms while blizzard conditions tested the specification limits of his Weather Channel issued L.L. Bean gear.  Baby, it’s cold outside.

Prior to 2016, pity was not something D.C.’s plight would have legitimately earned.  But then, within just months, the Cavaliers ended Cleveland’s misery and the Cubs…the Cubs…won the World Series.  Now when talking championship futility for major sports cites, it’s D.C. and Minneapolis, a town that last raised a triumphant fist after the Twins won Game 7 of 1991 World Series at…the Metrodome.  Creepy.

Don’t confuse this whining with entitlement.  D.C. is owed nothing.  Four championships – 3 Super Bowls, 1 NBA title – in the last 40 years is statistically solid.  But, the last 25 have been an absolute wasteland. 

It’s about to get worse.

After the Super Bowl concludes, Atlanta and one-time Washington (2012-13) offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is expected to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.  He will join Sean McVay, another former Washington offensive coordinator (2014-16) and the new head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, as consecutive Washington OC’s to earn a head coaching gig.  Salt, meet Wound.

Is this psychological torture?  Are the football gods incapable of mercy?  This is not the kind of “Back-to-Back” fans seek.  Of course, it should indicate - and something that would make it more palatable - that the ‘Skins are in the midst of a fertile period of winning.  See, when teams are successful and win Super Bowls, coaches get poached and other teams overpay for their free agents. 

Yeah...that’s not the situation in D.C.  It’s enough to make you feel jobbed and to kick and scream, “It’s not fair!”  Well, it isn’t.  Championships aren’t allocated fairly.  There is no promise of equity.  But with sports, there’s always hope – even after 25 years.  No team is disadvantaged.  No city is condemned.  Opportunity is given equally, but achievement is based purely on individual and team performance.  If only life, another often unfair game, was so just with its access to the dream, however that is personally defined.  Now wouldn’t that be something?  For the time being, though, it remains a goal, one that hopefully won’t take 25 years to achieve.

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