By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Dusty shelves often hold our oldest memories - pictures are organized in albums or (more likely) crammed into boxes and share space with family videos on DVDs or VHS tapes. Technology has claimed such antiquated media and created fancier storage methods for newer experiences – memory cards, thumb drives, computers, phones and virtual clouds. No matter the form, the impetus is unchanged: capture and chronicle life into a library for strolls down memory lane.
Reminiscing with old photos or videos is sure to create a feeling of nostalgia, a complex emotion combining joy and melancholy. The joy comes from simply recalling the best of times through memories refreshed with assistance from priceless visual aids. The melancholy is more complicated. Artifacts of the past can include reminders of loved ones lost and eras when we were younger and perhaps healthier and happier. Deeper within the melancholy is something more serious: regret. “Those times were so good, those people were so precious and our youths were so fleeting. Now it’s all just pictures, videos and images in my mind.” Or so the regretful thinking goes. Tough questions follow. “Did I understand the beauty of it all? Did I cherish it enough?"
‘Skins fans – this one included - no doubt find themselves under similar personal cross-examination when perusing relics of the once-storied franchise’s three Super Bowl championships. After over a quarter century of mostly embarrassing losing, the common conclusion is likely no - we didn’t fully appreciate that decorated era of football. Fortunately, the Capitals’ charge to a Stanley Cup title in 2018 and the Nationals’ World Series championship last fall offered a do-over. And boy did D.C. respond.
A special experience is happening again.
So you may have noticed that Caps winger Alex Ovechkin is good. He puts the puck in the net – a lot. He’s a perennial All-Star and a Stanley Cup winning Captain. The Capitals will retire his number and hang his jersey from the rafters at Capital One Arena. He’s going to the Hall of Fame.
That is high praise, but it only begins to do Ovechkin justice.
See, there are great players and there are immortals. John Riggins, Art Monk, Darrell Green, Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Rod Langway, and Mike Gartner are all great, Hall of Fame, D.C. sports legends. The nation’s capital has only two immortals, players who are considered among the best to ever play their sport: ‘Skins QB Sammy Baugh and Senators pitcher Walter Johnson. As Tony Kornheiser would say, “That’s it, that’s the list.”
Maybe not anymore.
As I peck at these keys, Ovechkin sits at 698 career goals. Only seven players in NHL history have scored over 700. Ovechkin will almost certainly become the eighth in short order. Here’s where it goes next level: Ovechkin’s only 34, is playing great hockey and is surrounded by a talented offensive core that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Gordie Howe’s second place total of 801 goals is absolutely within reach and with good health, Ovechkin has a legitimate chance to surpass Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals.
Translation: Over the next handful of seasons, we will witness Ovechkin’s attempt to become the NHL’s most prolific goal scorer. The potential fly in the ointment (this is D.C. sports, after all) is Ovechkin’s contract. He’s a free agent after next season but it’s hard to imagine him leaving. In fact, let’s not imagine such a thing at all. Forget I mentioned it.
Here’s what matters: We are in a moment. As Ovechkin continues to ascend the goals scored list, passing names like Gartner (708), Phil Esposito (717), Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741) and Jaromir Jagr (766) on his way to Howe and Gretzky, photos will be taken, videos will be shot, articles will be written and read and memories – with friends, a city, a team and a player – will be created. Soak it all in, because one day, many years from now, the dusty chronicle of this whimsical time will be revisited and a nostalgic wave will be created. Don’t let that future stroll down memory lane be tinged with even a trace of regret.
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