One of my famous posts I did on my personal blog was my potential giddy-ness of the return of the D.C. Sports Renaissance two years ago. At that time, the Redskins had Donovan McNabb, which we all thought it was good, the Nationals were starting their youth moment with the drafting of Bryce Harper and the debut of Stephen Strasburg, the Wizards had John Wall, and the team that got a head start, the Capitals, had an identity. That post got a lot of attention, Ted Leonsis linked it to his blog. Fast forward to today, D.C. is reaching the goal of being a sports town, but the reasons two years ago have shifted.
The only thing that remains stagnant is the Wizards. Even with John Wall, the Wizards have been the Bullets/Wizards for nearly 25 years (except for a few good years from the Gilbert Arenas era). I don’t expect that to change unless David Stern can override trades like he did with New Orleans and screwing with the Lakers and helping the Clippers, but I doubt it.
The team that is on the decline is the Capitals. The Caps were the top of the D.C. sports sector for a few years. When they lost to Montreal in 7 games after leading 3-1, it started their identity crisis. In those two years, they change coaches and change philosophies. Gone were the “run and gun”, the “Greatest Show on Ice” team. In was a defensive philosophy that was surely put this team deep in the playoffs. That defensive philosophy went the same path as the “run and gun” offense: it reached to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Everyone said the team had gain an identity in this year’s playoffs and lost it when Dale Hunter wasn’t coaching this team next year. I think the Caps lost their identity when they saw how the Los Angeles Kings are performing in these playoffs and are one game away to win the Stanley Cup. These L.A. Kings were the Caps suppose to be: 200 feet of “Hells on Ice” on offense and defense. Sadly for the Caps, they wish they thought about it sooner.
We then have the potential resurrection of the Washington Redskins, which after two terrible years, can come back to the top with Robert Griffin III as their franchise QB. After having 100 starting QBs in the past 20 years, it’s great the Redskins now have their “franchise” QB if RG3 meets (or exceeds) expectations. Although some fans question Mike Shanahan’s move of trading to get Donovan McNabb two years ago and gave use dumb & dumber last year, give Shanahan credit that he pulled off the trade with the St. Louis Rams since 1) they gave up 2 first round picks and a second this year & 2) Shanny and new Rams coach, Jeff Fisher, are good friends. This has been the most anticipated Redskins season since the 2004 season when Joe Gibbs came back to the sidelines. This one I expect to be longer.
Finally, to the team everyone is buzzing about and the basis of the original post two years ago: the Nationals. My original point for the post two years ago was if D.C. wants to become a sports town, it needs the baseball team to step up. There’s always football with the Redskins in the fall. There’s basketball and hockey in the winter and spring time. Even if we didn’t have pro basketball or hockey, there’s college basketball to make that up. Before 2005, there was no activity in the summer in D.C. (D.C. United and Mystics aside). After 2005, there was baseball, but it was just there as another D.C. activity because the team stunk. That change in 2010 with the debut of Strasburg. Although he got injured that same year, you can tell the Nationals were building something. Today, they’re in the hunt for the postseason (it also helps MLB added an additional team to the postseason) and they could be in the hunt for the next 5-7 years. With the Nationals success, there is D.C. sports all-year round and before the Redskins break camp, people can enjoy the Nats and hopefully it sticks.
Between these two years, the post I wrote was hyping up potential. Those two years never came to fruition as D.C. teams did struggle. This year, you see a different vibe as you won’t see any D.C. teams win any championships immediately; we’re closer than we think. It won’t bring any casual fans in, but if you’re a D.C. sports fan, it is time to invest.