What kind of sports town is the Washington DC metropolitan area? This is one question I want to pose tonight. Well, first let’s see which teams we are considering. First there are the obvious, the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, and the Nationals. And maybe to some extent the Orioles and DC United.
First I’ll start off with college sports. The Terrapins are always fun to watch for the casual fan, especially when the hated Duke Blue Devils make the annual trip to College Park and the football team is also enjoyable. The Hoyas have consistently been up there in the Big East and have produced a lot of NBA players. I feel though a lot of people have a love/hate relationship with these teams because you can consider these two teams rivals many with the recruiting. I don’t like it when Maryland targets end up going to Georgetown, but what are you going to do? Another thing is a lot of sports fans in this city probably went to other colleges or out-of-state schools so the Terps or the Hoyas don’t mean much or anything to them. Finally not many people like to watch non-conference basketball. This is when Maryland/Georgetown plays against schools you didn’t even know existed. Those games are almost always blowouts and you don’t really learn much from those games so the early winter season is usually forgotten. With all this being mentioned, DC is definitely not a collegian sports town.
I just want to say soccer is an awesome sport and I always love world cup month every four years in June. So, I guess I’m a DC United fan, but the problem is that it is MLS soccer. Honestly, MLS soccer is a joke. I’d much rather watch the Premier League. The World Cup is also very fun too but MLS soccer? not really. DC United has won 4 championships since its inception in 1996 and no one really cared. I mean, I hope they win but you will never see me getting crazy for DC United. Props to Jaime Moreno though!
Take me out to the ball game! DC before the Nationals came to town loved their Orioles (at least fans who liked baseball). Then there are fans who probably liked either the Yankees or the Red Sox. ugh! Then in 2005 the Nationals came to town. They were popular and fans came to the games but there was never that “buzz” about them. When Stephen Strasburg came on the mound in a June game and struck out 14 in his debut people were taking about it. And this was the night of game 2 of the NBA finals! With Bryce Harper in the farm system the future of Nats baseball looks promising. Still though this city is new to baseball and there are still too many Yankee and Red Sox fans in the area. There has to be some team loyalty for the home team before I can consider this place a baseball town but one thing if for sure here. Nationals baseball is on the rise!
Right now, the only great team DC has is the Capitals. They are currently first in the NHL with “something” points and they have some of the great stars in the NHL like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green and Semin. I love the Capitals and I also love watching the NHL in general but unfortunately I can definitely see this city forget about them if the Caps have a string of sub-par seasons. I don’t really remember the atmosphere here in 1998 when the Caps made that great Stanley Cup Final run led by Kolzig, Bondra, and Oates but after that, hockey basically became irrelevant until 2008 (remember Ovie came into the league in the 2005-06 season). During that 2005-06 and 2006-07 season the Capitals were an afterthought. Attendance was very, very, very low and no-one seemed to care, even when Ovechkin scored 50+ goals in his rookie season. Fast forward to the present day and the Capitals have the best chance at winning a championship out of all the DC sports. People will notice and if this team does see itself playing in early June, it will certainly be one of the biggest sporting events in the DC region in almost a decade. Ovechkin is obviously the biggest star in the city which definitely helps the Capital’s case but I remember a time where a man named Gilbert Arenas had this city buzzing and taking about him for one winter. The hype on that was even bigger than anything Ovie has ever done which leads me to the next team.
The Wizards. In the 2006-07 NBA season Gilbert Arenas had a season to remember. After not being selected for the USA Olympic team, Gil was out on a mission to prove he should have been on that team. He scored 54 against a 61 win Suns team in the Valley of the sun, 60 in LA in front of Jack Nicholson himself and had some sweet buzzer beaters. This first was against the Bucks in late December 2006. Then next was against the Jazz on MLK day in a game he scored 51 points. His team also snapped one of the 67 win Mavericks win streaks. Everyone was talking about Arenas. His antics also made him a lovable guy and the Wizards were a hot ticket. Then the injuries and guns happened (sigh). The buzz was also really high when the Wiz made the playoffs for the first time since the late 90’s. In the 2004-05 season, the team won the hearts of many when they beat Chicago in their first round matchup in that post season. I will never forget game 6 of that series, a game I was at the MCI center for (back then it was called the MCI center). Those were the good days. The future of Wizards basketball is off to a great start now with John Wall but there are still some pieces missing before this team can be a contender and when that time comes this city will be rocking. This area is also known for having some great basketball talent. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony some names that come to mind. Also the best high school conference in my opinion, the WCAC, is located in the area so the sport of basketball is really popular here. This would definitely help the Wizards case but there is one local team whose stories rule the local sports headlines.
Hail to the Redskins! This past decade the Redskins had two playoff seasons. The rest were… well they weren’t good! Without much success on the field, I have to give props to Skins fans. Everywhere I go in DC I see people wearing Redskins merchandise and it’s the most popular set of items sold at stores. They are in the news every single day, even in April when football season isn’t even going on. All the free agent and draft news takes precedence over all the other sports. In 2004 when Joe Gibbs became the new Redskins head coach, it was the top story in general local news for that entire week. Another thing is fans will ALWAYS pack Fed-ex Field. My father has a friend who in the 1970’s joined the waiting list to get Redskins season tickets. He got them in 2005. That’s how badly this area supports the team. With all of this going on, they were never that good. This city loves their Redskins win or lose. That is why I declare the DC Metropolitan Area a football town.
Football seems to dominate the sports landscape here but other teams have made their mark here and they will certainly plan to get notice. Can this town change its sports identity? We will see.