NSR (Non-Soccer Rant): Why the Caps’ Cup means so much

You don’t know what this means. How could you?

Unless you’ve lived in metro D.C. for a while, you can’t know.

You might think you know about basic sports ineptitude. Cleveland gets that, as do a few other cities. Atlanta has only that lone World Series win from the decade of great Braves teams. But Cleveland broke through when LeBron came home. And even the Cubs and Red Sox have won the World Series — in cities that have plenty of NBA and NFL championships to tide them over.

But there’s more to the story in D.C.

We’re hated. Unreasonably so. Not like Philadelphia fans who earn their reputation and seem unworthy of the excellent and charitable Eagles. Even in that case, people just hate the fans. People generally don’t hate Philadelphia itself. It has Reading Terminal Market. How bad could it be?

IMG_4394

Not in the frame: The banner for the three Presidents’ Trophys / postseason curses.

Us? Hundreds of politicians go home to their constituents and say they’re trying to fix things “in Washington.” They never admit they’re the problem. Not the people who actually live here.

“But what about the dirtbag lobbyists?” Sure, they’re reprehensible. But they’re generally not D.C. sports fans. They, like so many people in this area, are from somewhere else. And they think it’s cool to downplay their ties to this area even as they ride the gravy train provided by the workaholics who call this place home. (Rush hour starts at 5 a.m. It ends at 8 p.m. Buckle up. Granted, our mass transit sucks, which itself is indicative of the neglect our region gets.)

Even tonight, as the Washington Capitals raised their Stanley Cup banner, there were people wandering the concourse in Bruins jerseys. One was inexplicably wearing a Sidney Crosby jersey. In other cities, that guy would be stuffed in a trash can. Here, we’re too nice. And we’re used to this crap.

I’d love to tell you D.C. United’s trophies eased D.C.’s suffering. Maybe a little. But MLS Cup doesn’t have the history of the Stanley Cup. Nor is MLS the best league in the world in its sport. The NWSL has at least a case to be made for being the best women’s soccer league in the world, and the Washington Spirit did make the final a couple of years ago, only to lose in classic D.C. fashion. The Washington Kastles had a great run in World Team Tennis, but tennis players don’t dream of winning that trophy. The D.C. Breeze are a pretty good AUDL team, but they’re on the verge of losing half their players to a gender-equity boycott.

And the Capitals are the longest-suffering of the D.C. sports teams. The Wizards won one back when they were the Bullets. The NFL team with the racist nickname won a couple of Super Bowls. The Montreal Expos, currently hanging out at some ballpark for which they made a financially strapped city pay full freight, have less history.

Yet the Capitals have managed to put together a fun, fervent fan base. My suburban town is full of cars with Caps magnets, decals, license plate holders and license plates. It’s a community. You saw it in the massive viewing parties for Stanley Cup games just a few months ago.

This is not a region that manages to get together for things. We’re the region where people come to yell about stuff, either in the Capitol or on the Mall, and then go home. We’re the region where people work long hours at the Pentagon. Or the World Bank. Or tons of unheralded yet vitally important departments and agencies. Or at a law firm, desperately trying to fight the predators (not Nashville — well, maybe some) who are trying to feast off working-class America and immigrants. Or at some poorly funded news organization trying to maintain a watchdog role as long as they can keep the lights on. The Capitals gave us something to cheer for.

So yeah. We deserve this. We deserve to see a Russian who embraced Washington long before his leader did raise the Cup. We deserve to see Brett Connolly score a goal and then see the camera pan over to a wildly celebrating little girl who got a puck from him. We deserve to see Braden Holtby slam the door again and again.

When the game ends, we’ll go back to being your punching bag. Your anger is misplaced, but we’re used to it. We’ll just keep working.

And we’ll all have replica Cup banners at our desk. You punks who think you’re so cool because you keep cheering for your “home” team instead of your home team can just deal with it.

Let’s go Caps.

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