Time to celebrate D.C.
The Capital curse is over.
Not just for the NHL franchise that bears that nickname, but for the District of Columbia as a whole.
For the first time in 26 years, Washington D.C. residents have the chance to climb lampposts, collapse hotel awnings and punch horses just like Philadelphia Eagles fans did back in February.
It’s always nice to see a city or metro area end a long title drought and with the case of D.C., the team most likely to bring a championship home was the one that finished the job.
Ever since Alex Ovechkin was drafted by the Capitals, they’ve been D.C.’s best hope, and with the constant playoff bids, it seemed like it was inevitable. However, once they got to the postseason, the Caps would either get upset or get eliminated by Pittsburgh in hockey’s most one-sided “rivalry.” People started to wonder if Ovechkin would be one of those phenomenal athletes that have never won a championship like Barry Sanders, Ken Griffey Jr., Dan Marino or Ernie Banks. Until this strange season, that might’ve been a distinct possibility.
Instead, Washington managed to get past both the Penguins and the Lightning and put a wall up to stop, arguably the best story in sports this year, the Vegas Golden Knights. The Capitals may have been overshadowed by Vegas’ fun story and their pregame festivities, but they split the first two games out in the desert and then couldn’t be stopped by a Knights squad that finally looked like an expansion team.
Before the Capitals’ string of success, D.C. was a hardcore football city and it probably still is. The Redskins were the last of the four major sports teams to win a title, and that was back in Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis when Mark Rypien was the quarterback and the Lions last won a playoff game. Since then, Washington’s image has been based on terrible free-agent signings, bad draft picks and stubborn insistence on keeping an ethnic slur as its team nickname. That’s probably not what the team was going for, but with owner Dan Snyder, who knows?
There was a lot of excitement when baseball came back to D.C., but the Nationals became what the Capitals used to be: A team with a lot of talent that inexplicably gets eliminated quickly once the playoffs start. Seriously, every year analysts say that this will be the year, but the Nats end up bounced out in the Division Series. Give hockey experts credit. Eventually, they started to lower their expectations with the Capitals and developed a “let’s see what happens” way of thinking.
Also, the NBA’s Wizards made brief flashes of potential in the mid-90s with Michigan alums Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, and there was the intriguing but ultimately underwhelming return of Michael Jordan in the early-00s. In the last few years, Washington has been the one team that appears as if it could make a run for a title soon, but then ends up getting eliminated earlier than expected.
But unlike those three franchises, the Capitals have been consistently on the cusp of a championship for the past decade and they were finally rewarded. Just like little Keelan Moxley, the girl who finally got rewarded with a puck for her patience in pregame warmups, they just had to keep at it and they’d eventually get what they wanted.
So what’s the next city to end up toasting a title and ending years of anguish? Well, San Diego and Buffalo are neck-and-neck for the longest spans between titles with the latter’s being much more devastating.
However, San Diego is down to just one franchise now, the Padres, and they’re awful. In Buffalo, the Sabres can’t seem to get it together and the Bills are a couple playmakers short of being a contender. When it comes to cities with the four major sports, it’s Minneapolis-St. Paul that holds the longest drought, even though the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx have won several titles, most recently last season. It just depends on your opinion if that counts or not. Growing up in Minnesota, I can tell you that getting used to playoff failure is passed down from generations. However, the odds are that the Twin Cities will get one soon as each of the four teams seems to be on the rise. The question now is just when. I’m going with within the next five years.
For now though, it’s Washington’s time to celebrate. Regardless of how you view the city when it comes to politics, the city does have remarkably loyal fans and the Capitals are a fun bunch of guys to watch when they get clicking. Watching Ovechkin clutch the Cup that he’s been wanting for years was heartwarming to watch, and seeing fans celebrate all over the DC area on social media was nice to see.
So make sure to enjoy it D.C. Like the city of Cleveland, the Eagles and the Chicago Cubs, your curse has come to an end and I’m sure it’s a great sense of relief to have that weight off your shoulders each season.
Just make sure you don’t become Boston. Those fans need a new curse.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.