Washington: City of sports sorrow

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Growing up in the D.C. Metropolitan area has faced natives with a daunting task: being a Washington D.C. sports fan. Washington sports teams seem to have no problem getting to the playoffs of their respective sports, but it’s the getting past the first round they have problems with.

Washington is plagued with a conference-championship win drought, which seems to be continuing as we enter 2017 following the Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 13. Not since the Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998, only to get swept by the Detroit Red Wings, has a Washington team in one of the four major professional sports leagues been in the finals of said sport. According to The Washington Post, in the 18 years since that loss in the Stanley Cup Final, there have been 72 champions crowned in the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL, 72 runners-up and 144 losing semifinalists. Not a single one of those 288 teams hailed from the District, unlike Boston’s four major sports teams who have made 22 conference finals appearances and won nine titles since 1998.

The Washington Redskins have been a whirlwind the last couple years. Going from winning a measly four games in 2014 to winning the division in 2015, this team puts their fans through the wringer. Additionally, the name has been a controversy in the media recently. This team has been a part of the National Football League for 81 years and have always held the name, but recently, people of American Indian descent have expressed concerns with the racially incorrect name. “All of my friends make fun of me for being a fan of a team with a racist name,” sophomore Hannah Johnston said.

In an article written by Cindy Boren and Scott Allen in The Washington Post, team owner Daniel Snyder is quoted saying “Today’s Washington Post polling shows Native Americans agree [not to change the name]. [The Redskins] are gratified by this overwhelming support from the Native American community, and the team will proudly carry the Redskins name.”

It remains to be seen whether change the name, but for now, the team is focused on repeating their division title.

After a 33-year absence, baseball returned to D.C.in 2005. In 2016, the Washington Nationals experienced a heartbreaking loss in the postseason, as they did in 1981 (when they were the “Senators”), 2012 and 2014. “It was awful,” junior Gabe Pollack said about the loss. “It is so disappointing watching them lose year after year.”

In both 2012 and 2016, it appeared as if the Nats would advance to the next round in the NLDS elimination game. Similarly, the team blew their leads in both games and ultimately led to their elimination from the playoffs both years. “The park goes from loud to silent in a matter of seconds, and being there to experience it is absolutely heart breaking,” Pollack said.

Every year at the beginning of the season, the Nats show signs of improvement and greatness, but seem to never be able to follow through with the promises they make to their fans.

With players like John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat, it is hard to believe that the Washington Wizards are not good. If the Verizon Center is full for a game, it is likely that half of the fans will be there supporting the opposing team. Although the team is made up of big names, their best players tend to spend much time on the bench with injuries. Whenever I tell people I am a Wizards fan, they respond with an “I’m sorry” or “aw.”

The team’s most recent title was earned in 1979, 37 seasons ago. The Redskins are not the only team in the District that has dealt with a name controversy. The Washington Wizards, formally known as the Washington Bullets, changed their name in November of 1995 when owner Abe Pollin announced he was changing the team’s nickname because Bullets had acquired violent overtones that had made him increasingly uncomfortable over the years, particularly given the high homicide and crime rate in the early 1990s in Washington, D.C.

Despite making it to the postseason 26 times since their first year in 1974, the Washington Capitals have only made it to the Stanley Cup Finals one time, ending in defeat by the Detroit Red Wings four to zero. “It sucks to be a fan of this team,” senior Nathan Sharpe said. “They never make it past the second round.”

In order to win the playoffs, teams need to know how to play a defensive game, which is something the Capitals struggle with season after season. Although they have one of the leading scorers in the league, Alex Ovechkin, this team just can’t seem to please their fans.

We have good teams here in Washington, but simply not good enough. Our most recent title win was 24 years ago in the 1991 Super Bowl when the Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills. Even in towns like Cleveland, whose football team still has not won a game seven weeks in, have championship wins in basketball and are sending their baseball team to the World Series. Just goes to show you, sports curses exist; so to all you superstitious fans out there – keep believing. Hopefully it will pay off eventually.

 

Katie Schreck

Features Editor