Washington D.C. sports teams are finally performing, here is what that means
Washington’s professional sports teams are the shining examples of mediocrity in athletic competition. Yes, they make the playoffs on occasion, but they consistently do not live up to their expectations. More often than not, they strut their way into a playoff series only to be sent home in a definitive and convincing fashion.
Following their move from Montreal to D.C. in 2005, the Nationals endured four straight premature exits from the postseason after winning their division. After joining the WNBA in 1998, a year after its inaugural season, the Washington Mystics won one of their 10 playoff series before 2017. In their 45 year history, the Washington Capitals qualified for the postseason 29 times, but they only advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals twice.
When a Washington team isn’t in the playoff hunt, they’re at the bottom of their conference’s standings thinking about what young stud they want to draft into their dysfunctional organization. However, over the past decade, D.C. sports stumbled their way into consistent success.
The Washington Nationals are in the World Series. Dominant pitching and timely hitting propelled this “always a bridesmaid” franchise into their current position. The Nationals’ starting pitchers look more like an All-Star team than they do teammates. Hitting against Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez in four straight games is like walking through a minefield. It only took four games for the Nationals to dispose of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
In addition to the lights out pitching, the Nationals have enjoyed production from Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick at the plate. Both players combine to have 26 hits in the postseason. None of those hits were as important, or electric, as Kendrick’s grand slam against the Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series. That moment alone should have got them a direct pass to the World Series. In a way it did, as the Cardinals didn’t put up much of a fight. In any case, the Nationals started the season with a record of 19-31. Now they’re two games away from being World Champions.
On Oct. 10, the Washington Mystics beat the Connecticut Sun in a best of five series to win the WNBA Finals. While this season marked the first to end in a title celebration, it included a few other memorable and history making moments.
The 2019 Mystics broke the franchise record for most wins during the regular season. Head Coach Mike Thibault, who is the winningest coach in the history of professional Women’s basketball, finally took home his first WNBA Championship.
Elena Delle Donne, the team’s leader, was the franchise’s first player to be the MVP of the league. While all these accolades are great in showing how truly dominate the Mystics were, the most impressive accomplishment of the season occurred during the Finals. In the postgame press conference, Delle Donne revealed she played with three herniated discs in her back. Excuse me? That grittiness and toughness earns you championships. The willingness to put your body on the line for the betterment of the team was missing for the Mystics in all those prior seasons.
The Washington Capitals set off the explosion that is the resurgence of Washington professional sports last year in the 2018 Stanley Cup. Their triumphant series win broke the second longest streak in the NHL of teams without a Stanley Cup victory. It also broke D.C.’s drought in professional championship wins. A Washington team hadn’t won a world title since 1992. Alex Ovechkin, the team’s all time player, finally added the ultimate team award to his long list of individual honors. The Capitals created a “movement.” Without their title performance, the other Washington teams would not have accomplished the things they did. The Capitals showed a Washington team doesn’t have to be the laughing stock of the league. You don’t have to be ashamed of wearing the apparel of a D.C. team in public. That is, as long as it is the official merchandise of the Capitals, Mystics or Nationals. Other than those teams, there’s no escape from the incoming ridicule.
And that’s it. That’s every team in Washington D.C., right? Oh, wait! D.C. United. If I’m being honest, I don’t feel qualified to talk about soccer. I’m probably not qualified to talk about hockey either, but I freaked out just as much as one of those “puck lovers” when a Washington team finally brought home a title during my lifetime. I’ve heard D.C. United has been successful, and a simple Google search shows they’ve won four MLS Cups. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t align with my narrative of D.C. being the conquering underdog. Just imagine I never brought them up.
Anyways, that’s it right? Nope. The XFL is back, baby. The D.C. Defenders are bringing football back to Washington. They are the only football team in D.C. No other team exists, and that’s where the conversation ends. No need to bring up anything else you may have heard. Also, the Washington Wizards are a team, but like D.C. United, they don’t mix with the other recently flourishing franchises. They’re still on that losing more than winning trend, so they’re excluded. Sorry Bradley Beal.
I’ve been a fan of every Washington team my entire life. As you can expect, all I’ve ever known is heartbreak. It’s become such a repetitive feeling, I started to find solace in failure. The Capitals, Nationals and Mystics brought me out of that trance. In fact, they’ve turned me into an unreasonable monster. You can’t convince me things will revert to how they were for the last three decades. I’m beyond the point of return. It may be a delusional fantasy, but it’s MY delusional fantasy.
~Matthew Morhiser, Staff Writer~