Worst D.C. sports moments of 2013

December 17, 2013

We’re doing one year-end D.C. sports list every day this week, and most of them will be bests. (See the best D.C. sports quotes of 2013 here.)

But we can’t just ignore the worst, and so we’ll get ‘em out of the way early. Without waiting for anyone else to get injured, deliver a wacky press conference, lose a late lead in horrendous fashion, or record a worst thing in franchise history, here then are the 10 worst D.C. sports moments of 2013, a year that offered way more than 10 possibilities. I’ve also included some honorable mentions; add yours in the comments.

 


(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

10. The Redskins make their first, but not last, appearance on this list with their season opener on Monday Night Football against the Eagles. This was Robert Griffin III’s much-hyped return from injury. This was the resurgent Redskins, fully put-together, defending their first division title in more than a decade, at home, on national television, against the gimmicky offense of Chip Kelly and his fragile quarterback Michael Vick. The Redskins were narrowly favored, but Washington fans were largely convinced this would be a rout.

It very nearly was, but for the wrong team. Griffin looked gimpy and inaccurate for much of the night. The defense looked like melted sour cream. The offense turned the ball over three times and didn’t score until near the end of the third quarter. It was 26-7 at halftime, and 33-7 late in the third quarter. It was the first warning sign for a season set to go horribly wrong, and it came against a rival with everyone watching.

 


(Chuck Burton/Associated Press)

9. Look, the Maryland football team wasn’t winning the ACC even if everyone stayed healthy; even if everyone stayed super healthy and received double-bonus powers from drinking extra carrot juice. But there are reasonable injuries, and then there’s losing your two best offensive weapons to broken legs in the same game. Before their trip to Wake Forest, the Terps were 5-1; Stefon Diggs was a fringe candidate to be a Heisman finalist, and Deon Long had emerged as a legitimate second threat. Long broke his fibula and tibia in the second quarter; Diggs broke his fibula early in the fourth. The 5-1 start turned into a 7-5 finish.

 


(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

8. Before the Caps rallied to win yet another Southeast Division title, they joined their local brethren in the basement. Much of the early sourness was erased by their later rally, but for weeks if not months, all we heard was that this team had a -73.6 percent chance of qualifying for the playoffs.

Lowest moment? Not sure if this is scientific, but I’ll say it was losing in Pittsburgh to the rival Penguins, 2-1, in mid-March, giving the Caps five losses in seven games with just six weeks left in the season. In that game, the Caps flailed around aimlessly on a four-minute man-advantage, then allowed the game-winning goal nine seconds later. That was, perhaps, the one and only day when I went public with my feeling that the Caps would miss the playoffs. It felt hopeless.

 


(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

7. This college stuff is tricky business, because what’s bad for one local fanbase is often good for another. But 2013 was such a terrible spring for local college basketball teams that there was essentially only one D.C. entrant into the NCAA tournament: second-seeded Georgetown, led by Big East Player of the Year and certain Lottery pick Otto Porter, making the Hoyas a popular Final Four selection. I barely even bothered to get myself in front of a television before the Hoyas’ matchup with Florida Gulf Coast, because 2 seeds don’t lose to 15 seeds.

Whoops. Dunk City happened. Remarkably, that was the fourth straight year Georgetown fell to a double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament.

 

6. The Wizards have been one of the NBA’s worst franchises for 30 years. They still managed to top themselves at the beginning of last season, losing a franchise-worst 12 games in a row to start the season. That was in 2012, but the bad times drifted into 2013, when the Wizards fell to the Heat in Miami to fall to 4-28, the low-water mark of that season. Remember that game? Let me help:

Already the NBA’s lowest-scoring and worst-shooting team, the Wizards sank a little lower during a 99-71 loss at American Airlines Arena. In a season in which games have too often been derailed by grisly offensive droughts, the Wizards found a way to go completely barren in falling to 1-15 on the road. The defending champion Heat finished the game on an incredible 21-0 run.

That turned out to be the worst of it; the Wizards soon rallied, and were a competitive and entertaining team down the stretch. But getting to 4-28 on the strength of a game-ending 21-0 run was very 2013.

 


(Via TV)

5. Even now, there’s a sense that if Bryce Harper had remained healthy throughout 2013, the season might have ended differently. Harper ran into multiple walls, was beaten down by the grind of a 162-game season, had a host of nagging injuries, and wound up starting only 133 games, many of which he played shy of full health. “All of Harper’s injury problems this year trace back to April and mid-May, when he crashed into the outfield wall in Atlanta and then, more viciously, the fence at Dodger Stadium,” James Wagner wrote in September.

Oh right. Dodger Stadium. “Harper’s head snapped back and his hat came flying off his head like a piece of ski equipment after a crash,” Kilgore wrote at the time. “He crumpled to the warning track dirt. Dodgers Stadium quieted.” We used “crumpled” too many times this year, friends. See below.

 


(Via CBS)

4. Not to overload on the burgundy and gold, but I heard from well more than a handful of fans this month who thought the home fiasco against the Chiefs was the franchise’s worst moment in the Dan Snyder era. Is that hyperbole? Maybe not. That game included the benching of the franchise quarterback, the lowest attendance since FedEx Field opened, a nearly empty stadium whose image was blasted on every sports show and web site, and a bizarre series of Mike Shanahan’s press conferences that began after the game and continued for the next four days, amid countless national leaks that suggested backstabbing, infighting and chaos.

Oh, and the Redskins lost 45-10, amid every sort of on-field breakdown imaginable. “Drenched in mortification,” Boz wrote, summing up the day.

 

 

(Via Comcast SportsNet)
(Via Comcast SportsNet)

3. I mean, you know it’s a bad year when your hockey team gets routed 5-0 during a Game 7 at home against a longtime adversary, and that can’t even crack the top two of the worst moments. The Caps’ latest playoff misadventure felt a bit less crushing than those of prior years, because of lowered expectations from a wildly unpredictable regular season. Still, to go from a thrilling overtime winner in Game 5 to a season-ending disaster in Game 7 was a bit of a downer, as these things go.

That led to the old familiar Caps numbers: 3-9 in Game 7s, 2-7 in Game 7s at home, an absurd 4-6 in best-of-seven series they led 2-0. And it led to some sad, sad faces. “Quite honestly, tough to explain,” Adam Oates said.

 


(Alex Brandon/AP)

2. Entering last season, the Nats were, if not consensus World Series favorites, about the next best thing. They had young stars, a fearsome pitching staff, a grizzled manager, a delirious fan base, a brand new center fielder, a brand new closer, and all the pieces to go soaring past 100 wins. Instead, they bottomed-out in the summer and missed the playoffs.

How to symbolize that disaster? I’ll go with the three-game sweep, at home, against the hated Braves, in early August. Recall:

As the ball hissed off Justin Upton’s bat and rattled around the left field corner in the eighth inning Wednesday night, Nationals Park lapsed into a demented time warp:  Close your eyes, peel away the expectations, and rushing back came 2010 or some other misbegotten season before it. Fans of the visiting team rose and cheered. Home fans skulked out of the stadium. Another game slipped away from the Washington Nationals and the manager’s grip loosened in a season going nowhere.

Also that weekend: Bryce Harper helped kick off a benches-clearing incident, Davey Johnson exchanged words with Harper, and Jordan Zimmermann seemed miffed by one of Johnson’s medical proclamations. Things got better later; I’m not sure they had ever been worse. (And I know that a series in August can’t really compare with a playoff loss in May, but we’re using this moment to stand in for the total Nats letdown, which was far greater than the Caps letdown in this particular year.)

 


(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

1. It would have taken a massive disaster to beat out the sight of Robert Griffin III’s crumbled body on the ragged FedEx Field grass, which happened nearly 50 weeks ago. There were plenty of minor disasters along the way, but I don’t think anything was worse than this moment from the very first week of the year.

There were so many zillions of layers of badness in that playoff game; it was a 12-layer lasagna of awful. Because of that moment, there were weeks of back and forth between Mike Shanahan and James Andrews. There were hurt feelings between various Griffins and Shanahans that continued well into this season. There was a never-ending debate about playcalling, about the read-option, about what constitutes “injured,” and about whether a mature coach should have benched his ailing star. There was the subsequent bought-and-paid for rehab campaign, with the Gatorade documentary and the Adidas slogan. There was the nagging fear that Griffin might never be as fast again, and thus might never recapture his brilliant 2012 form.

Then there was the game itself — a blown lead, a squandered opportunity, a first-round exit in a year when the Wizards and Nats both missed the playoffs and the Caps couldn’t get past the first round. It was a terrible sports year, but there was nothing worse than the moment Griffin went down and stayed down.

Honorable Mentions: Bradley Beal, Nene and Emeka Okafor suffering serious injuries…The Redskins getting routed at home by the 49ers in another Monday Night Meltdown…The Caps trading a prospect for Martin Erat, who later demanded a trade….The Wizards trading Jordan Crawford for a jumbo pack of Skittles, only to watch him shine with Boston….D.C. United starting 1-11-3 en route to the worst season in franchise history….Tyler Clippard saying Drew Storen’s demotion “was handled very poorly by the organization”….Maryland missing the NCAA tournament for a third straight season….The Redskins name debate pitting fan against fan.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg | December 17, 2013