There has been no shortage of local columns this month exploring the odd dynamic of Caps fans rooting against their favorite player in one of the most important athletics competitions of his life. Alex Ovechkin wants dearly to win gold in Sochi; many Caps fans are rooting for the Americans to stop him. Others are willing to go against their country to support their favorite player.
“I’m rooting for Ovechkin not because I peripherally know him as a Washington Capital and generally like him and I don’t really know most other nations’ national team players,” Mike Wise wrote last week. “… I’m rooting for Ovechkin because of the perception he has to win. For my money, any elite athlete that overcomes that kind of pressure and expectation to succeed deserves more support than scrutiny.
“For Capitals fans, the issue is this – if a happy, motivated Ovechkin means winning the gold medal and having your American team lose in the process, who will you be rooting for?” Thom Loverro asked in the Washington Times.
“Putting aside everything else, it’s Ovechkin,” wrote Becca of Japers Rink, in the most thorough and impassioned exploration of this conflict. “And while the idea of rooting against Team USA is a tough one to swallow, so too is the idea of ever rooting against Ovechkin. This is the guy we cheer on for nine months out of the year, the captain of our favorite team, a guy who has mesmerized us on an almost nightly basis and embraced the area and been embraced right back. No disrespect to Carlson, but there’s Ovechkin and then there’s everyone else. He is DC hockey personified, and has been since being drafted almost a decade ago.”
That debate got its widest airing yet Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when David Gregory brought up the U.S.’s thrilling shootout win over Russia from the day before. Gregory — a very public and ardent Caps fan — framed the game in the context of U.S.-Russia international tensions.
“That’s what struck me about it, this suddenly collective almost Cold War-esque-rallying,” chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd chimed in. “And that’s why there was such relief, you know, to beat Putin — and Putin was in the audience. And my God, it was like ‘Rocky IV’ met the Miracle On Ice, right?”
“Right,” Gregory agreed.
“You almost waited, like where was Drago? “Todd went on. “And I guess that the only thing– and I’m sure you must have felt a little bit of this — the only weird thing about that entire match is, as a Washington Capitals fan you see once again Ovechkin on the losing side of the game.”
“Yeah. Right,” Gregory agreed.
“I’m just saying, that’s a tough thing,” Todd concluded.
“It’s hard,” Gregory agreed.
Well, not for everyone. It wasn’t hard for NBC political analyst and longtime Obama advisor David Axelrod, for example.
“A shout-out to Patrick Kane from the Blackhawks who was very instrumental in the victory as well,” Axelrod said. “I don’t care about the Capitals.”