Washington needs a winner, in sports and in politics

Courtland Milloy
Columnist December 17, 2013

Wanted: a national champion.

A town weary of losers in dire need of a winner. Pro football victory preferred, but a championship ring in any sport will do (and any kind of bipartisan political win wouldn’t be half bad, either).

In a recent interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Pro Football Hall of Famer and former home team cornerback Darrell Green expressed the frustration and yearning that all of us have been feeling.

“There’s some young people out here — even some of our ex-players that are coaching — that can come in here . . . who will have the heartbeat of the team and of the city and have the passion and the leadership and the experience,” Green said. “And I’d like to be part of that. That would be fun, and then win a championship. That would be awesome.”

Instead of championships, however, all we get these days are games like the one played Sunday between Washington and Atlanta — a dismal matchup to determine which team is the worst in the league.

The mayor of Atlanta should have made a wager with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray: a bag of Georgia peanuts vs. an ounce of D.C.’s medical marijuana. It has the ring of a bet in a sandlot game, appropriate enough for the contest we watched.

As if our spirits aren’t sagging enough, we get to see the same kind of dismal play each day between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill — lawmakers fumbling and bumbling, to the disgust of even their most loyal supporters.

Little wonder that many Americans see Congress as one big, terrible team. Politics is played like a blood sport here. Republicans, especially, must think the seat of the federal government is an unlevel playing field with no end zones and no scoring, only delay-of-game penalties and personal fouls. With their crude and mean-spirited ways — like cutting food stamps and unemployment benefits — their constituents back home end up 0-16, too.

The White House is not held in much higher regard.

One need only consult the latest NFL rankings to know why many of us have given up on the hometown football team.

“I know we played very poorly against Kansas City,” Mike Shanahan, head coach of the Washington football team, said at a Dec. 9 news conference. “I did a poor job of getting them ready.”

President Obama must have taken a page out of the Shanahan playbook during a recent media briefing.

“I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health-care law,” President Obama said. “And we should have done a better job getting that right on day one, not on day 28 or on day 40.”

You’d think the Obamacare rollout had been designed by Shanahan: Obama tries to run the public option, zig-zags towards the goal line for three years, then breaks his promise and fumbles short of scoring.

Enough already.

We deserve better.

“We’ve been losing 20 years here, and we were a team used to winning,” Green said during the radio interview. “It’s very frustrating. And I put the onus right where it belongs. [Shanahan] said last week, I take the blame, I didn’t have them ready to play. Well, you know what, you’re supposed to have them ready to play, and that goes for anybody.”

Back in 1978, the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) won a thrilling, seven-game NBA championship series against the Seattle SuperSonics. The way the team is playing these days, you’d probably have to go on eBay to get a trophy.

The football team was simply phenomenal: four conference championships and three Super Bowl wins between 1982 and 1991.

Said Green: “I’d like to see them start over.”

Agreed. Change everything, as far as I’m concerned, including mascot and name.

“Shoot, I wouldn’t even mind being a part of it myself, and I guess it’s because of the last three games I’ve gone to,” Green said. “I hadn’t gone to three games since I retired, but I’ve gone to about three or four games this year, and it’s kind of gotten back in my blood, made me more disappointed but more excited about what could potentially be.”

His were sweet memories from the 20th century.

ISO: new champions for the 21st — in sports and politics.

To read previous columns by Courtland Milloy, go to washingtonpost.com/milloy.

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