“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed” — Alexander Pope
It’s safe to say Mike Shanahan, Davey Johnson, Robert Griffin III, Bryce Harper, the Georgetown men’s basketball team — really, most local sports fixtures unaffiliated with World Team Tennis — paid no attention to the wisdom of an 18th century English poet.
If they had, they wouldn’t have been making dreamy postseason plans in their heads, getting everyone jacked for that improbable journey no one saw coming — the one in which they careened straight off a cliff, into a ravine of inexplicable losses and monumental letdowns.
2013 — The Year Washington Believed the Hype, the year we all believed we were going to be a big-time sports town. And wound up disenchanted again.
The year Shanny pumped us up with, “They have set the expectations: Anything short of a Super Bowl is a failure.”
The year Davey forecast as “World Series or Bust.”
The Nationals busted, all right, following up their 2012 NL East title by finishing 10 games behind the Braves, whose early August sweep effectively ended a deflating season.
The RGThreesuses saved no one, let alone their 3-11 selves . Robert Griffin III is now a healthy scratch, shut down for the final three games of the season, and Shanahan is hours away from likely coaching his last home game.
Okay, it wasn’t all misery, MRI exams and anonymous sources slamming the offensive coordinator.
And the Wizards are actually bringing legitimate NBA basketball back to Washington; they could make the playoffs for the first time since the Bush administration.
But taken as a whole, this has to go down as one of the most disappointing, crestfallen years in the Washington sports annals.
As usual, it all begins and ends with the success of the pro football team and the immense hope that its best player brought just one year ago.
Think about the end of 2012, before a genuine Dallas Week, what grand possibilities the New Year held:
Griffin was golden, on the precipice of knocking off the Cowboys for the team’s first NFC East title in 13 years. For the first time in forever, Washington had the best player on the field at the most important position. The kid actually consoled Tony Romo after the game, telling the veteran, star-crossed quarterback to keep his chin up.
It wasn’t a stretch to think out loud how many Super Bowls he might appear in and win.
When Harper and Stephen Strasburg were factored into the equation with a still fairly young Ovechkin, suddenly a town that had not held a championship parade for a major-revenue franchise since 1992 reeked with promise in its young, dynamic talent and division-title teams.
“Washington could be the next Boston,” I recall my friend and former radio co-host Chris “Ceej” Johnson saying as 2013 approached. (Ceej is so long suffering he remembers holding on to an oak branch on Constitution Avenue as Mark Rypien, Joe Gibbs and his heroes paraded by nearly 22 years ago.) “We could be the next Titletown, U.S.A.”
Alas, as 2014 dawns, Ceej and the masses are quickly wending their way back to Loserville.
The chances of duplicating the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics, who combined for eight titles in the four major sports leagues the past 12 years (it’s still insane to think how good Bostonians have had it recently) do not look, uh, guaranteed at the moment.
In many ways, this is RGIII in Review. See, the real fear is that Griffin, who was supposed to be our Tom Brady in training, turns into a one-hit wonder.
Has any great, young player in any sport fallen from favor so fast? True story: Just last week a caller on local radio inquired whether 2012’s Messiah in Cleats could fetch a No. 1 draft pick from either Tampa Bay or the Jets.
Overnight Griffin went from equal parts Elvis and Jay-Z to, like, Vanilla Ice and Milli Vanilli.
Bryce was still a bolt of bash and brash, but he also acted his age and didn’t look where he was going before he ran into the outfield wall.
Sport by sport, athlete by athlete, on the misfortune went.
Bottom line, 2013 was the year grand expectations became grander disappointments, the year we bought the hype and paid dearly for it.
We were paper champions, Washington. We talked a good game, but our teams couldn’t back it up with chemistry and heart on the fields of play. We went from pretender to contender and right back to pretender again.
So, of course, the next 12 months have already been predestined:
2014, The Year of the Comeback, the year we actually delivered on the promise of becoming a big-time sports town.
Or else we all move.
For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.