Washington sports in winter needs a spring thaw

We’re 10 days into the New Year in the nation’s capital, and already it’s out with the old, in with the old. I don’t normally quote characters from the comics, but I think Cathy expressed it best when she said, “Aack!”

The Capitals showed faint signs of recovery; now they’re lining up outside Georgetown Hospital. The Wizards . . . what is there to say about the Wizards? Winless until finally breaking through Tuesday night against the Raptors.

The Redskins are no longer even providing bizarre offseason entertainment. I never thought I’d look back with nostalgia on the free agent spending sprees of old, but at least it was something to break up the winter blahs. When London Fletcher backing into a Pro Bowl berth — richly deserved, mind you — is your best news, well, it’s going to be a long couple of months.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect good news all the time. Just something interesting, something worth talking about, writing about, arguing about. Something local, I mean. To say Washington is not part of the national conversation right now is a gross understatement.

Except for the Nationals’ pursuit of Prince Fielder. In fact, the Nats may be Washington’s best shot at garnering both local and national attention this year. Imagine that. That’s why, despite the arguments for and against signing Fielder, I come down on the side of signing him. The town could use the shot in the arm, and it’s not my money. (Thanks in advance, Mr. Lerner!)

A city doesn’t have to win in sports to be great. Washington is Washington, and it will continue to be a great place to live most of the time, despite the traffic and the Metro fare hikes and the humidity. This is the Nation’s Capital, and (sadly) tourists will continue to flock here even if all of the local teams combined can’t win a game of Bingo.

But championships — even the pursuit of championships — have both tangible and intangible effects. They can help a city’s image, they can heal wounds, they can boost an economy — and they are fun. Many of you will remember that from the Redskins’ glory days. Some of you will remember the Bullets’ lone title. Heck, even the Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals was fun — until the sweep by the Red Wings.

The Wizards are a long way from repeating their success of 1978. The Capitals — it’s hard to know what to make of the Capitals right now. Although the Redskins had two decisive victories over the eventual NFC East champion Giants, no one in his right mind will argue that they have all the pieces to make a run at the division title next year.

That takes us back, again, to the Nats. Stephen Strasburg and the rest of the young pitching staff are healthy. It seems impossible that Jayson Werth will approach the numbers he posted in Philly — but it also seems impossible he’ll approach the numbers he posted in Washington last year. Add Fielder to the mix and see what happens. Pitchers and catchers report in about six weeks. Maybe that will prove to be Washington’s real New Year.

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