In sports, Washington's become Loserville
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
There's no longer any way to finesse this, so let's just put it right out there: As sports towns go, Washington has become Loserville, U.S.A.
Fans in New York have playoff-contending teams to cheer, championships to relish. So do people in Boston and Los Angeles. Even in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit -- Detroit! -- they have winners to get behind.
None of Washington's franchises in the three most popular team sports -- football, baseball and basketball -- leads in anything except futility. These days, we have no hope of becoming Title Town; the mere absence of humiliation will suffice. Among the 15 American cities that field teams in all three sports, Washington's franchises had the worst combined record, based on the most recently completed seasons.
Updated slogan: Washington -- first in war, first in peace, and last in all of the American leagues.
The Redskins -- pride of ol' D.C., winners of three Super Bowls -- can't beat the most loser-ific teams in the NFL. On Monday night, they lost again, this time to a division rival, Philadelphia. Bad enough. But this time they lost at home, in prime time, on national TV. Which means the entire sports world bore witness to our shame and pain.
This past season, the Washington Nationals achieved near-record hopelessness. They lost 103 games, the most in the major leagues. As the old "Saturday Night Live" character and Bad Theater critic Leonard Pinth-Garnell might have said, "There. That wasn't so good, now was it?"
The Wizards? True, they do seem improved (or did until star forward Antawn Jamison went out with a shoulder injury). But how could they not be improved, when they lost 63 of 82 games last season?
Yes, there's hockey, and the Capitals are a promising bunch, led by an exciting young superstar. But the Capitals only prove the general trend. The team hasn't advanced beyond the conference semifinals in its two playoff runs. The last time they contended for the Stanley Cup was a decade ago; the last time they won the Stanley Cup was . . . never.
That's Washington sports in a nutshell. No trophies, no rings, no bragging rights -- for years and years. The last championship won by one of our marquee teams was 1992 (the Redskins), which means that an entire generation of children in the Washington area has grown up cruelly denied the opportunity to wave around a big We're Number One foam finger.
It's only a matter of time, says radio host Eric Bickel, of WJFK-FM's "Sports Junkies" program, before late-night TV comedians "start connecting the dots" and use "Washington" as a punch line for sports futility. "We're making it easy for them to goof on us," he says.
There's not much else around to cheer, either. The D.C. United soccer team was barely over .500 this season and missed the playoffs. The Maryland Terps football team is 2-6. The sort-of local Virginia Cavaliers are 3-4. The football teams at Howard and Georgetown have losing records, too. At least there's Navy, which is currently 6-2. But we're reaching, aren't we?