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It's time to address our concerns: The state of our sports in Washington is not strong

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2011; 12:13 AM

Speaker of the House Portis, Vice President Ovechkin, members of the billionaire boys club, indistinguishable players, and fellow beaten-down District of Columbians and fans of Greater Washington:

Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the president shall give to the people information about the state of D.C. sports.

Seven years ago, I took office amid the hope of not only Joe Gibbs's return to Washington but also baseball's. So much hope was on the horizon. A young star from California was making the Wizards forget about the messy departure of Michael Jordan. Experts from across the nation said that we had made real progress, that we were on the verge of no longer being a lousy sports town full of front-runners who go to games only when their team is winning.

So we went to those games - immediately and aggressively.

And seven years later, again with a few exceptions, we are still losers.

We have lost nearly 300 baseball games in three years, hosted one measly NFL playoff game in 11 years, been to the second round of the NBA playoffs once in three decades and generally stunk up the joint in most of our stick-and-ball pursuits.

While Congressman Leonsis has tried to cleanse us of this stench by what he's done in his own district, our NHL team - its early playoff exits notwithstanding - is an aberration. By and large, we are losers.

Gibbs left. Gilbert Arenas, the goofy gunner, broke hearts not by errant shots but by bringing real guns to his workplace. And save for a couple of Field of Dreams moments in five years, baseball has yet to return.

Seven years later, the devastation remains. Nine in 10 Washingtonians still cannot brag about their team. Many fans have become disenchanted, failing to renew their season-ticket packages. Players' skills and values have declined, so much that a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback in 2010 just hopes to find room on a practice squad in 2011.

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for president. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places such as Ashburn, Va.; College Park, Md.; the bowels of an arena on F Street.

I hear about them in the tweets that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by actual athletes in Washington - asking why they might have to move from their home, why they have to go to work at all if the team is that bad, why, if they are 6 feet 11 inches tall, everyone wants them to play inside when they want to just shoot jumpers like Jack Sikma.

But despite our differences, we know who we are.

We do give up. We quit.

We allow fear and division to break our spirit.

These are trying times, Washingtonians, times that challenge us to surrender our losing spirit. It's tempting to think we deserve better than a $100 million defensive lineman who naps on the field on national TV. We might think we ought to have more than two months to enjoy our golden-boy pitching phenom. We can be fooled into thinking our basketball team should care more about winning than about Ritz-Carlton room service. We can think a 3-1 series lead over an eighth seed ought to be enough for our hockey team.

In other words, we can lose touch with who we are. We are losers, Washington. So just accept it. In fact, hail it.

That's right. Embrace the fact that, really, the Redskins are the Lions with better uniforms, the Wizards are the Clippers with worse uniforms, and the Nationals are the Pirates now with a payroll.

Own it, Washington. Own the capitulating human inside yourself.

Hold your head high when someone mentions you have had seven NFL coaches in 11 years. Realize there is no vision and there may never be.

Understand that many roads lead to the Super Bowl; we're just not on any of them. Ours lead, instead, to the Springfield Mixing Bowl. Yes, we are forever under construction.

What keeps me going - what keeps me apathetic - is that despite all the progress the Capitals have made, that spirit of quitting and pessimism, that fundamental indecency that has always been at the core of the Washington sports fan, that lives on.

It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of 6-10, "We are programmed to accept defeat and talk of change. We are Redskins fans. We will keep paying."

It lives on in the 8-year-old boy in Laurel, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to Albert Haynesworth.

We have had almost a decade of losing. A new decade stretches before us. I quit. You quit. We all quit. Now let's seize this moment - to start anew, to deny the dream another 10 years, to strengthen our union once more.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the Washington sports fans. Losers.

wisem@washpost.com

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