Courtesy ESPN the Magazine. Illustration by Todd Detwiler. Click to enlarge.

ESPN the Magazine’s D.C. issue is chock-full of great content, but I’m not sure anything made me smile more than this graphic, which leads off the issue’s lengthy section devoted to Washington. The image features 29 D.C. sports greats, crossing an icy Potomac, or possibly an icy Anacostia.

There’s a key, plus a bit of political-themed text accompanying the graphic.

“Fellow Americans, we dare to ask: Is DC now a sports town?” the text concludes. “Well, that depends on what the meaning of is is. But can we say that DC sports matter more now than ever before? Why yes…yes we can.”

Click to enlarge the image. And no, I’m not posting the key. You’ve got to figure it out for yourself. Or ask me questions in the comments below.

Also, here is something I wrote for print about the issue and its genesis:

Many months ago, when RGIII was no more a part of Washington lingo than QE3, a bunch of ESPN editorial heavyweights sat down for their quarterly brainstorming meeting.

The worldwide leader’s bi-weekly magazine has been producing themed issues for several years, and last fall’s Boston Issue was deemed a great success. Editors were tossing around other cities and regions that might be grand enough to support an entire issue, trying to match geography with dates to find a natural match.

At some point, Rob King – the senior vice president of editorial for ESPN digital and print media and a lifelong Washington sports fan – piped up on behalf of his hometown.

“I boldly volunteered, ‘You know, there’s a lot going on the District of Columbia,’ ” he remembered this week. “We sort of laughed. But it did seem like something was going on there. And with the election year, we thought D.C. could potentially be a good idea.”

Many months later, the magazine began rolling out thousands of words of Washington-related content the day after the city’s baseball team won its first championship in 79 years, and two days after the city’s franchise quarterback pulled off the first fourth-quarter comeback of his NFL career. Not horrible timing, as it turned out. Something really was going on.

“Yes, I am absolutely reveling in everything that’s happened over the past few days,” laughed King, the son of longtime Post columnist Colbert I. King. “Just a happy collection of coincidences.”

Rather than focus on a single team or player, the issue’s cover — which hits newsstands later this week — takes a city-wide approach. So, too, does the magazine itself, with an incredible assortment of D.C. content, from John Wall and Alex Ovechkin features to Mike Rizzo and Robert Griffin III profiles to pieces on Barack Obama’s golf game and the Romney Family Olympics. There are also first-person accounts from some of the many D.C. types who work for ESPN, including Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon, Steve Weissman, Lindsay Czarniak, Scott Van Pelt, Bram Weinstein, Jorge Andres and Reese Waters.

Helping to oversee it all was King, who went to high school in Montgomery with Dan Snyder (yes, there’s a Snyder story in the issue), grew up rooting for the Senators, dots his tweets with the word “Natitude” and has a massive image of the Magazine’s RGIII cover hanging in his office.

“As a serious editor of a major publication, that is so fanboy,” King, 50, admitted. “But you know, I can’t help it. The guy is singular. I’m not shy about letting people know that good times have arrived.”

Indeed, during his eight years working for ESPN – a span in which Washington sports teams have mostly been a flaming disappointment – King has never backed down from his D.C. fandom.

“In this hotbed of Boston and New York sports fans, you kind of have to find some sort of space for yourself,” he said. “I had to embrace the losers, but I did; I embraced it wholeheartedly….That was putting money in the bank, because someday it had to turn around. And then people would remember – hey, isn’t he that idiot who was a Nats fan when they first came to D.C.? Yes, I am. I certainly am.”

As for putting out a Washington-themed issue during one of the most encouraging weeks for D.C. sports in recent memory? Well, that’s withdrawing money from the bank, too.

“The people who were in that meeting have the same general excitement and bewilderment,” King told me. “There’s this sort of feeling like, it’s happening. It’s really happening.”


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