Things hit a snag early, though.
My ambitions were thwarted thrice in 15 minutes as Trivia Tuesday was clearly paramount in the Dupont Circle/Golden Triangle area. This got me slightly worried. If three separate places, locations where I’ve watched some great sports moments in my life, didn’t feel the need to even turn up their sound for one of either two playoff games or a baseball game, maybe this plan was fruitless.
The tweeps didn’t exactly help things.
Funny. But then came one with a sentiment that I’ve heard many, many times before and never truly understood.
Dan Snyder’s team aside, just because I couldn’t find a bar within 10 blocks of my office packed with rabid fans does not make D.C. the “worst sports town ever.” Even in the pantheon of hyperbolic Hot Sports Takes, this one has never made sense to me. Undeterred, but bothered, the search continued. I was honestly starting to get nervous. Is my goal too ambitious? Am I asking too much of my city as a sports fan?
I landed at Ventnor Sports Cafe, a bit of a bandwagon bar in Adams Morgan. They had planned for the Capitals on upstairs, with the Wizards on downstairs. As neither had started when I arrived, the Nats were on. I figured I’d do the first period here.
For Stephen Eberhardt, this was an all-Wizards night. He grew up in Silver Spring but now lives in the neighborhood and was dressed in a red Bradley Beal jersey.
“Skins, Wizards, Terps; I’m actually an Orioles fan,” said Eberhardt, 27, listing his alliances. “I didn’t mention the Caps. I’ve never been a huge hockey fan, but I know there’s more people upstairs for the Caps game than there are down here for the Wizards game. … I’ve just always been a basketball guy.”
At 7:53 p.m., Nats starter Gio Gonzalez took a tumble on a play at first and nobody blinked. All eyes were on hockey. By the time the Wizards came on, the baseball was gone from all screens. It was time to go.
At Cleveland Park Bar and Grill, it was all Capitals both downstairs and on the rooftop deck, sound-wise. But there were a large amount of people more interested in the Nationals game. When Gonzalez got out of a jam, there were quite a few cheers. When the Caps cleared the zone on a penalty kill in the second, even more cheers broke out. After Tom Wilson annihilated Lubomir Visnovsky behind the Isles’ net, a huge roar went up. Sure, no one was particularly interested in the Wizards, but we were reaching peak experience, for me. At 8:51, it was the first time I’d noticed all three games were on commercial at once.
Kate Connelly and Jack Anderson, both 25, were there having dinner and watching hockey. Anderson, originally from New Jersey, calls himself a convert. “There’s a little more spirit to [hockey, than other sports], and Kate obviously helped convert me to become more of a Caps fan. In terms of my priorities, Caps are definitely up there just because I follow them more,” he said. “The games are a little more exciting, and I like the Verizon Center.”
Connelly is a McLean native and though she enjoys all the squads, her priority is singular. “I’m a huge Caps fan, so my eyes are only on this screen right now. Eh, Wizards, I like #dcrising, [but] don’t really care. Nats: only fun to go drink beer,” she said. “Capitals is where it’s at.”
A Nene dunk coupled with Bryce Harper going from first to third on a Ryan Zimmerman single was the first “those two things happened at the same exact time” moment of the night, which was noticed by only me and the guy sitting next to me. The Caps’ second-period intermission and Wizards halftime coincided, providing a nice travel break.
At Lou’s City Bar in Columbia Heights, it was all Wizards. One guy was wearing a John Wall jersey with multiple player signatures on it. Everyone was engaged, even though I had to ask that the Nats game be turned on. That was forgivable, as one miserable person was watching the Braves get crushed by the Mets, which secretly made me happy anyway and the place was busy. But by the time it got to the eighth, I’d found peak.
It wasn’t really about the location, specifically, although I was glad to be there. Wizards to my left, Caps straight ahead, Nats to the right. Each had their own little outcrops of viewers, who turned swiftly when any of the other groups piped up. If there was a commercial, they swung around to see the other TVs. At one point, Terrance popped up on MASN, and for whatever reason my mind instantly thought of Ronnie Belliard.
There was a moment when things got a little tense. Overtime had just started for the Capitals, the Raptors were staging a mini-run in the fourth quarter and the Nats game went to extras off a great diving stab from the Cardinals’ Jon Jay. But there were no meltdowns. No long ranting worries from that one fan who was at the worst game ever, or anything like that. When the Caps won, that group cheered. When the Wizards finally closed out, that crew high-fived. And as everyone had just finished the celebratory red shots passed out by the bartender, Yunel Escobar hit a no-doubter, ending that game to everyone’s delight.
Just like that, it was all over. Everyone kind of looked around, not sure what to do. No one wanted to steal anyone else’s thunder, and most people understood that it wasn’t like they were walking out a champion, but it was still pretty amazing what had happened. For the people still there in their work clothes, it was an extended happy hour that was well worth it. In a total and complete way, folks went home happy.
That’s when I realized why I love this sports town. If you want it, you can have it. Sure, there will be ups and downs, and maybe not everyone is into every thing, but that’s fine. At this point in the city’s history, whatever your fancy, wherever you’re from, there’s an experience, singular or shared, to be a part of. There will be those who lament bandwagoners, fair-weather fans and transplants, but it won’t stop them from supporting. Only the teams can do that. Last night, we got a fantastic trifecta.
The best part was: I didn’t hear a word about the NFL schedule all night.