For his opening clip, he chose a 13-second snippet of two women jumping around a living room and hugging almost frantically, the Capitals massed in mirth on the TV screen above them. It certainly seemed these two could have weathered volumes of Washingtonian glumness as backdrop to their joy. After following the game online until 4-plus a.m. in Amsterdam, I saw the clip Tuesday while still jet-lagged. It did not show the women’s faces.
They’re sisters, three years apart, born in Kansas City. They arrived in Rockville from Illinois in 1970 as elementary-school children. Their parents had grown up in Nanking, China, then studied in Taiwan. Their late father, a man so memorably wonderful, got them initiated with sports, and their dear mother has studied Washington teams intently for decades even if she has trouble following the puck. (Who doesn’t?) The sisters attended Brown and Virginia, and their four children, two each, have attended Harvard, Michigan, Brown and Virginia. (What deadbeats.) The two families live a mile apart in Bethesda. The living room in the video belongs to the younger sister.
I know all this because of something I figured out some hours after seeing the video: I know them.
One of the two, Olivia, was one of my dearest friends during college.
Did Mr. Steinberg succeed with this choice? Let’s examine these two fans’ commitment and suffering.
On April 18-19, 1987, the two sat together in the Capital Centre through all 6 hours 18 minutes, three periods and four overtime periods of that famed Capitals-Islanders Game 7, all the way to 1:58 a.m. and Pat LaFontaine’s winning, closing, excruciating goal.
Belinda, the first-born: “The players [started] getting slower and slower with each passing period, no more food or drink, very few people left.”
Olivia, the second-born: “We were just as exhausted as the players.”
Belinda: “The players would have one or two bursts of speed and then that would be it for the period.”
Olivia: “I remember feeling a bit numb. All of the players were skating around the ice giving their best but moving slowly, and I started feeling that way myself.”
Belinda: “We had a perfect view of that terrible goal. It was so deflating, but we were proud of the team.”
Nine months later, during the Redskins’ 35-point second quarter of Super Bowl XXII, they rolled around on the floor of their mother’s house, hugging and kicking their legs up in the air.
Both went to the airport to greet the NBA champion Bullets in 1978. Both have roamed some for the Capitals, including to Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic. When Belinda’s two sons were in elementary school, she would take one or the other to 35 of the Capitals’ 41 home games per year. Those sons recently flew home from Atlanta and Providence because … because it was Game 5 of Capitals vs. Penguins.
During “Snowmageddon” on Feb. 7, 2010, Olivia walked to Belinda’s house, whereupon they walked to the Metro, made it to see Capitals-Penguins and, here’s Olivia: “Ovi scored a hat trick and the Caps won, 5-4!” One weekend another year, they got a hotel near the Capital Centre, because it made it easier to see a Georgetown basketball game, a Capitals game and a Bullets game without driving home each time.
Belinda’s house includes some Jeff Halpern skates, some Adam Oates gloves and a Nicklas Backstrom stick. Olivia and her family named the dog Griffin, and later people joked they should change it to Cousins. They’ve attended many Wizards games. They love John Wall. Both waited an epoch for season tickets to the Redskins, whom they’ve seen a bushel of times while wearing Darrell Green jerseys.
Belinda: “People would comment and be taken aback seeing two women with no guys around, going to the games by themselves!”
And Olivia: “And of course we would be the only two Asian women together seemingly in the entire stadium!”
Yet all of that bows to this, which really needs to be in italics: In August 2008, they dragged their husbands and offspring, the eight of them, to Canton, Ohio, to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of Art Monk and Darrell Green.
They’ve been forgiven, haltingly.
In Nationals Park on the night of Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, during Game 5 with the Cardinals one strike from exit five times, Olivia held up her camera at least three times to record the moment that never came. In Nationals Park on the night of Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, both sat through all 18 innings. As the Capitals lost their three-games-to-one lead on the Rangers in 2015, Belinda had stomach aches. When that series ended, Olivia had to leave the room for some time alone. Belinda “still can see the open net” from Game 2 of the 1998 Stanley Cup finals and screamed “at the top of my lungs for a long time” over the high-sticking penalty of a treasured player, Joel Ward, in the 2012 Capitals-Rangers Game 5.
Olivia often needs days to get over playoff endings. She tells herself she won’t watch postgame shows or read about bygone defeats, yet can’t stop, reading even the newspapers from the cities of opposing teams.
Belinda: “Yes, we still wallow in the pain of the losses by reading and listening to everything.”
After some years, Belinda began cringing in preseasons whenever people picked the Capitals or Nationals to win. Olivia can’t bear to watch the remainder of the playoffs once the Capitals are ousted, but Belinda has watched the Penguins win the Stanley Cup and reports having thrown things.
“Oh, just pillows and clothes.”
For further haunts, Olivia has Virginia. The school’s unthinkable loss to Maryland Baltimore County in the NCAA tournament sent her spiraling onto Skype for a long commiseration with her daughter, then into sleeplessness: “I was absolutely crushed. Felt sick, so sad, in disbelief. It’s hard to describe.”
“It’s funny,” she wrote, “but after U-Va. lost to UMBC, [husband] Walter got me flowers, offered to do the laundry, take me out to dinner, movie, etc. It’s like it was our anniversary.”
Then: “I told my mom they should lose more often.”
“After some of the playoff series losses,” Belinda wrote, “my family would take me to the beach to help me feel better.”
In that odd way about human beings, then, both sisters believed the elation of Monday gained meaning from the heartbreak of all the yore. That seemed clear in the video.
Now we’re all clamoring to reassemble after some years, further proof of the enduring power of Mr. Steinberg. He clearly knows authenticity when he sees it.