Washington sports: Out of luck or locked out
By Tracee Hamilton,
It’s not often that a nation — well, a nation’s capital — turns its lonely, tear-stained eyes to the Wizards in November, but perhaps that’s a measure of how far the less-than-mighty have fallen.
Washington has never been a top sports town, but good grief, Charlie Brown. This fall has been nigh-on unbearable. The Redskins lose games they should lose, and now they’re losing games they should win.
The Terps — indoor and outdoor editions — are not helping. The football team is wretched, and the basketball team has already angered its new coach, in beautiful Puerto Rico, no less. And Maryland cut eight programs from its athletic department Monday. All were certainly cheaper than football, and I’m betting all had better graduation rates than both football and basketball, but they don’t provide a revenue stream. So the football team had better start winning.
It’s too early to know what to expect from the Hoyas’ basketball team — or rather, too late. They play so late Monday night in Maui, I’ll be getting up around the time that game is ending. (And yes, I’m aware they are playing the Jayhawks. Both teams lost some significant firepower from last season.)
Only Virginia and Virginia Tech football have provided any solace, and although the metro area is brimming with alums of those schools, the schools themselves, one must admit, are not located anywhere within the Metrorail system. (Still, can Mike London not be ACC coach of the year?)
And then we come to the Capitals. It’s November, and normally a four-game skid at this time of year wouldn’t raise eyebrows. But there’s clearly a power struggle going on between Coach Bruce Boudreau and star player Alex Ovechkin. That can’t end well.
The Caps have a core group of fans who are agonizing over them right now — getting a jump start on April — and they have a group of peripheral fans who glom on to the team when it’s doing well and then detach themselves when it’s not. Needless to say, that bunch is in turmoil.
But the real turmoil is what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s been clear since training camp that Boudreau hoped to put an end to the star treatment some of his players — especially Alexander Semin and Ovechkin — have received. He compared coaching to parenting, saying: “You want to get your child to do something right. You scold ’em; you cajole ’em; you take things away; you give things.”
That may well be true of parenting children, but these are grown men now, even by hockey standards. The effects of scolding and cajoling them would be the same as they would for any parent who had indulged a child until he was well into his twenties. It’s too late.
Benchings seem to get Ovechkin’s attention, but make him sulky. (You begin to see why Boudreau uses parenting metaphors. There are few things more annoying than a pouty adult making millions.) So now Boudreau has to work on the sulky part. It’s a good thing he’s had practice on kids of his own.
Meantime, if only the NBA lockout weren’t in full swing, the Wizards would be entertaining us, with John Wall working his magic as a packed Verizon Center looks on, watching Jan Vesely develop and JaVale McGee dunk and Nick Young hit some threes. Then we’d have a real winner in Washington.
(Hey, you have your fantasy leagues; I have mine.)