Welcome to Averageville, population: us. Actually, Averageville would be a step up. We’re currently in Losertown (motto: “We’re Averageville-adjacent!”).
The Washington Capitals have the fewest points in the NHL. The Washington Wizards are the second-worst team in the NBA. Now is the winter of our discontent. Even Richard III’s remains would struggle to sit through an entire game at Verizon Center.
Well, that’s not fair. The Wizards are somehow now “hot,” in the vernacular. (I prefer “zazzy.”) They easily win the “Best of Verizon Center?” competition — at least until the circus and the horse show return to town.
The balance of power among Washington sports teams is always shifting. The Redskins are almost always at the top of the list, and the addition of Robert Griffin III pretty much guarantees they’ll stay there. But the Caps had shot up the pecking order in recent years. It wasn’t so long ago that the Caps were the hottest team in the NHL and the hottest ticket in town, Redskins Sundays excepted.
Now, despite the fact that both the Caps and Wizards have climbed no higher than the cellar steps, the Wizards are the team people are talking about. Of course, when the Nationals report to Viera, Fla., the Wizards and Caps will be eclipsed. The Nats, after all, won the National League East last season. The Caps and Wizards — despite their recent surge — likely will be available to attend the Nats’ homestand in late April against the Cardinals and Reds.
It’s a funny old world.
Caps tickets are still a hot item; it’s just that a lot of those tickets seem to be finding their way to StubHub or eBay or wherever their disgruntled owners go to unload them. Verizon Center was packed with Penguins fans for this past Sunday’s matinee. When Pittsburgh scored its first goal, you’d have thought it was a Caps goal, so loud was Verizon Center. Even the NBC announcers noticed, and they are not regulars in the Phone Booth. The booing when the Caps went off the ice after the second period wasn’t as loud, but it definitely came from the Red Shirts. These are not happy times in Caps Land.
On the other hand, the Wizards have managed to become a feel-good story — and win some key games — with the return of John Wall to the lineup. They are 8-7 since Wall came back from his knee injury — not a gaudy mark — but without him they might have been 0-15. The Wizards will take 8-7. That gets them out of the cellar.
Wall’s impact, despite playing for a team that’s not very good, has been tangible and important, because he may be able to raise this season to respectable. One year of college experience, drafted at age 19, debuting at age 20 — 2010 was not the time for the fuss. (And I freely admit I was among the fussers.) It’s not always been smooth, but in his third season, with an injury to give him time to contemplate his game and his role as team leader, he’s maturing nicely and wearing the responsibility well.
Monday, the Wizards beat the Clippers — albeit the Clippers without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, but the Clippers nonetheless. When you’re the Wizards, you hope a flu bug sweeps through the opposing dressing room because you need the “W” and you’re past caring how you get it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. They broke a 10-game losing streak against the Knicks on Wednesday night and Friday they host the Brooklyn Nets and former Wizard Andray Blatche. I can already feel the love.
Some optimists feel the Wizards have a chance to climb into the playoffs. It’s not impossible — the Eastern Conference is not strong this year; all the muscle seems to be out west — but it seems improbable. Some optimists feel the Caps will get it together and make a run, but with five points entering Thursday night’s game, that seems a tall order.
Even if neither team somehow pulls out a storybook postseason appearance, this season will mark a change, when the Wizards were the more exciting and interesting team for the first time in a long time, or since the Gilbert Arenas era, anyway. (They certainly were interesting then.) That, more than anything, should worry Caps ownership — except that Caps ownership is also Wizards ownership. The perfect scenario for Ted Leonsis and Co. would be two strong teams in Verizon Center, but we will have to wait months to see if they can pull that off.
Meantime, Nats pitchers and catchers report Tuesday.
For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.