Washington, D.C. is an amazing place to grow up. The Northern Virginia area is thriving and the city is beautiful, and the feeling of community is unrivaled.
Being a sports fan in Washington, D.C. is something entirely different. Nothing is thriving, nothing is beautiful and hearts are broken in new and unique ways season after season.
But things are changing, and they are changing in big and exciting ways.
It was one year ago that I stepped into a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Lincoln Park to watch the Washington Redskins take on the Philadelphia Eagles in a mid-season matchup. The game’s proceedings were a microcosm of what it means to be a D.C. sports fan: the Redskins lost 20-13, a game they should have won handily. They lost because a certain Rex Grossman tossed four egregious interceptions and handed the game to Philadelphia.
That was not a fun day for me because the Bears fans in the restaurant were completely aware of what was going on and mocked me for being from D.C. It was only made worse by the fact that Grossman played for the Chicago Bears and is generally thought to be the reason the team failed to win the Super Bowl in the 2006 season.
My, how things have changed.
D.C. sports are making a comeback, and it would behoove sports fans across the country to pay attention. The quartet of the Redskins, Capitals, Wizards and Nationals has been one of the least productive groups of teams in North American sports for over two decades, but that perception is rapidly shifting.
The Redskins are rising again. The Capitals are perennial playoff contenders in the NHL. The Wizards, while struggling, have the pieces in place to make a run at the NBA playoffs. And the Nationals just came off of the best regular season in team history, posting the best record in major league baseball.
The impetus behind this sudden change in fortune is the star power across the board. This starts, of course, with the arrival of Robert Griffin III, the multitalented quarterback from Baylor University who has set the NFL ablaze and has already led the Redskins to three wins in 2012.
But the stars don’t end with “RG3.” Alex Ovechkin has held D.C. in the palm of his hands for the last six years, turning the Capitals into one of the most formidable and consistent franchises in all of hockey. The Wizards are chock full of young talent, starting with third-year point guard John Wall, who is maturing into a bona-fide NBA superstar. And the Nationals, despite their agonizing five-game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series this year, have as much star power as any team in any sport, period. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg head the list of young talent that has transformed D.C. into a baseball town.
It’s an exciting time to be a D.C. sports fan. Misery has followed sports in our nation’s capital for decades, and the clouds appear to be clearing. Exciting young players are making an impact and the fans are coming out in full support of their teams.
As someone who now lives in Chicago, I can honestly say that I’m jealous of the recent success of teams like the Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears (sorry, Cubs fans). Now that D.C. is on the rise, I can wear my gear with pride and parade around the streets of Chicago flaunting the best colors in sports.