Saturday, July 21, 2018

For 26 years, the city of DC has starved for a championship. Far removed from the glory days of the Redskins’ Hogs, fans in the DMV area have suffered through a number of disappointments from their Washington teams. Promising regular seasons and player acquisitions from the Capitals, Nationals, Redskins, and Wizards have mostly resulted in woeful playoff exits and unfortunate circumstances. Fans have seen many seasons go from “this is our year” to “I can’t wait ‘till next year.” So much so, the melting pot of fans in the nation’s capital has had reason to believe that the city was cursed.

Image result for washington capitals paradeThen came the 2018 Washington Capitals. Led by 3-time MVP Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps defeated the Las Vegas Golden Knights to win the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup, ending a 44-year drought. This team encompassed what it really means to struggle as a DC Sports team. Year after year, the Caps had successful regular seasons only to consistently come up short in the playoffs, often times losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It took 28 playoff appearances for them to win their first championship, the most by any sports team. The elation of fans in the streets of DC last Thursday night truly showed what a championship means to this city. The success of the Capitals now gives the DMV hope that their teams have turned the corner.

The Nationals are a perennial playoff team that has faced similar struggles as the Caps. Led by their all-star Bryce Harper, the Nats have had incredible regular seasons in the past few seasons, but fall short in the postseason. Since 2012, they have reached the playoffs 4 times, only to lose in the first round each of those years. These playoff woes have intensified the narrative that the city is indeed cursed.

After a slow start this season, the team has hit their stride and are now 1st in the NL East division. Along with Harper, the prolific pitching of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg gives fans reason to believe that the Nationals can finally make a run deep into October.

The Wizards are another Washington team that is starving for a championship. Many fans weren’t even thought of when they won their last NBA title in 1978 as the Washington Bullets. The days of Gilbert Arenas leading the team in the early 2000’s seem like decades ago.

Currently led by the dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wiz are also consistent playoff contenders. They are a solid team during the regular season, only to be outplayed in the playoffs versus the more talented teams in the Eastern Conference like the Celtics and Raptors. The only recent glory days as a Wizards fan are when Paul Pierce “called game” in 2015 or when John Wall hit the buzzer beater 3 pointers to force a game 7 vs the Celtics in 2017. Either way, the fans deserve more.

It is quite clear that this team needs another superstar to contend for a title. As the team’s championship window closes, it is likely that the Wizards will need to look to trading or free agency to help out Wall and Beal. We have seen teams in the past need 3 true superstars to win the NBA Finals (Wade, Bosh, James with the Heat and Pierce, Allen, Garnett with the Celtics). Adding a dynamic player like Demarcus Cousins or Kawhi Leonard can truly get this team into Finals contention.

The Redskins brought DC its last championship in 1992. Since then, fans have seen a number of disappointments by the franchise. Many have referenced the Redskins’ struggles as “Curse of the Navajo”. Time after time, Skins fans are left with a sour taste in their mouths after the game that lasts the entire week, only to support the following Sunday as if they’re undefeated. Women often times relate loving the Redskins to loving a bad man because, “They don’t do you right, but you keep coming back.”

The most notable setback for the team was the untimely death of Sean Taylor. Before being killed in his Miami home in 2007, Taylor was regarded as one of the top safeties in the NFL, possibly ever. The entire DMV area was devastated. The team has since been in search of a player to fill his shoes and bring the defense back to what it once was.

In 2012, the Redskins traded 3 future first round picks to draft Robert Griffin III. DC sports fans thought that they had finally found the quarterback they needed to take them to the Super Bowl. RG3 took the league by storm, leading the Skins to a division title and playoff berth. Then the world watched as he tore his ACL in the team’s first-round playoff game. Griffin is now a backup for the Ravens and the Redskins have only won 1 division title since.

Despite past hardships of the Redskins, this year’s team gives fans a reason to believe. The Skins’ defense now has two talented safeties in DJ Swearinger and Montae Nicholson playing behind a stout defensive front. The team addressed the QB position by signing Pro Bowler Alex Smith to a multi-year contract to play behind an imposing offensive line. This team is finally built to not only compete for a division title but finally for a Super Bowl.

Hope Still Remains

Regardless of past struggles, the Capitals have given the entire city of DC hope. The fanbase has finally gotten the championship that has eluded them for more than a quarter-century. With this win, it feels as though a weight and a curse has been lifted off of the shoulders of DMV residents. One can only hope that the other sports teams in the nation’s capital follow suit.

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