What happens in the regular season, stays in the regular season…literally.
The Wizards. The Redskins. The Capitals. The Nationals. It seems to be a sad, yearly saga that I will never quite understand.
In 2012, the Redskins drafted 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. With a “Rookie of the Year” rookie season, Redskins fans such as myself couldn’t finally look forward to the team’s future. We hoped it would be more than a one and done season. We thought that RGIII was the best thing to happen to the Redskins in a very long time. Little did we know that one injury would be the end of the RGIII we had all grown to know and love.
The 2012 Redskins ended the regular season with a 10–6–0 record, first in the NFC East, only to go on to lose against the Seahawks in the Wild Card game. Since, the Redskins have continued to have their usual mediocre seasons, only winning the NFC East Division once since.
Then, we have the Wizards. The curse o’ les Boulez. It’s been a rough decade since I have begun following this particular D.C. team. In both the 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 seasons, the Wizards finished second in the Southeast Division, only to go on to lose in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. But alas, that light quickly diminished and since the Wizards have gone back to the theme of false hope and their inability to close games in crunch time.
When I think of the most dominant team in D.C., I think of the Capitals. Having the leadership of Alex Ovechkin, the beastliness of Braden Holtby; and the talent of guys like T.J. Oshie, Adre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson, any sports fan can easily see this team dominating the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup. The 2015–2016 season seemed to be “it” for the Caps. They held the best record in the NHL going into the playoffs (56–18), and they had beaten their rivals and biggest competitors — the Rangers and the Penguins — multiple times during the season. Their defensive depth was just as strong as the 2014–2015 team. On paper, this was the best Washington Capitals team ever assembled. So naturally, the playoffs looked bright.
After taking the first series against the Flyers, the Capitals met their long-time rivals: the Pittsburg Penguins. The Caps won game 1, but went on to lose the series 4–2. Fans like me were confused, angered and frustrated by this reality. It was difficult to understand how a team could be so incredibly dominating during the regular season and go on to only be defeated, once again, in the second round of the playoffs.
And so we move on to my truest love, the Nationals. I grew up playing softball and went on to have a pretty successful career in the sport. So as a young girl I was immediately drawn to baseball. When the Nationals came to D.C. in 2005, I remember going to RFK and experiencing the phenomena that was the .500 Nationals. I mean, I was only 9. I wouldn’t be able to rattle off exactly the things that happened that season. My dad likes to remind me of that season — the season when baseball returned to Washington, D.C.
Since 2005 the Nats have experienced a number of lows. The few years following their arrival to D.C. were rough, to say the least. The turning point came when Nationals Park was created in 2008. It gave them the opportunity to re-start over. In 2009 the Nats drafted ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg. They began to slowly climb the NL East standings, finishing third in the division in 2011. The Nats then made a miraculous jump in 2012 to not only first place in the NL East, but also first in the MLB with a record of 98–64.
“I just wonder when I, and the rest of this incredible city, will get to experience the excitement of watching a championship-level team actually win a championship.”
There was a new atmosphere that surrounded Nationals baseball. It was the first time since 1981 that a Washington baseball team had made it to the postseason. Not only that but the Nats were the best team in baseball. Well, on paper at least.
The 2012 Nationals lost the NLDS to the Cardinals 3–2. It was a damper on the mood in the D.C. Maryland Virginia (DMV) area, but it definitely gave an overall new life to the sport and the city. There was a new expectation that was set, and the Nationals continued to meet that expectation during the regular season. Though they went playoff-less during in 2013 and 2015, they played in the NLDS in 2014 and 2016. Again, failing to make it to the NLCS.
The 2016 NLDS was not as disappointing as I expected it to be, though. After being struck by the injury bug (with both ace Stephen Strasburg and top catcher Wilson Ramos out for the remainder of the season), I would not have thought that the series could go in the favor of the Nats. Although they lost series, they hung in there until game 5. This is where I have a problem:
Starters like Danny Espinosa who played a vital role in the regular season were absent during this series. The Nationals were also up 2–1 in the series, and went on to lose 2 in a row. I mean, this happens in the regular season. But when you have a former Cy Young Award winner on the mound for game 5, losing the series is not something you would expect.
That statement goes for the Capitals as well. They have gone up 3–1 in multiple playoff scenarios and end up losing them 4–3. Losing like this seems to be a major theme of D.C. sports.
So what is it that makes Washington sports so — how should I put this — CURSED? Is it the ownership? Is it the coaching and/or management? Is it the players? Is it the city? Some of these questions could be easily answered, but I still continue to ask them year after year after year after year.
Disclaimer: I love Washington sports more than anything in the world. More specifically, the Nationals hold a very special place in my heart. I just wonder when I, and the rest of this incredible city, will get to experience the excitement of watching a championship-level team actually win a championship.