The DC Sports Renaissance is for Real This Time

I wrote several years ago about the DC Sports Renaissance. It was about hope and optimism with RG3 and the Skins, the Caps, the rise of the Nats, and the rise of the Wizards with John Wall and Bradley Beal. While those teams were great regular season teams, neither has reliever to go to the Conference Title.

Skip ahead six years, the DC Sports Renaissance was back but out comes hope and optimism, in comes a never say die attitude. That is what the Caps did when they won the Stanley Cup in 2018. That has been the mantra with this year’s Washington Nationals, who are going to their first World Series in franchise history. Let us not forget the Washington Mystics who went to the WNBA Finals in back-to-back years culminating with their first WNBA championship this year and Elena Della Donne, arguably the best women’s basketball player in the world, had 3 broken vertebrae on her back.

How did we get from hope and suffering to “Stay In The Fight” overnight? When the Caps won the Stanley Cup, they head back to DC and celebrated with the whole city and it was a party unlike any other. The Nats wanted that, but they were losing Bryce Harper to free agency and you would think that will be a big blow to the Nats. In the first two months when the Nats went 19–31, the critics would be right, but with players getting healthy and a weaker June schedule, it setup perfectly for the Nats to go on a big run and they did with the best record in baseball after May 23. In addition, the Juan Soto hit that made the lucky bounce that force Trent Grisham to overrun and the Howie grand slam in the top of the tenth in Game 5 of the NLDS propel the Nats to finally go to the NLCS, where they sweep the Cardinals, in unusually quick fashion, to go to the World Series.

You could say the same thing about the Mystics. Last year in the semifinals, Delle Donne injured her knee and while they won the semifinal against the Atlanta Dream, they were swept by the Seattle Storm. It was likely the Storm were the better team with Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, but what if Delle Donne was not injured? Would it make a difference? Fast forward to this year in which the Mystics were heavy favorites before the season begin and cruise through the regular season and their semifinal against the Las Vegas Aces, the Mystics won Game 1, then early minutes into Game 2, Delle Donne hurt her back and everyone, including coach/GM Mike Thibault, was worried she’s damaged her back and they were right but thanks to a weird schedule where there were five days off between Game 2 and 3, EDD was healthy enough and did not make her injuries an excuse. While she didn’t play her best, she had a lot of help this time including WNBA Finals MVP, Emma Meesseman.

This leads me to the Washington Wizards. While on the same boat as the Caps and Nats making to the conference semifinals, the Wizards have never gone over the hump to make it to the Conference Finals. The issue is John Wall and Bradley Beal were not enough to advance. The other issue is Ernie Grunfeld making terrible deals handicapping a team for the next few years. While Ted Leonsis tried to get Tim Connelly and Masai Ujiri, he not only got Tommy Sheppard to be the new GM, but restructured the basketball front office so the Wizards and Mystics can share resources. It was no accident Sheppard selected Rui Hachimura and Admiral Schofield because of potential and what they bring; similar to Mike Thibault’s drafts where he gets tough players and develop them into contributors and better players. Do not get me wrong, the Wizards are going to suck for the next couple of years, but when Bradley Beal signed his 2-year max extension, it shows Beal wants to be part of the process unless they were out of it. Critics from outside D.C. hated the moved for Beal, but if you understand what is happening in D.C. sports, Beal wants a piece of that action.

Let’s not forget the Washington Spirit. While they did not make the NWSL playoffs, the have a talented roster with World Cup hero, Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, and Aubrey Bledsoe. In addition with the news they might play in three different sites to cover the whole DMV area, things are looking up for the Spirit.

We will not discuss the Skins because we all know the reason why their irrelevant and they will stay irrelevant until the owner and president are gone.

We could discuss D.C. United, but with Wayne Rooney gone and likely Lucho Acosta, United are back to the drawing board including a TV deal, again.

The difference with this Renaissance than the last time is all the DC sports teams are connected and building a community. The Nats cheered on the Caps on their Stanley Cup run and vice Versar this year with the Nats going to the World Series. Also, you see Wall and Beal (even Tom Wilson) at Mystics games, especially in the WNBA Finals cheering on the women.

As the Nationals play in the World Series today, a reminder that DC fans are like other sports fans. Most know the sport and some want to have a great time. For some outside D.C., they have no idea DMV people can do “Baby Shark” in unison, the DC Sway in Mystics games,

or “Rockin’ The Red.” I think the DC Sports fans are part of this renaissance more than any other. DC Sports fans want to see a good product. If you give them a good product, fans will come and wear costumes and do weird dances. That’s what sports should be and D.C. is finally having their moment and it’s a beautiful place.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store