We are tired of being laughed at.
We Washingtonians, if anything, are a prideful bunch. All of the tough losses and idiotic things that come our way as fans, we have never wavered. Nevermind that this is “just hockey” as most hatin-ass dudes have been uttering since late in the Eastern Conference Finals once our Washington Capitals finally started to get some traction outside of the fanbase. We have been ridiculed ad nausem for the prior 26 years of frustrations delivered by our pro sports franchises (91 total seasons if we are keeping count).
Last night, those laughs ceased.
You can not joke about this city being a “minor league” sports town…no sir. Not after being apart of tens of thousands of fellow Caps fans who watched each game of the Stanley Cup Finals in the middle of the fucking street. Last night, I bore witness of years and years of frustration released and it was euphoric. With all of the crap going on in this city – starting with the guy who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave – the residents here are just sickuv it all. This city needed a positive diversion in the worst way. This Caps’ run has been a welcome distraction from all that shit, and I think it’s part of why there’s been such insane crowds on the streets of Chinatown these last few games. We are ACHING for a winner after all these years of futility, but on top of all that, I think people just want something to feel good about and be proud of.
Who knew it would be the team who broke our heart the most these past two decades? Who knew the team that would bring together all types of people of different affluence and ethnicity would be the team with the least amount of urban fans?
Nobody in my circle of friends cared about hockey until Alex Ovechkin came into town 13 years ago and made sports fun again. His highlights and personality was made for the SportsCenter era and people ate it up…until they wanted to see more than just gaudy highlights and statistics. For myself, I’ve had to listen and watch Ovechkin deal with his own issues as an outsider (a Russian in a mostly Canadian league) and watch how the narrative from the mostly Canadian media and “old guard” would discredit his skill level on a daily basis and how his style of play would never be the catalyst of a winning franchise.
It’s not dissimilar than how mainstream media treats our young, black athletes. If you’re boastful ala Ovie or O’dell Beckham Jr, you are a nuisance. If you are a white athlete, he is called a fiery competitor.
As a black hockey fan, I really didn’t have many people to talk to about the sport growing up sans one or two of my homies. In my early adult years, my cousin Mike and I would watch Caps games together and deal with all the ups and downs that comes with fandom. Of course each season would end with heartbreak (this man to this day despises former defenseman Mike Green…it’s an ongoing joke in our small circle). During this recent era – the Rock The Red era – more of my black friends and family became hockey enthusiasts and it made me proud. They all started off as novices and developed their undying love for the team game-by-game, year-by-year, disappointment-by-disappointment. Those disappointments bonded us…we went through this together as if we were raising a baby.
I’ve always said “there are only two things that bring people of different background together for one common cause….music and sports”. Fandom is a real place, an emotional place. People are more loyal to their sports fandom than they are to their spouses. Last night we saw the best of sports fandom with a huge helping of civic pride, elation and unbridled joy all in one moment. That moment doesn’t come around often.
We watched this team start this playoff gauntlet by going down 0-2 (losing both games at home) to the Columbus Blue Jackets and were an overtime goal from Lars Eller (who also scored the Cup clincher last night) from being labeled as choke artists once again. The demons of the hated Pittsburgh Penguins were destroyed, a Game 7 road victory to win the Eastern Conference title vs Tampa showed fans that this team was indeed different from the rest. After losing Game 1 vs Vegas, four straight victories changed it all.
Thank you Coach Trotz, Nicky Backstrom, Evegeny Kuznetzov, Devante Smith-Pelle, TJ Oshie and all of the other players that left it all on the ice for our enjoyment.
As my man Ace Boogie said in the legendary motion picture Paid In Full, “I’m breathing different…”
Finally feeling like the champion you are will make you feel that way.
DC Area fans….you are a champion today.
No one can take it from you.