Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 22, 2008 - The Biggest DC Sports Day in Quite Some Time

I have lived in DC since the summer of 2002 and for the first time today, April 22, 2008 - after almost six years - I can say that DC is legitimately a sports Mecca. Well, for a day anyway.

Consider this:

The Capitals

I know next to nothing about hockey and have not followed it really at all since the days of Cam Neely in Boston. As you can see, I am obviously a huge sports fan but other than a guy named Chara, a 6'9" defenseman from what I gather I cannot name another player on the Bruins. This is not about the Bruins of course but I tell you this just to illustrate how blatantly out of the hockey loop I am.

Despite all that, DC has been galvanized by the Capitals since around the New Year. From what I have been able to gather, they started out the season sucking it up and were bringing up the rear of their division. Then they somehow turned around their season, lead by Alex Ovechkin, a guy who mildly resembles the Anton Chigurh character from No Country for Old Men and who along with Sydney Crosby in Pittsburgh is tasked with making the NHL at least kind of relevant again. Long story short, Ovechkin put the team on his back, scored 65 goals on the year and lead the team from the basement to the division crown.

Since the start of the playoffs two weeks ago, the Capitals have been the talk of the town around these parts and earlier tonight they played a Game 7 against the Flyers, apparently their arch rival. As if there needed to be more to fire people up for the game, Game 6 was played last night and the Caps won that coming back.

With all that as the backdrop, Tuesday night I decided to hop on the old bandwagon. Or rather, I turned the game on in the third period when it was tied. After an exhilarating third period, the Caps committed a tripping penalty in OT and with nine seconds left on the penalty, the Flyers scored the game winning goal. Honestly, for the hour I put into watching the end of this game I was on the edge of my seat. I was even running over options in my head of becoming a bandwagon Caps fan for the spring. And then of course they lost. I was upset for about two minutes after the fact, not because I was bummed about the team losing per se but more that I was bummed about not being able to hop on the bandwagon. I mean, I really enjoyed myself during the third period of that game and I was entirely prepared to invest more into the team. Whats more I was even congratulating myself for finally being able to find a DC team that I would not be conflicted rooting for. I've hopped on the Wizards bandwagon for times in the past but it was always half-assed and I always knew that in a Celtics/Wizards game I was going with the Celtics no matter what. Here though, I was completely willing and ready to sell my soul to the Caps. But, like I said they lost. And, by the time the hockey season starts again in October I can promise you that I will go back to being apathetic as I am now because sugar buzzes don't last forever you know?

Still, it's always fun being in a city when they are rallying around a team and that was the case here with the Caps. It's over now, but you can't deny that a Game 7, in DC against a team from Philly is a relatively big story in the sports world when competing against April baseball, relentless and annoying NFL draft "hype", and Games 1 and 2 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. So there, in this case DC mattered.

The Wizards

I used to love Gilbert Arenas back in 2004. That was back before he had a blog and before he decided that he wanted to go for 50 every game instead of actually coming out of a game with a W for his team. In a lot of ways, Arenas of the past few years reminds me a ton of Antoine Walker.

If you can remember way back when what made Antoine look like he was going to become a top tier power forward in the NBA was the quickness and passing ability he possessed from the 4 spot while being big enough to get 10 boards a game and bang with larger forwards on the blocks. I remember a game in maybe 1997 when he was playing against Karl Malone and Malone was clueless as to how to defend him because 'Toine could beat him off the dribble at ease but then could take him down in the paint and score on him there too. Needless to say, Tommy Heinson gushed over his potential after years of watching Dino Radja. But what potential it was! If Antoine had stuck to that instead of deciding that he was going to become a three point chucker and point forward known for leading the break and either dribbling the ball off a body part or jacking an ill-advised three who knows what he would have been like? I tend to think C-Webb in his prime would be a comparison. That would have looked pretty nice alongside Paul Pierce on the O'Brien teams right? Of course it was not meant to be though and now - unfortunately I think - he may have ended his career in Minnesota playing for an awful team and racking up DNP CDs. Despite all I said, I still have a soft spot for Antoine and would love to have him as a token scrub on the 2008-2009 Celtics. I know I'm not alone.

I guess I was supposed to be talking about Gilbert Arenas there and the point I was trying to get at was that Gilbert, like Antoine eschewed his main skill which made him so unique - BLAZING speed from the perimeter - in favor of jacking up shots left and right and is now a much less enjoyable player to watch than he was a few years ago. Also, he seems to think he is the NBA's best player and has probably read his press clippings a bit too much which really aggravates me. I just hate seeing players ditch what made them great to begin with trying to become an all world scorer or doing something else on the court that may be more fun or glamorous than what got them to the league and what made them initially great.

Enough about Gilbert though - and Antoine too - I need to actually talk about why the Wizards are relevant right now. I'll be quick this time.

The Wizards have apparently gone to the San Diego Chargers school of talking constantly about how great they are despite never winning anything. The Chargers are lead by the loathesome Ladanian Tomlinson and the Wizards are lead in this regard by the not quite as loathsome Gilbert Arenas and the "why the f--- are you running your mouth, your career peaked in the 1999 McDonalds All American Game" Deshawn Stevenson.

After running their mouths incessantly and stupidly calling Lebron overrated, the Wizards now find themselves down 2-0 in their playoff series, have resorted to trying to beat up the Cavs physically because they can't beat them regularly, and are coming off a 30 point road loss to boot. Needless to say they look like idiots. Probably because of this, and because of Brendan Haywood's hard foul on Lebron on Monday, the Wizards are finding themselves in the sporting news right now making them part two of our puzzle. Sure it's not in a glowing light but all publicity counts right?

The Redskins

DC sports cannot be DC sports without the Redskins. As such, they made the news Tuesday by trying to trade the Bengals their current first round pick and a pick next year (maybe another first rounder) for Chad Johnson. For some idiotic reason the Bengals turned this trade down forgetting that the Pats got Randy Moss for just a fourth rounder, not realizing that this package will inevitably blow away any other offer they get for him, and that by TOing Johnson and kicking him off the team they may get rid of him but they also get nothing in return. If you ever wonder why the Bengals consistently suck, this gives you a pretty good idea as to why.

The funniest thing about this trade is that I said to my wife last week, when news came out that Johnson wanted no part of the Bengals that Redskins owner Dan Snyder would offer up a ransom of draft picks to the Bengals for Johnson because Johnson coming available came at a perfect time for the Redskins, AND a player like Chad Johnson was way too much for Dan Snyder to resist. It was almost like a Dan Snyder perfect storm and you know he is pissed he cannot get him. Snyder looks for certain things in a player it seems to me. First the player must be high profile and a famous name, and second he must be willing to play for a lot of money. Johnson fits that profile to a T, and because the Redskins were uncharacteristically quiet in free agency this year, they had the cash to take him on. Oh yeah, and they also have a need for a big play receiver to take some heat off of Santana Moss so the position was even one of need! As I said, it was the perfect storm for Synder to strike and he did. Unfortunately for him the Bengals turned down his offer.

Even if no trade happened, you still must admit that one of the most famous and infamous players in the league almost getting traded to one of the NFL's marquis franchises is a big deal. Maybe it did not happen ,but talking about it is fun anyway.

And there you go. April 22, 2008, the day DC sports as a whole actually mattered. Like I said, it was kind of crazy because I've never been in this city with all this sports stuff going on. Normally we're just stuck with Client 9 at the Mayflower Hotel or the DC Madam.

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