-Ted Leonsis (via The Bog)
Two of my teams are going in polar opposite directions today. As discussed here yesterday, the Redskins are in a complete nosedive, bound by salary-cap handcuffs and poor management, while the Capitals are one of the most promising young teams in the NHL. I find myself depressed in such a young NFL season, expecting the boys in burgundy drown at the bottom of the proverbial NFC East barrel. The team isn't built for the future, but the present, and the present isn't coming up roses. On the other hand, I'm filled with optimism, as the Capitals expect to challenge for the Stanley Cup for this year, as well as the foreseeable future due to wonderful roster management and scouting. "Why is this so hard?" you might ask. The intelligent 'fan move' would be to put my efforts into the Capitals and their success rather than wallow in the filthy bed that Dan Snyder made.
I consider myself to be an equal fan to both organizations. I grew up idolizing Peter Bondra, Dale Hunter and Olie Kolzig. My wife still wears my old blue jersey to games (circa 1995ish), and I'll always have fond memories of going up to games in Landover with friends and family as a kid. I was as excited as anyone with the arrival of the MCI center and a pretty new sheet of ice for my favorite team, along with a Stanley Cup finals birth shortly thereafter. Capitals Nation was strong on the momentum from that 1997-1998 squad, and it carried into the early part of this decade. However, the wheels fell off. Management looked toward big free agent signings to put the Capitals over the top, and they found themselves with a mediocre squad as a result. Attendance dipped and enthusiasm waned. Then came the rebuild. Verizon was empty as I watched games from my apartment down in Blacksburg. I hated hearing the cheers of Pens fans in the stands, knowing that I couldn't make a 4 hour drive up for a game. The Caps got no love from the mainstream media, and from that neglect, wonderful blogs like On Frozen Blog and Japer's Rink were born. I've been a regular reader of OFB for over two years, and I absolutely admire their work. However, now that the Capitals are tasting consistent success, Caps-only fans (as I like to call them) are taking time away from covering their all-world team to kick the Redskins while they're down.
Don't get me wrong...the Captials have had the short end of the hockey stick for the better part of the last two decades, and these blogs were created with good reason, and blossomed due to hard work and quality reporting. But I have to argue that many of their readers, like myself, care a great deal about all of the district's franchises, and that includes (and started with) the Washington Redskins. For the better part of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the Redskins justified their press coverage. But after developing such a rabid fan base from kids that were either born or grew up during their heyday, they began to falter. Those fans (now aged 22-35ish) stuck with the Skins through the lean years of the 90s, and continue to stick around through mismanagement and mediocrity. Championships will do that to people. If the Patriots fall off their perch in the coming decade, you can bet they will still pack Gillette Stadium with people that loved Tom Brady and Teddy Bruschi. That's what championships do. Unfortunately for the Caps, they haven't achieved that level of greatness yet, even if they've been on the doorstep and could kick the door in over the next few seasons.
All of the MSM love that the Redskins have received as a result of their fan base has caused Capitals-only fans to have an inferiority complex of sorts. They love to see their team get the coverage they deserve (which is slowly starting to come to fruition), but they also have a little too much fun at the expense of the big boy in town when they're hurting. Capitals fans, OFB, whoever holds this opinion...you should be better than that. You should eat up these years of success...of championship hockey, and deservedly so. I know I will. But in the process, I implore you not to alienate a good chunk of your fellow fans by spitting on the Redskins as you pass them on the way to glory and DC Sports legend. You know how it feels to be stuck in neutral with bad signings and bad drafting. You know how it feels to be pissed off at management for throwing away thousands of dollars of YOUR MONEY at a questionable character free agent (staring at YOU Jaromir). You know how it feels to have a team take your time and devotion and only give you heartbreak. Take a second before the puck drops on Thursday to put yourselves in some burgundy and gold shoes, and maybe you'll realize that they feel a little too familiar. We Redskins fans are not in a comfortable position right now, and the Caps are our ray of hope. Don't darken it with the shadow of your schadenfreude.