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Concannon: Examining the woes of being a Washington fan

| Thursday, April 19, 2018

I’m the saddest sports fan you know. I hail from the greater D.C. area, where young sports fans cry and everyone else’s hopes go to die.

It has been 70 seasons since the city of Washington has been to a conference championship game in the four major sports (sorry MLS fans, no D.C. United here). There are freshmen on campus today who were not alive when the Washington Capitals were swept in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, marking the city’s crowning sports achievement since the Redskins’ Super Bowl title win in 1991. Six years before I was born.

Since Washington’s last conference finals appearance, the city with the second-fewest conference finals appearances (amongst cities with teams in all four major sports leagues) is Minneapolis with six. The most is Boston with 23. That’s over one conference final appearance per season. I hate you Boston, and everything you stand for.

This streak alone is not what makes me so tortured. Bad teams are no fun to watch, but the real pain is in missed expectations. The Washington Capitals have been the best regular-season team in hockey three times in the last decade. They have the most wins in the NHL in that same time frame. They have eight division titles in the last 11 years, and a superstar in Alexander Ovechkin.

They also have zero Stanley Cup titles. They have never even made it to the third round in over 20 years. Every year the pundits pick them to win the Stanley Cup. Every year my friends sarcastically tell me it’s #ouryear, but it never is. It is never our year.

Okay, so that’s just the Capitals, but what about the Nationals? They have won four of the last six National League East championships, and been in the NLDS with home field advantage four times in that span. They lost all of those first round series. Three of which in a deciding home field Game 5. They had leads in all three of those decisive games, and blew them all in front of disappointed but unsurprised Nationals fans, long conditioned by the Capitals that happiness just isn’t for us.

But what about other sports? The Redskins haven’t had a season with more than 10 wins since 1991, and the Wizards have been doomed to wither away in a conference dominated by LeBron James and Michael Jordan for decades. Any hype either of those teams generated in the wakes of individual stars like Gilbert Arenas and Robert Griffin III was just a mirage, existing purely to trick Washington sports fans into hoping their luck might improve.

What about this year? The NBA is wide open in a way it usually isn’t and the Capitals were a trendy sleeper pick to make a playoff run. The Wizards are down 2-0 and look hopelessly overmatched against the Raptors, and the Capitals are currently down 2-1 in their series. The conference finals streak appears prime to run its way to 72 seasons (would love to be wrong about that but I’m not exactly wired for hope).

Last year the Capitals second round Game 7 meltdown against the Penguins and the subsequent Wizards Game 7 second-round disaster against the Celtics led to me yelling at the screen and feeling general bitterness. I thought it wasn’t fair that the Penguins fans got to experience joy again. I thought it was ridiculous that fans from Boston, who don’t even appreciate how fun winning is anymore, got to see another winner advance into the sacred third round.

Now, I take a different approach to sports. Modern day philosopher Lady Antebellum once said “I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all.” I could not disagree more. When the Capitals went up 2-0 in Game 2 against the Blue Jackets on Sunday, I chose to feel nothing at all. When they blew that lead and went down 4-3, my mind was filled with nothing. When T.J. Oshie heroically tied the game for the Capitals late in the third, I stayed in my seat numb to the events unfolding on screen.

When the inevitable Blue Jackets overtime winner was scored, my friends turned to me with their phones in hand ready to record my reaction. Instead of anger there was emptiness, and my passion for the Capitals had officially wilted away. It was amazing.

So that’s the moral here everyone. If you completely detach yourself from anything that can potentially cause you sadness, give up on your dreams and live life as an emotionless shell of a human being until death takes you into its sweet embrace, things are better! Trade your bitterness and emotions for hopelessness and nothingness. I’m trying that approach towards sports from now on, and I feel better already.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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