Night Terrors and Day Drinking: The Self Inflicted Trauma of Being a DC Sports Fan Part 13
How 2016 went down and all the teams suffered in their usual ways with the Redskins and Wizards failing to reach the playoffs and the Nationals and Capitals suffering early exits is remarkable in how unremarkable it all was. No one was choked in a dugout, there were no guns pulled in the locker room, and even the Redskins seemed drama free for the first time in forever. Then the off-season would come about and the Redskins would prove they can’t even fire a GM properly but as they have continued to not be an embarrassment in other ways that hasn’t mattered as much. It’s faded from the headlines and the Redskins are slowly but surely becoming just another football team. How long that will last is unclear, but it is the case right now and perhaps it will still be the case when 2017 is over. It is doubtful that it will be forever. Dan Snyder is eventually going to have to make his presence felt and that has never gone well.
In 2017 the Washington Capitals found a new way to break our hearts. It is funny how many times they’ve blown a 3-1 series lead. It is so comical that I, and I can’t be alone here, have started to expect that when they do breakthrough it will be by making some other poor team blow a 3-1 series lead and that is what appeared to be happening when the Pittsburgh Penguins jumped out to a 3-1 series lead over the Capitals before dropping the next two games and this time it was the Capitals forcing a game seven instead of having one forced upon them. It looked like it was finally going to happen and then it didn’t. It didn’t even come close to happening. They didn’t even score in game seven this time. No overtime loss, no blown lead, nothing. Just a poor and pathetic showing against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team they’ve dominated in the regular season in the Alex Ovechkin era. It just this time felt like the Capitals were going to do it to them instead of the other way around.
We are now in the present and dealing with the freshest wounds of all. The previous broken hearts were like talking about an old college or high school flame. It hurt then but as they say time heals all wounds and there had been enough time to get over it. This wound is fresh. It’s like sitting in divorce court and listening to your soon to be ex explaining to the judge why you are the scum of the earth and no sane human being could stand to be around you. The Washington Nationals 2017 NLDS game five loss is still bleeding.
Like the boxer in the old song we carry the reminders of every glove that laid us low or cut us till we cried out. This was very close to the same pain as 2012. It was so close to going right. The Nationals tied the game on a Daniel Murphy solo shot and then took the lead on a Michael Taylor three run homer. Then just like 2012 Gio Gonzalez started to falter but the Nationals still had a one run lead and Max Scherzer came into the game. That is when the strangeness begin. After two quick outs Scherzer just couldn’t seem to get the third out. Then he gave up the lead and then he got a strikeout that should have been the third out but Jerry Layne didn’t rule the ball dead when the batter struck at and failed to make contact with the ball but hit Matt Wieters on the back swing. At that point the rule is no runners can advance, but that isn’t what was called and Wieters didn’t help matters by throwing the ball away. By the time it was all said and done a 4-3 lead was a 7-4 deficit.
That wasn’t the end of everything. The Nats would comeback and make things interesting, Werth would lose a ball in the lights, and then Jose Lobaton would be called out for coming a fraction of a fraction of an inch off the bag in beating a snap throw to first base. This game was a series of very unfortunate events that would have been strange in any one individual game but that they all happened in the same game makes it that much weirder and worse. This was an overhand right swelling the left eye shut. Right now DC sports fans are battered and bleeding but not beaten. There was something about this loss. The complete and abject misery of it. The familiarity of it all that makes it feel like there is unfinished business. There is a good chance that the Nationals will be an even stronger team in 2018 than they were in 2017. Eaton will be healed, Victor Robles will take over in the outfield full time before the end of the season, Turner will have the off-season to get healthy and will have another year of experience under his belt, Murphy has shown no signs of slowing down, Rendon is one of the most consistent players in baseball, Harper will be playing to earn a record contract, Doolittle and Madson will start the season in the Nationals bullpen, and Strasburg and Schrezer will be hungry and dangerous. This loss hurt like hell, but it’s not the phantom limb that 2012 was. It’s more of a let’s schedule the rematch and knock this sucker out.
Yeah, being a DC sports fan is a special kind of misery as it includes all four teams and on and off the field troubles. Yet we endure because we hold onto the silly notion that one day our faith will be rewarded. We know somewhere inside there is no guarantee of that, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”