Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012: The Return of D.C. Sports (And the O's Too)

In the final year of his first term as President of the United States, all of that Hope and Change that Barry Obama had promised us finally came to fruition.  However, none of it came in the political realm, but rather in an arena some would argue is more important. And by some we really mean just us.

Of course we are talking about sports, but primarily, sports in the DMV.  We welcomed a savior, a phenom, two division titles (Skins & Nats), a wild card squad (O’s), some playoff hockey, bust most of all, sustainable blueprints for future success.  Seriously, in 2012, there was more winning in the DMV than Charlie Sheen’s wettest of dreams!

Winning seasons for our beloved sports franchises were more overdue than a library book.  Speaking of overdue, we have not blogged in a while and its not because we haven’t been watching, but that is precisely why we haven’t been blogging.  We have been having too much fun enjoying this resurgence, and we did not feel like our words could do any justice. 

But much like our beloved home teams, we too have risen from the ashes and we will do our best to rehash 2012, or as we like to call it the Return of DMV Sports.

The plates started shifting three years ago in the summer of 2009, when Steven Strasburg was selected number 1 by the Washington Nationals in the MLB Draft.  He was a can't miss prospect, a starting pitcher the likes no-one had ever seen, and coming off a miserable 2008, the Nationals were lucky enough to select him. 

The Stras immediately became one of the faces of the franchise, and, when healthy has dominated Major League hitters since his first start in June 2010; right Pittsburgh?  Soon after, on Easter in 2010 the Redskins traded for Donovan McNabb, the franchise QB they so sorely needed and that Shanahan allegedly coveted. Can’t trust anything that guy says anymore…

HOWEVA, The narrative was different for McNabb as it was for Strasburg, as Donnie Mac was benched midway through the season. 

Also in 2010, the Wizards were awarded with the number 1 pick in the NBA draft, the same draft that had college superstar John Wall sitting right at the top of the class.  

What began in 2010 was that sports fans in D.C. had a marquee player on every team.  One flat out didn't work (McNabb).  One has shown boner-inducing promise (Strasburg).  One has inspired smart men, respected men, to BEG, "PLEASE!! This guy is too good, get some pieces around him!” (Wall).  Finally, there is Ovi, the Russian born, former favorite son of DC till all these other guys showed up, throwing himself into the boards and making Verizon the loudest arena we've ever been to, and perennially getting the Caps to the playoffs and winning divisions.   

Two years have gone by not without inconsequential moves. Each of the big four teams have found another potential superstar at a crucial position, and one has two.  Brad Beal was selected third by the 'Zards and has performed solidly, despite the fact that he plays on what could be debated as the worst basketball team ever assembled, clearly missing John Wall's Batman to his Robin. 

The Caps developed 20 something Braden Holtby to be their netminder for the next 15 or so years, (Seriously, get used to him, he'll be a hockey and D.C. icon in the mold of Martin Brodeur when it's all said and done). 

Then you have the Nationals getting Bryce Harper, the 19 year old rookie of the year to hold down what looks like LF for the next 12-15 years.  As of right now, he has one of the best outfield arms in the game, and he slugged 22 home runs as a teenager. AND he still can't legally drink.  He should be a foregone conclusion in the All-Star game well into the mid 2020's.

Heck even the Orioles got in on the fun. Expectations for the 2012 Orioles were somewhere in between Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad News Bears and the 1994 Minnesota Twins right before when Billy Haywood took over. With our unapologetic and sometimes-construed-as-unrealistic homerism, our expectations were not the same as analysts and realists. We would call them uncautiously optimistic. The rotation was made up of retreads(Joe Saunders and Jason Hammel), mysteries(Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen), and untapped promise(Chris Tillman). The lineup was made up of free swingers(Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds0, and young superstars(Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Manny "Mucho" Machado) who always had too much heaped on their plate.  The bullpen was made up of glue, duct tape, a box of matches, and a bag of sunflower seeds(one one helluva dominant closer in Jim Johnson).  They were all led by Buck Showalter whose quiet confidence and consummate professionalism...and the right amount of mojo led this team to it’s first winning season and playoff appearance since 1997! The Magic was back at Camden Yards for the first time in a long time.

All that said, all of these teams are still secondary to the team that, when good, control the entire city, and both states that border it.  Of course we are talking about the Redskins. 

It wasn't but a year ago many locally and nationally were questioning whether Mike Shanahan and his staff had the salt to put a contender on the field.  Fueling that speculation was Shanny’s dumbfounding confidence in two, horrifying QB's, John Beck and Rex Grossman aka “Jex Grossbeck”.  On top of this chasm under center, there were the sour-grapes-weepings of the Super Bowl champion owning family, the Mara's...  

Their beef: the Cowboys and Redskins had violated UNWRITTEN rules in back loading contracts to expire or become cap friendly the year the salary cap would be banished.  Giving both teams leverage to release and sign players without affecting future cap space.  What the Mara's conveniently left out was that 26 of the other teams engaged in the very same practice, including the Giants.  The punishment levied down by Roger "Fidel" Goodell was $36 million dollars removed over two years. Basically, $18 million dollars gone for each year.  The punishment grossly not fitting the crime has become a hallmark if not a staple of Fidel Goodell's tenure as commissioner.  Ask Scott Fujita, suspended without pay despite zero evidence of any wrongdoing in the Saints bounty-case.  HOWEVA, Goodell being a dictator is a rant for another time. 

Amidst all of this chaos and one failed quarterback after another, there is always a rebirth…a phoenix must always rise from the ashes. This phoenix involved three first round picks, and one second rounder.

Sit down children. It’s story time…

It was a cold Saturday night in early March. (Bare with us while our ego’s write the next paragraph in third person) Ben was at the biggest sausage fest in Arlington, aka Spider Kelly’s.  Tyler was minutes away from closing a gorgeous blonde at Ropewalk in Fed Hill.  Ben was in line behind 6 guys waiting to pay $5.50 for a Bud Light when he felt his phone vibrating.  He pulled out his phone and saw a text from Tyler that just said “RG3. Boom.”

Ben here, that 3rd person storytelling crap got old real quick.  I’ll take it from here. 

I looked down at my phone in clear shock.  I was not totally sure what Ty meant by “RG3. Boom”, but knowing Tyler like a 13 year old girl knows Justin Bieber’s birthday, I had I pretty good idea this meant that the Redskins traded up in the draft.

Sure enough Ty texts back: “3 1’s and a 2 for the most dynamic QB we’ve ever seen. Seems like we should be giving up more for Black Jesus.”

^Historians will note that is the first time anyone in Redskins Nation deemed Robert Griffin III as “Black Jesus”.

I immediately jumped out of line, grabbed my buddy ZB and said, “DUDE! RG3 is coming to DC!” The rest of the night was a celebratory blur that ended up triggering a chain reaction of victories and success in our beloved sports region.

The electrifying QB out of Baylor that won the Heisman, and posted a 4.3 40-yard sprint at the NFL Combine, with his toothy grin and braids in tow, was on his way to D.C.

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