The day has arrived. As of tomorrow, Mrs. DCO and I will no longer be residents of the friendly confines of the DC area. We’ll be setting up shop in southwestern Connecticut, where I will spend my days holding tightly to my loyalties to all Washington teams, refusing to root in any fashion for wretches such as the Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Knicks, and Giants. It’s actually pretty amazing how many people have asked me, “When you move are you going to root for the New York XXX?” Seriously, what kind of person do you think I am?
I’m sure to irritate some of my new neighbors with my DC-centric wardrobe, but I see it as fair payback for all the tools I’ve had to endure down here with their Giants car flags and multi-colored Yankees caps (Red Sox gaining ground in that category, too). It will be interesting to examine the Cowboys-bandwagon factor in a new market as well. Will there be as many ugly blue stars found up there as down here? I'll find out soon enough.
So, while I will be tremendously lacking in my physical access to my beloved teams, my contributions to DC Optimist will continue completely unabated (bless the Internet, Center Ice package, NFL Total Access, XM Radio etc.). Still, I will very much miss things like 15-minute Metro rides to see the Caps and Wizards, day-encompassing odysseys to attend a Redskins’ game, and having my choice of seats in the intimate company of 20-25,000 fans at the Nationals’ lovely new stadium. I never did get to that DC United game I was always talking about attending, but they’re swell too.
I’ll be back as often as I can, for sure, gracing the above-mentioned venues, and hopefully also gracing the Caps press box/locker room to bring back first-hand reports of burgeoning optimism as the franchise prepares for a decade-long run of championship contention.
Most of my fondest game-attending memories in this area revolve around the Caps. I got my first hockey stick as a giveaway against the Winnipeg Jets in 1988, when I was ten. In high school I really got into the Caps during the shortened 1994-95 season. We scored tickets to the home opener against the Islanders that year, a solid 5-2 Caps victory. Later that season, the Sprint to the Playoffs don’t ya know, my friends and I became something of Jim Carey worshipers, as he came up from the minors and made us all want to play goalie in our pickup games with his goal-preventing prowess.
Of course there were the traditional gatherings of friends to attend any game vs. loathsome opponents the Penguins, Rangers, and Flyers, with various cocky-youth-fueled confrontations with fans of the same. A stirring Game 4, 6-2 blowout of the Pens in that shortened season still stands as one of the top three sporting events of any kind I’ve been to (disregarding the, um, ultimate result of that series).
No conversation of Caps-Pens would be complete without the April 24, 1996 Game 4 myself and four other friends went to. We joked outside about the game going to triple overtime, only to find out several hours later we were off by one extra overtime in our guffawing. There we sat through the whole thing: Mario Lemieux punching Todd Krygier in the back of the head and being shown the exit in the second period, Joe Juneau muffing a penalty shot in one of the overtimes (they really all run together after a while), the anticipation of a game-winner every time the Caps gained possession of the puck in OT, the dread of the opposite every time the Pens did the same, Olie Kolzig’s incredible 60+-save performance, and the ultimate 2:30 AM heartbreak brought on by Peter “F$%@-ing” Nedved with less than a minute left in the fourth overtime. It was a pretty quiet, sullen car trip back to Northern Virginia, but looking back it’s still one of my fondest hockey memories. Still being in high school at the time, I had to be “sick” the next day, then receive knowing glances from some of my Caps-fan teachers the day after that.
The last game at US Air Arena/Caps Centre. The first game at MCI Center (Jeff Toms, everybody!). Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 vs. Buffalo (damn you, Hasek!). The division-clincher vs. Florida this year. Too many more memories to go through. So we’ll move on.
My first regular season Redskins game was pretty much a stinker, vs. Seattle in 1995. I remember it as the beginning of the end of the Heath Shuler era. If memory serves, his first pass was an interception, and the patience of the fans, already frayed by that point, came apart pretty quickly after that. Chants for Jeff Hostetler grew as the Skins continually came up empty on drive after drive. They ultimately lost 27-20, but being at a game at RFK made watching the Skins’ futile efforts worth it.
I only made it to a few Bullets/Wizards games here. I do remember in fifth grade being confused by the old mascot, Hoops. I guess I’m still confused. G Wiz makes a lot more sense by comparison.
My first baseball game in years and years was in August 2005. I hadn’t quite decided on my loyalties regarding the Nationals just yet. I had only fleeting, partial fandom towards Baltimore, fandom which basically disintegrated when Premiere Angelos threw his years-long temper tantrum to keep the Expos away from DC. That night game in August was a turning point of sorts. I went with then-future Mrs. DCO and a few friends. I don’t remember who the Nats played or who won, but it was a good time, back in the days of 30,000+ in attendance, and from then on out it was an official, final dissolution of my relationship with the Orioles and an embracing of the Nats.
Finally, there was the last baseball game at RFK, which just happened to fall on my first wedding anniversary, so my wife and I celebrated by seeing the old place off. That I will always distinctly remember as a fantastic late fall afternoon, and a solid, stadium-closing victory over the Phillies. I tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to keep score for the first time in my life, and still have the semi-completed scorecard. I’ve managed just one game at the new park, since this moving business has sucked up a lot of time, but I hope to make it back once or twice this summer for more.
So that’s it. Time to finish packing and wait for the movers tomorrow morning. I’ll be out of posting commission for at least the next week, but Bobtimist Prime will hold down the fort, shining the light of optimism on things such as Capitals and Wizards playoff comebacks and the sure-to-be-brilliant Redskins’ draft. Don’t miss it.
Talk to you all next from enemy territory. Good day.