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It is a peaceful, quiet, rainy Sunday morning. The Nationals and Caps both had big wins last night.
And I don’t know how to act.
As a life-long Washington sports fan, I was told at a young age that area teams would give you a few bright spots, but by and large, in the end they will break your heart. Aside from an NBA championship when I was in college and 3 Super Bowls, that advice has proven true.
But yesterday’s games have me on the edge of the unthinkable: The title drought may not only end soon with the Caps, there may be another one by year end. The mere act of thinking this is like going into a crowded room in a Harry Potter movie and yelling “Voldemort.” Several times, in fact.
With the Caps, it all starts and ends with Alex Ovechkin. He is so hungry to get a ring that he gives every ounce of energy and passion he has on every play, and it has infected the rest of the team. What was once a club that could unexplainably be all-world one night and passive resistive the next has caught fire. All four lines are going at it in overdrive, and they now only need two more wins and we’re all hoisting the Stanley Cup.
This is where I don’t know how to act. You can’t help but notice the weaknesses in Las Vegas’ game through the first three contests. If a cross-checking penalty on Ryan Reaves is properly called, the Caps are probably up 3-0 and on the verge of a sweep Monday night at home. We would have people climbing street lights in downtown DC until Thursday. It would be bedlam (and still might but just at a later date).
But the mere act of thinking this, let alone writing this, has probably cost the Caps at least two power play opportunities. The sports gods don’t like you to anticipate. Remember the guy who showed up at Game 3 of the Tampa series with a broom? He’s probably in the witness protection program now after the Caps went from being up 2-0 to down 3-2 in the series in a mere blink of an eye.
It’s like the scene in Animal House where there’s a miniature angel and a miniature devil on some guy’s shoulder. The angel is telling me to zip it. The devil is telling to start opening up room in the closet for all the new Caps stuff I’m going to be buying with “Stanley Cup Champions” on it.
Then there’s the Nationals. Just as Ovechkin’s hunger has fueled the Caps, how could any Nats player ever give less than all he’s got on any play after seeing Max Scherzer yesterday? The guy isn’t even supposed to play in the series, but because of injuries and some managerial moves, Dave Martinez tells him to get his spikes on because he may be needed.
Some players would react with an “OK” but Max reacts the same way my Labrador does when I ask “want to go for a ride?” Max gets excited, he goes inside and works on his “hitting routine” (how many pitchers even HAVE a “hitting routine?) and comes out ready to charge whatever hill he is directed toward.
He then comes in the game, gets a single, and all I’m thinking is “don’t get hurt on the bases, Max.” Max, naturally, ignores my plea and when Wilmer Difo triples, Max takes off like Forrest Gump running back a kickoff for Alabama…all the way through the end zone and halfway up the tunnel. Max scores what would be the winning run, is jumping around like a teenager who got his first hit, and you could just feel the Nationals waking up.
Moments like that and players like that end up being the spark that gets teams championships. There has been criticism over the years of some of the Nationals stars who compile big statistics throughout the season, but become a bit too quiet in big games, and in some cases, it’s deserved. But I doubt that happens this year. Max is on a different level this season, I thought. He wants it. Anyone else who coasts is going to have to deal with cleat marks on their backside from an attitude adjustment talk from Max.
So on a rainy morning, the future looks bright, yet I’m conflicted. If I’m happy about it, I’ve jinxed them. If I don’t believe, I’m missing out on all the fun.
These are uncharted waters for a Washington sports fan...