I’ve never thought of myself as a diehard D.C. sports fan. Sure, I read The Washington Post’s Sports page almost every morning of my high school years. And I caught a game at Nats Park — or just watched a couple innings on MASN — now and then. But I didn’t care much about my hometown teams — or so I thought.
Maybe that was because D.C. wasn’t really my hometown. My mom has worked in the District my whole life — she’s a lawyer — and I went to preschool at the Federal Trade Commission. But we lived in Arlington, Va. and D.C. was mostly a place for field trips.
Or maybe I just preferred other teams in other towns. Washington teams didn’t often come through. Yes, the Wizards sparred with a young Lebron James during the Arenas-Jamison-Butler era, and RGIII’s rookie season had me watching the Redskins on TV. But I didn’t grow up knotted to any Washington ballclub — during my early years, the Nats played in Montreal.
Still, it just takes a couple big breaks to make me wonder if my D.C. sports fandom is stronger than I suspect. Last year’s Wizards-Hawks series had me on the hometown bandwagon. Even after Paul Pierce signed with the Clippers — after calling game a few months before — I had higher hopes than usual ahead of this NBA season.
This weekend, I’m thinking about my D.C. sports fandom again. Because right now, Washington’s teams have a whole lot breaking right.
Thursday, the Wizards finalized a five-year, $35 million deal with former Thunder coach Scott Brooks. A day later, the Redskins inked All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman to a five-year, $75 million contract. First reaction: our teams just made some moves. Second: pro sports is big money.
Sunday, backup outfielder Chris Heisey homered in the 16th inning to knock out the Twins. The Nats record? A cool 14-4. Strasburg’s fanned 31 batters in three starts, Bryce Harper leads the majors in both homers and RBI, and Daniel Murphy — a Met last fall — is tops in batting average.
Oh, and the 56-win Caps advanced to the Eastern Conference semis with a 1-0 win over Philly.
It’s enough to make me believe that over the weekend, every high school game played in D.C. just might have had two winners and no loser. Though I know that’s a bit optimistic.
Will the Wizards reach new heights under Brooks, who coached the Thunder’s Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden — now of the Rockets — to the 2012 NBA Finals? Will Norman push the Redskins’ defense — the NFL’s 25th stingiest against the pass in 2015 — into the league’s top half? Might the Nats and Caps make real noise in the playoffs this year?
The answer to all of these questions is, of course, that time will tell. But thinking about them — wondering if the answer to any of those will be “yes” — has me pretty excited for a Sunday night. And I don’t even watch hockey or particularly care for football.
Maybe my fandom, then, is of the bandwagon variety. I care about D.C. sports most when our teams make me care about them. And when there’s not much promise, I’m far from crushed.
Or maybe my readiness to care suggests something deeper, which is to say a real bond. Every day and every week, there’s a new bandwagon to join. But I don’t pay most of them any mind. A Washington team is another story. You bet I’ll root for the Wizards if they make the playoffs next year.
I didn’t grow up wearing a Ryan Zimmerman jersey or trying to juke like Clinton Portis. But I remember mimicking Arenas’ whacky free throw routine at least once, and my friends and I still joke about Nick Young and Javale McGee. I remember the excitement of the Nats’ first season in Washington, when they jumped out to a 52-36 record at the All-Star Break. And I remember admiring Jamison for his arsenal of jump hooks, push shots and leaners — his “old man” game.
I remember when Greivis Vasquez spoke at Chuck Driesell basketball camp and signed the back of my Rec Specs. And I remember all those mornings reading the Sports page, when I must have become a D.C. sports fan by degrees.