WASHINGTON — Earlier than the NBA playoffs had begun, I requested somebody who works in Washington concerning the notion of the Toronto Raptors in america.
“Oh, everybody assumes the Raptors will lose,” got here the reply.
“Besides in D.C.. Everybody there assumes the Raptors will win.”
Which may sound like a line delivered for comedian impact, nevertheless it takes a sure form of constant dropping for a metropolis’s followers to maneuver previous nervous to fatalistic. Washington sports activities is properly previous that time. And with a few of the cities which have competed for the legendary title of Losertown having lately burst via to the opposite facet — Cleveland, Philadelphia, Houston — it’s america capital that may presently lay declare to being the saddest of the unhappy sacks.
As Raptors-Wizards turns to the Capital One Enviornment for Sport Three on Friday evening, the query is whether or not the guests from Canada can exploit a few of that angst.
Washington doesn’t instantly leap to thoughts when contemplating crushing sporting failure. It’s not Buffalo, the place the heartbreak occurred within the Stanley Cup closing and within the Tremendous Bowl(s). It’s not Cleveland, which till the triumphant return of LeBron James had been struck by so many playoff failures that had been uncommon sufficient to have iconic names: The Shot, The Drive, The Fumble. Additionally, whereas not technically a playoff failure: The Choice.
However whenever you begin poring over the collected whiffs and splats of the groups primarily based within the D.C. space, it doesn’t take lengthy earlier than you begin to surprise in case you are lacking one thing. Might all of this actually have occurred to the identical fan base? The factor about Washington’s groups isn’t that they fall flat on the large phases, it’s that they sputter and collapse simply earlier than getting there.
The Capitals are the relative success story: they made the Cup closing in 1998 and have been a playoff fixture within the years since. However they haven’t made it again to even the convention finals, and have made it so far as a Sport 7 within the convention semis 4 instances. The Caps are 0-Four in these video games. This 12 months, regardless of profitable their division once more, they began the playoffs with two straight time beyond regulation losses on house ice, though there was that candy video of the little blonde lady who was tremendous comfortable to lastly get a puck. The Capitals may but even their sequence with Columbus on Thursday evening, however contemplating that eight of their earlier 10 playoff video games have gone to time beyond regulation, one may forgive the group’s followers for skipping it and giving their hearts a relaxation.
The Redskins haven’t made an NFL convention closing since 1991, after which had a franchise quarterback who blew out his knee in a recreation wherein he in all probability shouldn’t have been taking part in, and if you wish to see all that as karma for the truth that the group has a racial slur as a nickname, then that’s nearly as good a proof as any. Truly, the primary clarification is that Dan Snyder is a horrible proprietor and a foul human. The second clarification is the racist-nickname karma.
The Nationals, a rattling high quality baseball group for a number of of the previous seasons, have made it to the NLDS 4 instances since 2012 and didn’t advance every time. Three of these losses got here in a deciding Sport 5 at house. In 2012 they blew a 6-Zero lead in Sport 5 and final fall that they had a three-run lead, after which a one-run lead within the fifth inning, with Max Scherzer coming in to nail it down — and gave up 4 runs in an inning that included 4 straight batters reaching base and not using a hit, and simply a kind of being an unintentional stroll.
The Wizards haven’t specialised in that form of anguish — they only haven’t made it to the convention finals for 40 years — however you possibly can see how they’re a part of the combo, a part of a legacy of failure at essential moments that has developed right into a fan base’s existential dread. Washington’s groups have had 12 photographs over these years in a recreation with a conference-final berth on the road. They’re 0-12.
That is the form of factor a visiting group can flip to its benefit. Ought to the Raptors soar on the Wizards early in Sport 3, there’s an excellent likelihood they may flip the Washington crowd right into a sea of nervous murmuring, as has sometimes occurred to the Air Canada Centre in latest playoff years. If it doesn’t take the Wiz crowd lengthy to imagine the worst, I imply, may you blame them?
I do recall, although, writing one thing related concerning the mindset of the Cleveland fan, having touched down there for the East finals two years in the past. A few weeks later, Cleveland was town of champions.
Washington’s followers will in all probability preserve such concepts to themselves, not less than for now.
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