Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Heart the Caps

It’s funny, I was just about to fire off a nasty e-mail to all of my blogger playoff pool participants who have yet to pay up...when I realized I hadn’t even written my love letter to the Caps. Oops. Now some would say that this entire blog is a giant love letter to the Caps sprayed with perfume and sealed with a kiss, and should therefore serve as adequate payment for falling short in my own pool. I’m guessing those people aren’t among the others who are stuck writing schmaltzy stuff about a team they pay little or no attention to...so here goes.

I was born into this crazy, mixed-up world of Caps fanaticism, a product of a hockey-mad father whose devotion to this team of ne’er-do-wells is practically etched in the annals of Washington sports history. Legend has it that while in the womb I kicked to the strains of “Let’s Go Caps”; that I was born already wearing a tiny Caps jersey; that my first words were “what the Caps really need is a good scoring-line center”...

...but I digress.

It’s not just a product of my raising that has me writing innocuous rants about a hockey team at two in the morning – after all, my younger sister hasn't known a player's name since Joe Reekie wore the eagle and my older sister, while a thoroughly passionate Caps fan in her own right, still maintains some semblance of normalcy in her fandom. It is that normalcy, that sanity, that seems to have skipped over me altogether and left me to pour out my hockey-related hopes and dreams here day after day amid the indifferent masses of our nation’s capital.

Washington, DC is not a traditional sports town. You have in this city of roughly 600,000 people residents from up and down the east coast, across the country, around the world (and approximately 95% of the city of Pittsburgh). With that transience comes a lack of unity, particularly when it comes to sports. To be a product of the DC area is a rarity; to be a lifelong fan of a local sports team, even more so. Throw in hockey fan to that equation and you might as well be one of those stuffed dodo birds at the Smithsonian.

It’s never fazed me, though. Sure, I get the funny looks and I’ve heard the knee-slappers about going to a boxing match and seeing a hockey game break out (ha...ha.). But it doesn’t matter. Because something about this team has gotten under my skin. I don’t just mean this particular crop of youngsters who will skate out onto the ice in their shiny new threads come October; I mean the entire team – the history, the heartache, the hope, all of it. I can’t shake it, and I have no desire to do so.

My earliest memories are of Rod Langway, Scott Stevens, Mike Ridley, Mike Gartner, and Bengt Gustafsson; of white pom-poms with plastic handles and organ music; of pizza goals and the Patrick Division. Of playoff hopes and playoff losses. Of lying on my stomach in front of the TV, watching in awe as my team took the ice, knowing that they couldn’t lose while I watched...no matter how many times they did.

There is something special about a franchise that can frustrate you to the point of tearing out your hair then in one fell swoop suck you right back in again. It is an indefinable quality that brings us back year after year, but “it” is there. It’s how the team survived those disastrous first few years of existence. It’s how they fill the arena on opening day despite the heartbreaking end to the previous season just a few months before. It is the downfall of a team one year, only to see it reawakened by an influx of youth and vitality the next; the departure of one superstar only to see him replaced with a brighter one.

These days it isn’t easy to be a Caps fan. There’s a lot of hurry up and wait, a lot of rebuilding and evolution and growth, a lot of talk about the future when all we want is to see the present. There are promises being made and expectations being set – and whether those expectations are realized remains to be seen. We won’t know the outcome until the puck drops in the fall, or until the final whistle blows to signal the end of another season.

But when is it ever easy to be a Caps fan? That’s not why we love this team. If we wanted to pick a winner, we’d have jumped on the Red Wings bandwagon, ridden the coattails of the Hurricanes, flown in a ‘V’ with the Ducks...but we didn’t.

Instead we stand by our team, fully aware that someday our ship will come in and victory will be that much sweeter because we earned it. We enter each year with collective amnesia, forgetting the horrors we have witnessed in the past and approaching a new season with the bright eyes of an eternal optimist. We revel in the veteran leadership of Olie Kolzig and Chris Clark, in the grit and work ethic of Matt Pettinger and Brian Sutherby, in the skill and youthful exuberance of Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin...and in the future hopes of Niklas Backstrom and Karl Alzner.

And we wait for another year to begin.

5 comments:

Victor said...

Should've known you'd remember the Pizza Goal. I like to chant, "PIZZA! PIZZA! PIZZA!" on the rare occassions when the Caps score 5, just to get a reaction from Nic...or her mom...

But I *really* miss the Hooter's chicken wings when the Caps scored on their first PP opportunity.

Gustafsson said...

"Now some would say that this entire blog is a giant love letter to the Caps sprayed with perfume and sealed with a kiss, and should therefore serve as adequate payment for falling short in my own pool."

That's exactly the view pucksandbooks and I are taking. ;-)

CapsChick said...

Ah, pizza goals - we had many a dinner at Jerry's Subs and Pizza, that's for sure. And I don't remember the Hooter's coupon but now it makes perfect sense - my dad used to take us there all the time. That must have been why...

Gustafsson: I figured I should at least write one since I masterminded this whole thing...I suppose I can let you boys slide, though :)

Victor said...

BOOOO! DON'T LET 'EM SLIDE!!!

They knew what they were getting into!

Shelby said...

It brings a tear to my eye. I may be young, but I've loved this team as long as I can remember. I have a clear picture in my mind of being a little kid at games, loving to cheer but, with the attention span of a squirrel, doing as much people watching as puck watching. Then came the lockout, reminding me of what I had been taking advantage of.

Good job capturing what makes the Caps the best (and worst) team to be a fan of!