11 December 2006

An Open Letter to Fans of the Washington Capitals

Dear Caps Fans,

I understand that some of you were annoyed by the presence of DC United fans at the recent Mighty Ducks - Caps game. Some of you think that we were disrespectful to the game. Some of you feel that our attempt to import some of the rich supporter's culture of DC United, and soccer as a game, was out of place in the hockey environment at the Verizon Center. I can understand, and to a degree, sympathisize with your position. But I ask you not to write it off as a failed experiment just yet.

When I started as a Caps fan, I thought #3 Scott Stevens was the greatest player ever. I was a fan when the Caps scoring five goals elicited a chant of "Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!" And through all that time, from when I was about seven onwards, it was generally acknowledged that it was somewhat embarassing when Flyers, Islanders, or Rangers fans could come into the Caps Center and outcheer the home team. To be fair, Caps fans had the look of a habitually beaten dog. The Caps consistently made the playoffs and couldn't get out of the Patrick division. Games had a constant overtone of "How will we lose the Penguins in the playoffs this year?" There wasn't much enthusiasm for anything that happened during your typical regular season game.

Things started to change in the late 90s. We followed our team through a Stanley Cup run. We got new ownership that made me feel like the team wasn't always an afterthought for the Bullets. We signed Jagr, and thought that a line with Bondra and Jaromir could spell intense trouble for everyone. For once I approached a Capitals preseason with hope instead of apprehension. Only it didn't happen, and the collapse was acknowledged and well documented. The tiny stirrings of hope were extinguished as players were traded, left, and accusations over the management of the team and the league grew more and more bitter.

Last year the Capitals signed Alexander Ovechkin, and as he proved to be everything that was promised and more, there seemed to be a sense, for the first time in over six years, that rooting for this team was not a waste of emotional intensity. The product on the ice is not only worth watching, it is worth cheering for, it is worth being excited about.

As soccer fans, perhaps the one thing we can understand is bringing enthusiasm to the game. We are not completley ignorant of hockey or the Caps. If anything, we are perhaps too aware of the defeatist mentality that characterizes Capitals fandom. All we want is to bring some of our enthusiasm and spirit, honed around the various soccer stadiums of the United States and the world, to the Verizon Center. This is not to say that I think that the soccer fandom way translates perfectly to the rink. We may have to fine tune some traditions, pick our spots better, and customize more of the chants. I'll admit that it would be a work in progress. But give it a chance, eh? For so long it feels like the only unique Capitals tradition was flaming out in the Conference Semis or Patrick Division finals, let's try and create a new one. One that brings some unique feel to the Verizon Center. We'll work with you, and I ask you to work with us. Give us a chance before you run us off.

All that being said, cutting down on the booze is a non-starter. Other things (and I'll leave that to the various elders and presidents of the supporter's groups) may be negotiable, but that's sacrosanct.

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At 12 December, 2006 17:37, Blogger scaryice said...

They're idiots. Don't apologize for anyone.

At 12 December, 2006 21:12, Blogger DCSportsChick said...

I agree. "I wish they'd be quiet so I could hear the announcers and the organ?" What the hell is that? Who goes to a sporting event to hear some guy make announcements or listen to organ music? You go to cheer on your team, plain and simple. If these people are incapable of that, it's their fault.


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