Continued from page 1

Aside from his work with the Mystics, Mikhail says he pays little attention to sports. He attends the majority of Caps home games but is far from passionate about the sport that has transformed his baby brother into a worldwide celebrity.

When asked to name his favorite team, he stares blankly at the floor.

“I like the Detroit Red Wings,” he says finally, sans enthusiasm. “‘Cause they win everything.”

He says he never has been competitive - not during the soccer matches and dodgeball games he played with Alex as a small child, not in youth league basketball during grade school, not during a brief experiment with water polo at age 10. Sometime during early adolescence, he approached Tatiana and his father, Mikhail, a professional soccer player, and told them he was finished with organized sports.

“I regret it a little bit,” says Mikhail, who claims he beats his brother in “about half” of the one-on-one hoops contests they play occasionally. “Sometimes I wished I played.”

He has watched his brother’s rise to fame with wonder. He was by Alex’s side in Raleigh, N.C., the day Washington took him with the first pick in the 2004 draft. He was watching on TV from the house in Arlington when Alex scored “The Goal” against the Phoenix Coyotes a year and a half later. He enjoyed the fruits of Alex’s labor when he came to keep his brother company in 2005 - living in the Arlington mansion, traveling to Dallas for the NHL All-Star Game, hobnobbing with Russian celebrities in France on the set of a reality TV show Alex starred in. But aside from the occasional trip to a nightclub, he rarely ventures out anymore with his brother.

Mikhail spends his free time with his girlfriend, Lauren, whom he doesn’t like to talk about. He likes watching movies, but he has no particular favorites. He won’t speak about what kind of books he likes to read or video games he enjoys. He can’t name a favorite food or color. Given his reticent manner, it would be easy to paint Mikhail Ovechkin as a bitter man, brooding and covetous. But this is no Fredo-and-Michael Corleone drama. Mikhail says he never once has been envious of his brother.

“Why would I?” he says, his voice rising from a quiet monotone, emotion appearing on his face for the first time. “Jealousy is bad thing. I am happy for him. This is his dream.”

No, this is simply a story of two different men, leading separate lives.

“He’s much more reserved than Alex,” says Caps director of media relations Nate Ewell, who knows both brothers personally. “They are extremely close though.”

Says Mikhail: “I’m more calm. He’s more emotional.”

He watches on his laptop as the Mystics fall in a close game. He doesn’t speak or change expression as he stops the tape, grabs his Marlboros and heads for the door. It is 9 p.m., but he still has at least another two hours of splicing video ahead of him. He will be back early the next morning.

He begins his hasty ascent to the street - through the narrow hallways, past the gleaming Caps logos, the banners, the jerseys. Aside from a few nods and waves from fellow Mystics employees, he exits Verizon incognito. In the coming weeks, Alex will travel back to Russia for the offseason. Mikhail will spend the summer in the District, a world away from his little brother and - as he is on his cigarette breaks, on his trips through Verizon, at work in his office - alone.

“I am happy for him,” Alex says. “I hope he don’t stop and keeps moving forward. I told him he can do whatever he wants.”