The best golfers in the world are coming here this week to knock the dimpled ball around at Congressional. At stake, assuming they don't get swallowed up by the tall grass, is the U.S. Open golf championship. It's a fairly big deal.
It's also a reminder that we haven't hosted nearly enough of these Fairly Big Deals in recent years. Let's face it, the past two decades have been awfully quiet - much quieter than the two that preceded them. I mean, look at Dallas ... if you can bear to. In the past ninth months, the city (and its environs) has been the site of the World Series, the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals. Washington, on the other hand, hasn't seen the Series since 1933 and, unless Dan Snyder puts a lid on FedEx Field, it'll probably never see a Super Bowl. D.C. has become, basically, the place winning teams visit when they're feted at the White House.
Since 1992, the last season of Joe Gibbs' first stint with the Redskins, these, more or less, have been the biggest sports events to be staged in our metropolis:
• 1 Stanley Cup Final (1998). The Capitals were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
• 1 Wizards second-round playoff series (2005). They were swept by the Miami Heat.
• 1 Redskins playoff game (1999 season). Hey, at least they won it - 27-13 over the Detroit Lions.
• 2 U.S. Opens (1997, 2011).
• 1 NBA All-Star Game (2001).
• 1 ACC men's basketball tournament (2005).
• 1 men's Frozen Four (2009).
• 1 Davis Cup semifinal (1997). U.S. (featuring Pete Sampras) 4, Australia (featuring Patrick Rafter) 1.
• 2 prize fights of any consequence - Riddick Bowe's two-round demolition of Jesse Ferguson for the WBA heavyweight title (1993) and Mike Tyson's sayonara bout against Kevin McBride in 2005. (McBride TKO'd him in the sixth.)
• George Mason's upset of Connecticut in the Elite Eight of the NCAA basketball tourney (2006).
• Assorted soccer snacks - 5 games in the 1994 World Cup (none involving the U.S.), 9 games in the '96 Olympics (only one involving the U.S.) and three MLS Cup games (only one involving D.C. United).
That's it, folks. For big-event thrills, that's been the extent of our entertainment. A lot of it, of course, is that our teams haven't been very good. To play in the most important games, you have to make the playoffs first. Even when one of our teams has been good, though - like Maryland's NCAA champion hoops team in 2002 - it's tended to play its biggest games elsewhere (Syracuse, N.Y., and Atlanta). What a bummer.
It wouldn't be so bad if the previous two decades hadn't been so good. How good? This good:
• 5 NFC title games (1972, '82, '83, '87, '91 seasons). The Redskins won them all.
• 3 NBA Finals (1975, '78, 79). The Bullets took the middle one.
• 3 ACC men's basketball tournaments (1976, '81 '87).
• 2 championship fights, Muhammad Ali starring in the first (vs. Jimmy Young in 1976), Sugar Ray Leonard in the second (vs. Dave Green in '80).
• 1 NHL conference final (1990). The Capitals were swept by the Bruins.
• 1 NBA All-Star Game (1980).
• 1 NHL All-Star Game (1982). (We're still waiting for the second.)
• 1 PGA Championship (1976).
• 1 North American Soccer League title game (the 1980 Soccer Bowl between the New York Cosmos and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers).
On top of this, a baseball fan, if he shifted his allegiance to the Baltimore Orioles after the Senators left town, could have partaken of two World Series (1979, '83).
Yes, times were very good for ticket scalpers in those years. It would be nice to think they could be that good again, after the worm is done turning. It would be nice to think folks will have something to celebrate in the seasons ahead on those party decks the Redskins are installing at FedEx Field. It would be nice to think the Capitals could get past the second round of the playoffs, and that the Wizards and Nationals, when they're done with their renovations, might get to experience the bright lights.
But for the moment there's the U.S. Open, the golf championship of our country, and we're darn glad to have it. This is the fourth time the event has been held here (counting the 1921 Open at Columbia Country Club) - the fourth and counting, hopefully.
A small request: Would it be too much to ask that something memorable happens, something dramatic, perhaps, on the final day? This, after all, is Washington, D.C. Stuff like this doesn't come along very often, not like it used to.
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