- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

It has come to this — the only thing worth anticipating for D.C. sports fans is the opening of the NHL season next week.

I’m not disparaging the Washington Capitals, but let’s face it: When the Caps are the only thing sports fans here can wrap their arms around without getting stuck by thorns in October, it’s not a good sign — not when Redskins season is in full swing.

Fans here should be thankful they have the Caps — an organization that everyone feels good about from the top down. Feeling good about the local sports teams these days is as rare as a Redskins touchdown.

The Caps, though, may be only a Band-Aid for the bumps and bruises suffered by D.C. sports fans, especially early in the NHL season, long before the Stanley Cup playoffs and the real interest begins to peak.

There is a lot of rage out there these days — witness the reaction by Redskins fans to last-man-on-the-roster Robert Henson’s Twitter comments criticizing the fans for booing at FedEx Field following Sunday’s 9-7 win over the worst team in football, the St. Louis Rams.

The rage, though, is yet another measure of the place the Redskins hold in this town compared with all other sports teams — even ones as warm and fuzzy as the Caps. It is a testament to the popularity of the franchise.

Let’s look at the baseball team. Is anyone looking at the baseball team?

The Washington Nationals are finishing yet another dismal losing season, this one likely worse than the 102-loss season fans suffered through last year (it’s rare you don’t see the word “suffer” or “suffering” when it comes to D.C. sports fans recently).

It’s a good thing they don’t have blackouts in baseball based on attendance, because the Nationals would never be on television (not that many people would notice; by the way, whatever happened to Bud Selig’s investigation into the woeful MASN viewership numbers last year for Nationals games?).

They are averaging 22,700 a game at Nationals Park this year, down almost 7,000 a game from last year. It is so bad that team president Stan Kasten never released the season-ticket sales for this year as he has done in the past. But it’s not hard to figure — based on some of the sparse crowds that have been in the ballpark and the attendance announced by the team — that the season-ticket base this year was around 12,000.

Will it drop to under 10,000 next year?

No one, save for a handful of die-hards, is particularly outraged about the woeful operation that put this franchise in this position. There should be someone, even if you believe they are finally digging their way out instead of digging deeper into the abyss the baseball team has fallen into. But there is no rage — only indifference.

When the Wizards won just 19 games last year, there was no rage - just empty seats, the symbol of indifference — at Verizon Center. And even if the Wizards manage to return to a level of respectable competition with the return of Gilbert Arenas from three knee surgeries and the addition of Mike Miller, Randy Foye and coach Flip Saunders — fans will be entertained. If the team stinks again, there will be no rage - only indifference.

The Redskins, though, we are reminded yet again, are a different story. With the team playing at a mediocre level for a number of years now, the fan base may have been unhappy but had enough good moments to anesthetize it. But just as we have seen the frenzy of joy the Redskins can create in this town during good times, we are now seeing the level of rage created by the perception that this team isn’t even capable anymore of providing enough good moments to soothe the savage fan.

The only thing fans could feel good about after Sunday’s game against the Rams was the 9-7 win, and that wasn’t enough based on the booing following the victory.

If you are a Redskins player, coach or owner — would you rather have fans in the seats booing or empty seats?

Indifference isn’t an option for Redskins fans — at least not yet. It may be someday as a coping device because it takes energy to be outraged.

But Redskins fans are not there yet. They still have enough passion left to express rage, which may reach a level we have never seen before if Jim Zorn and Co. find a way to lose to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

If that happens, remember — Caps season opens Oct. 1.

*Listen to “The Sports Fix,” co-hosted by Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, from noon to 2 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 980 or espn980.com.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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