- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 16, 2015


General Patton stops at the bed in the hospital and sees a Washington sports fan shaking and crying.

“What’s the matter with you?” he asks.

The fan answers, “I guess I can’t take it, sir.”

“What did you say?” Patton asks.

“It’s the disappointment, sir. I just can’t stand the losing anymore.”

“Losing?” Patton yells, outraged. “Hell, you’re just a coward.”

The fan starts sniveling, and Patton slaps him.

“Shut up,” Patton screams at the fan.

“Take him back to the arena,” Patton tells the doctors. “You hear me? You coward!”

Washington sports fans may need a good slap across the face — but they won’t get it from me.

If I were a Washington sports fan, I’d be right there in the hospital with you, sniveling and crying. Heck, I wouldn’t be sitting on the bed. I’d be under the bed.

Some Capitals fans decided to stay under the bed Wednesday night rather than show up for game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the New York Islanders and suffer the disappointment of the 4-1 loss ­— just like some Wizards fans did last year during the team’s first NBA playoff series in six years.

Heck, the Wizards didn’t even bother to compete for home-court advantage in the final days of the regular season.

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was asked if “nerves” could explain his team’s lackluster play Wednesday night.

“First game, first couple of minutes, but when you’re down there, you don’t think about that too much,” Backstrom said. “It’s just Game 1, and we didn’t play good today, and we obviously have to play better. We’re going to be better on Friday.”

The promise of another day isn’t cutting it any more in Washington.

Nerves may not have bothered Backstrom, but it likely contributed to those empty seats throughout the Verizon Center when the puck dropped ­— and those brave souls who did come weren’t exactly gung-ho.

The lack of energy stood out because Capitals home crowds have become the best in town. “Rock the Red” at the Verizon Center has been the best live experience in Washington. But it was hardly electric Wednesday night ­— which is perfectly reasonable.

It goes beyond the Capitals’ repeated early exits in postseasons past in the Alex Ovechkin era. This isn’t just a Capitals thing.

It is the decades of mediocrity and embarrassment from the basketball team. It’s the shame of showing up at FedEx Field Sunday after Sunday, only to leave drunk and disappointed.

It’s gotten so bad that people aren’t happy with the baseball team that has won two division titles in three years. The baseball team is paying the price for all those Capitals first- and second-round playoff exits.

Disappointment is the norm, and Washington sports fans have battle fatigue, fighting what has been a two-decade war — the last time the Washington Redskins won a Super Bowl.

It is this mothership — the Redskins — that has done the most damage.

The football team sets the tone in this town, and its success can calm the frayed nerves of the other fan bases. While the Wizards and Capitals wallowed in the mediocrity pool in the 1980s — and the District was without baseball — it was the Redskins’ Super Bowls that eased the pain.

When the championships stopped at Redskins Park, no other franchise stepped in to pick up the slack, and it has been one losing battle after another since.
It’s not just the lack of titles — it’s the lack of playoff competition, which the Capitals showed plenty of Wednesday night in their loss to the Islanders. And it’s not just the emotional scars that Washington sports fans carry with them, year after year, from one team to another.

It’s the money.

If you’ve been a good, loyal, fearless Washington sports fan over the title drought — purchasing two season tickets every year for the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals and Nationals — you’ve probably spent at least $500,000 on tickets alone since the last time you got the return of a championship.

That’s a big investment in losing ­— and a hefty slap in the face.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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

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