- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2016


Major League Baseball’s Minister of Fun Bryce Harper received the keys to the city of Washington before the Washington Nationals’ home opener on Thursday and that’s no small trinket.

The last time the city gave the keys to a star athlete was eight years ago, when Alex Ovechkin stood on the steps of the Wilson Building downtown and declared, “Today I got the key to the city, and today I am president of the city. So there will be no speeding tickets in the city today because there is no speed limit.”

Harper invoked no such anarchy when presented with the keys by Mayor Muriel Bowser. He could have, though, and it might have been declared law. It is Harper’s city now, and may be for however long he decides to call Washington his home.

The presentation as part of a pregame BryceFest of sorts, which pleased the hometown crowd at Nationals Park that was getting its first chance to welcome home its Most Valuable Player.

He was also presented with his National League MVP and Silver Slugger awards by general manager Mike Rizzo. It was again reminiscent of that June 2008 day in the city, when Ovechkin’s four trophies from that year — the Hart Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award, which is given to the most outstanding player in the league as voted on by his peers, and the Art Ross and Maurice Richard trophies for leading the league in points and goals — were on the steps of the Wilson Building.

The crowd outside it chanted, “MVP, MVP,” as the crowd did Thursday at Nationals Park for Harper.

“I think looking back on it, it was definitely something that I’ll cherish,” Harper said before the presentation. “It’s a new year and I’m excited to get back get going and looking forward to a new year.”

Things looked bright looking forward on that day at the Wilson Building. Visions of Stanley Cups were dancing in the heads of Washington sports fans. It was the beginning of the Alex Ovechkin era.

Then-D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray praised Ovechkin as a “man who has raised hockey to a new level in the District of Columbia.”

But eight years since then-mayor Adrian Fenty presented Ovechkin with the keys to the city, those keys have yet to unlock a championship. The promise still remains, with Ovechkin tied to the city with a long-term contract and a team this year that is considered the Stanley Cup favorites.

The Harper era, though, as we have been reminded by the Minister of Fun, has a time limit. “I’ve got three years to do everything I can to play this game,” Harper told reporters this spring, speaking of the time when Harper can become a free agent and seek the keys to whatever city he chooses.

The city doesn’t give these keys to anyone. In March 1969, they must have had a few duplicates lying around, as then Mayor Walter Washington presented the keys to the city to both new Redskins coach Vince Lombardi and new Senators manager Ted Williams before either had ever coached or managed a game for a team in the city.

I’m not sure of the pecking order of municipal honors, but I would think the keys to the city trump a City Council resolution — especially given the randomness of those honors.

Two years ago, the D.C. Council honored Robert Griffin III with a ceremonial resolution for his 2012 offensive rookie of the year award, two years after that season. What resulted from that was the City Council’s decision to use officially denounce the name “Redskins” and begin using the name “Washington National Football League team” in all future official references.

“The Council of the District of Columbia recognizes and honors Robert Griffin III and his family for their commitment to the Washington NFL team and to the District of Columbia,” the resolution stated.

I wonder if the Griffins took that resolution with them to Cleveland. Again, it’s not like getting the keys to the city.

Those belong to Harper, the new Prince of the City.

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

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide