There was no better time in recent years to be a sports fan in the D.C. area than in 2012. Robert Griffin III went from Heisman Trophy winner to the ultimate risk by Mike Shanahan to one of the NFL's most electric players. The Nationals proved they deserved a place among the National League's elite and will be favorites next year for the postseason and, potentially, a World Series.
But that doesn't mean there weren't down times and troubling undercurrents that have been equal to the usual feast or famine involving the Redskins.
It has reached the point where the only place in Chinatown that isn't vibrant and full of life is Verizon Center. Thanks to Andray Blatche, who was so out of shape and unliked that he couldn't set foot on the court, and JaVale McGee, who was more sideshow than basketball player, the Wizards were the laughing stock of the NBA during its condensed 2011-12 season. This fall, instead of being funny, they simply have been losers. The team is as far from respectability and the playoffs as it has been in the last four years. Yet owner Ted Leonsis has kept his faith in team president Ernie Grunfeld, whose record in charge of the Wizards as of Christmas was 287-460.
D.C. United's stirring run to the playoffs won't be easy to duplicate, and it was a reminder that time is running out at crumbling and outdated RFK Stadium. United's front-office turnover after the season was proof that even its new owners think it lags behind the pace in growing MLS.
The Capitals have carried the local sports scene for five years. They have made the playoffs every year, won four Southeast Division titles and played epic games in front of frenzied, sellout crowds. But can they keep that momentum going in the face of an ongoing NHL lockout? If a new collective bargaining agreement isn't signed within the next three weeks, the season is in jeopardy. Given the breakthrough success of the Nats and the Redskins, will hockey continue the explosive growth it has seen in this area? And that's a worry even before we see how the Caps actually look on the ice under new coach Adam Oates.
- Craig Stouffer and Brian McNally