Saturday, April 28, 2012


Talk about your love-hate relationship. My city is a place to which Americans flock, especially during their high school years. They eat up our monuments, museums, and especially that one regal mansion known only by the color of its paint. Then again, every four years, my city is also subjected to public ridicule. It becomes associated with gutless politicians, mindless bureaucrats, and soulless lobbyists. In fact, it’s one of the truest paradoxes in American politics that if you’re a prospective statesman who wants to live in Washington, you’ve got to run against it. The fact is that candidates aspiring to national office can’t possibly vilify the city enough. Willard “Mitt” Romney is taking that lesson to the next level – he’s promising not only to change the way we Feds do things but also to dock our pay … and that’s on top of President Obama’s decision to deny us a cost-of-living increase. Call it threatening to add injury to insult. It’s still likely to play well outside the Beltway.

By all the usual measures, this being an election year, Washingtonians should be suitably indignant of the treatment we’re getting by politicians. But this year, we don’t care. You see, this Company Town has suddenly forgotten that we’re supposed to be all politics, all the time. We’ve turned our attention to a different sphere of existence, one that in the last couple of decades has been even more depressing.

Let me give you a hint: they used to say that Washington is “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” But at least back then, we had a major league baseball team. The Washington Senators moved out when I was a kid (not once but twice), and for most of my life, we Washingtonians were forced to drive up I-95 to watch games in Baltimore. As for professional football, the insensitively named “Redskins” were good for a while, but they’ve spent nearly the last 20 years in one giant funk – in fact, they’ve been so bad that most Washingtonians have started to care more about the Baltimore football team than their own. Then there’s the basketball team, the one formerly known as the Bullets. They were good in the late 70s, but have been horrid ever since. So finally, figuring that the city has only enough room for one perpetually horrid franchise with a politically incorrect name, the basketball team changed its name to the Wizards. They figured that name would be less offensive to the legions of Washingtonians who have lost family members to gun violence. Unfortunately, the product on the court is every bit as horrible as the Bullets; Wizards, they’re not.

And then there’s the Capitals. They’re the real champs of this city of losers – precisely because they’ve NEVER won a championship. In recent years, the Caps have taken to teasing the locals by having a great regular season, and then losing in the first round of the playoffs. It is just the latest, and not necessarily most creative, way that the franchise has found to break the hearts of its fans. Personally, my favorite was the so-called “Easter Epic” of 1987, when the Capitals hosted a game 7 against the Islanders on a Saturday evening, but the game didn’t end until well into Easter morning when, finally, the fates decided that the Capitals and their fans can do what the franchise – and the city – does best: lose. Everyone knew it was coming. They just didn’t expect it to take a record FOUR overtimes.

But that was then, this is now.

With all due respect to Mel Brooks, Springtime for Hitler and Germany is so five minutes ago. Today, its Springtime for Washington D.C., and Winter for any demagogue who dares to take the city on. There’s a different mo-jo in this town. I can just feel it.

Open up your newspaper – assuming you still know what a newspaper is – and you’ll see that atop the National League East standings are the Washington Nationals. That’s right, the team we were finally given a few years ago after all those decades in the wilderness (and on I-95), only to watch them lose over and over again, has started this season with a 14-6 record. The Nationals, armed with one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, are tied for the best record in the National League.

As for football, Washington is afflicted with RGIII fever, an illness attributed to the uber-infatuation with this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin the Third. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s agile, he’s accurate, he’s articulate, he’s respectful, he’s a winner. It’s hard to imagine how the schmuck that owns that franchise lucked into this guy, but however it happened, the Redskins are relevant again.

Even more than baseball and football, though, the sport that truly has this city abuzz is hockey. The Capitals just played a seven game series in which no game was decided by more than one goal. Believe it or not, that has never happened before. But what is truly unbelievable is that the Capitals actually won. Let me repeat that – the Capitals won. They were the team that was outshot, and yet they came out on top when it comes to goals. It’s precisely the opposite of the way things are supposed to work when that franchise takes the ice. But like I said, something is different this year in Washington.

Do I attribute this change of fortune to divine intervention? I thought about that possibility, but in the end I had to reject it. If the Wizards were no longer awful, I might actually suspect conscious tampering from the heavens, but they’re still rancid. Truly, some things never change. Anyway, I have decided to attribute all the good fortunes of the Caps, Nationals and Redskins to natural forces. Still, whatever the cause, nobody here can doubt the effects. Somehow, Washington no longer means “Loserville” when it comes to sports. Will that somehow influence the dynamics of the city’s favorite sport of all, Spectator Politics? That I don’t know. But the Mittster might at least want to note these developments if he considers doubling down on his proposals for a federal pay cut.

Watch out Willard. We Washingtonians have the Big Mo on our side. You mess with our pay, and we’ll do to your chances what the Caps just did to your Bruins.

Well, I’m assuming he’s a Bruins fan. Surely, he must be friends with the team’s owner.

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