Way back when Ian first blackmailed me into writing about the Capitals everyday, it was easy. The Caps were on the way to their best ever season, a copious and capacious 121-point campaign that was chock-full of nutritious, whole-grain scoarmoargoals. My job was basically to regurgitate some boxcar stats, writing something defamatory about the other team, and think of escalatingly ridiculous metaphors for the Caps’ awesomesauce.
It was terrific, but that’s over now.
I’m not gonna get into it, but I think we can agree that Capitals are having trouble this season– even if we differ about the precise degree of that trouble. And while there are many varied and valid ways to express our disappointment with the team, my endeavor is to be as sober and honest about the Capitals’ struggles as I had been drunken and boastful about their victories. Is that bumming you out?
Let’s start with common ground: we’re all fans. I know you’re an I-bleed-red Caps fanatic because you took time out of your busy day collating project plans and delivering deliverables to read this silly little blog post. You know that I’m a radicalized Caps psycho because I’ve written, edited. and proofed thousands of words about the team and because of that futile Matt Bradley vigil from last summer.
You and me? We’re kindred. Compatriots. Homies. We cheered for game four at MSG and the snowpocalyse and Perry’s hat trick, and we wept when Chris Clark got traded and Wides’ leg got split open like an over-ripe melon and when Sasha’s necklace broke. Any difference in opinion we may have about the present tense is just a little spat between siblings. Are we cool?
My personal mission statement for writing about hockey (beyond beating Japers Rink to publish game recaps) was to make the game as fun to read about as it was to watch. Now that watching hockey is somewhat less fun, I’m finding other reasons to write. Namely, to discover exactly why it was fun before and how our team can get back there.
Yeah, that means I point out how and when our boys play poorly. Addressing these problems– especially the systemic ones– without sentimentality or intellectual dishonesty is a moral imperative for hockey writing that I just made up just now. While that means my recaps are not as spaced-out and cartoony as they had been, I think they’re serving a purpose nonetheless.
The more we know about our team’s trouble, the more we know about our salvation. And if we pay close attention, we’ll see the beginning of that salvation before anyone else does. We’ll cheer louder for the players leading the charge and watch with rapt attention the ones on the cusp of turning it around– because we know what’s going on.
I don’t report sad stats because I’m a pessimist. I know it’s hard and unfair to judge intentions in other people, so here’s my solemn assurance the facts are objectively gnarly. Building a narrative around facts isn’t the same as letting an agenda dictate the story, although it is seductive to confuse the two. I’m not here clamoring for traffic, shouting fire in a crowded theater, or doing anything devious except looking for new ways to illuminate a mysterious and disappointing season.
And it’s not like we’re going to despair. Never that. The trend lines may head downward, but there is hope for this team. Of all the people I know who predict a gloomy spring for the Caps, none lacks something to which he looks forward. Whether it’s the looming advent of Evgeny Kuznetsov, the promise of an busy trade deadline by George McPhee, or the ever-increasing health of Nick Backstrom and Mike Green, there is always something rad on the horizon.
I resolve to do a better job of keeping these in perspective.
Because, eventually, this team is going to be on top again. I’m asking you to stick with them– and with us– until they do. When we all emerge from this long dark night together, the other side will be even brighter. That’s when RMNB will return to the gleeful, caffeine-adled, bleeding edge of sanity that we surfed until you found us in the first place.
In the meantime, we’re going to continue this brutal mirror staredown. But never without humor and never without hope.
When the Caps got blown out 7-0 by the Rangers in December of 2010, we initiated the Panic Protocol– an emergency policy that required a site redesign and the excommunication of all redheaded people from Facebook. It was a lark, as you all figured out eventually, but it had some meaning in that moment.
In that article, I used a song by Drive-By Truckers, “Gravity’s Gone”, to explain the seeming hopelessness of the Caps’ situation. To play us out, here’s me on the ukelele while the bulldog snores beside me.
Crash the net.
Thanks to Ana Hansen for her advice and pathological cheerfulness on this topic.