Capitals During Wartime: On Negativity

[Ed. note: This is our third article about the Washington Capitals before the trade deadline. Part I discussed the center position, and Part II compared the Caps home and away.]

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.

  • http://twitter.com/kat326 Rachel Cohen

    I’m an optimist. I always think everything will work out in the end, just like you said. Something rad is always on the horizon.. :) ((But if things go wrong, I treat it like a work of art: Don’t just spew mean negativity, make it constructive!!)) When the Caps aren’t doing so hot, they need our support more then any other time!!!

    Peter, you have my sword, er… I mean, Pencil.

    ….And my bow/inks

    …..And my Axe/Paint!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/chukwukamso Jack Barry

    The only thing that could make this better:

  • Peter

    hahaha

  • Peter

    Thanks, Rachel.

  • Cjw245

    I’d rather your report about the specifics of why they are doing poorly than lie and say they are doing great and dancing with unicorns.  Keep up the good reads!  I read almost every day :thumbsup:

  • Knuble’s Knights

    There’s something truly magical about watching Ron Swanson dance to that song.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1262029985 Alison Latimer

    Yeah, we’re cool. 

  • Blueliner34

    It was more than distracting trying to read your blog with the stupid gifs jumping all around the page.

  • Jay4811

    I challenge someone to come up with a Caps version of this, the greatest speech ever given when the chips are down.  Apologies to Will Shakespeare in advance:

    What’s he that wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland?
    No, my fair cousin; If we are mark’d to die, we are
    enow To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold, Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
    It yearns me not if men my garments wear; Such
    outward things dwell not in my desires. But if it
    be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending
    soul alive. No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from
    England. God’s peace! I would not lose so great an
    honour As one man more methinks would share from
    me For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one
    more! Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my
    host, That he which hath no stomach to this
    fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be
    made, And crowns for convoy put into his
    purse; We would not die in that man’s
    company That fears his fellowship to die with
    us. This day is call’d the feast of
    Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe
    home, Will stand a tip-toe when this day is
    nam’d, And rouse him at the name of
    Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old
    age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his
    neighbours, And say ‘To-morrow is Saint
    Crispian.’ Then will he strip his sleeve and show
    his scars, And say ‘These wounds I had on
    Crispian’s day.’ Old men forget; yet all shall be
    forgot, But he’ll remember, with advantages,
    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words- Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester- Be in
    their flowing cups freshly rememb’red. This story
    shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin
    Crispian shall ne’er go by, From this day to the
    ending of the world, But we in it shall be
    remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of
    brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with
    me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

  • Peter

    No apologies

  • Peter

    I had to analyze that in a debate and rhetoric class once. Rough stuff.

  • Ana

    Brooks Laich has returned from the dead. Peter is playing Drive-By Truckers on the ukelele. If you are still able to be unhappy today you have got a problem. Go Caps.

  • madscwt

    Perspective and hope — we few, we (formally) happy few . . .

  • Pattyo

    We shall never abandon our team. I may get really upset, but ill never give up supporting them.

  • Sentientcheese

     Working on it. gimme like a couple days… or a couple brews, I’ll get there.

  • Probbio

    hehehe

  • Probbio

    Took me awhile to finally make the time to read this series.  Great work Peter.  Covered it all.  Stats, style, attitude, and fan reaction.

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