Caps’ title could bode well for other D.C. teams

In the 1970’s, Pittsburgh sports fans began to refer to their home as the “City of Champions.” The Pirates won the World Series twice in that decade. The Steelers amassed a whopping four Super Bowls during a six-year span. That’s a whole lot of hardware going back to the Steel City.

The City of Champions moniker, while not as commonly used in recent years, was still accepted as a means of referring to Pittsburgh. More recently, that title was stolen by another city in Pennsylvania. After seeing the Eagles reach the pinnacle of the NFL world by capturing a Super Bowl title, and then doubling down with an NCAA basketball title by Villanova, Philadelphia became the new City of Champions.

While Philly sports fans have been basking in the glory of their recent success, it should be noted that there was a long drought between titles in the City of Brotherly Love. The so-called curse of William Penn haunted the city for a long time before Carson Wentz, Nick Foles & Co. were finally able to overcome it. With Philly’s curse now a thing of the past, sports fans can look for the next big story.

The Washington Capitals provided us with a huge story last week as they ended a championship drought for The District. And they also may have overcome a curse of their own in the process.

The Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1992 but haven’t competed for a title since. The Bullets, uh I mean Wizards, haven’t really been relevant since MJ was in town. And while Jordan may have made them relevant, he didn’t make them competitive. Sure, John Wall and Bradley Beal have led to some modicum of regular season success, but they are not viewed as a threat to win a championship.

The Nationals have been the cream of the crop in the National League East, having won three of the last four divisional titles. They have several of the games preeminent stars (see Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer). Yet for whatever reason, they haven’t been able to advance to a National League Championship Series having lost in the NLDS to the Giants, Dodger and Cubs. It may not have a catchy name like “The Curse of the Billy Goat,” but it certainly feels like there’s something in the water around Nats Park that has kept them reaching the top of the mountain.

The Nationals have become known as a great regular season team that comes up short when it matters the most. The story of the Washington Capitals had been eerily similar to that of the crosstown Nationals. In Alexander Ovechkin they have one of the game’s premier stars. They were piling up the regular season accolades, yet for whatever reason they couldn’t win the big one. That all changed when Ovechkin led the Caps to a 4-1 Stanley Cup victory over the upstart Las Vegas Golden Knights.

On the heels of the celebratory parade honoring Ovechkin and his Capitals, I can’t help but wonder if Washington could be the new City of Champions. The Nationals are currently locked in an NL East battle with the Atlanta Braves, and while not a lock to win the division, they do have its best roster. Maybe, just maybe, Harper and Scherzer could follow in the Capitals footsteps and get the proverbial monkey off their back. That doesn’t seem too farfetched.

The Redskins aren’t thought of as a contending team as they prepare for the 2018 season, but hey, stranger things have happened. I mean the NFL is all about parity and we often see under-the-radar teams overperforming. Maybe Alex Smith can take the Redskins through the championship waters that Kirk Cousins was unable to navigate.

While we’re at it, let’s not stop there. Maybe the Wizards could even get in on the act. It may seem like a longshot, but with LeBron’s impending free agency, who knows how the Eastern conference will shake out? If he departs, then the Eastern Conference is up for grabs. It may seem like even more of a longshot, but maybe King James joins the Wizards.

Okay, that last part doesn’t seem likely at all, but you get the point. A fella can dream.

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Tom Hoggard is sports director/media consultant at East Carolina Radio. He hosts the Outer Banks Sports Report on 98.1 The Score Monday through Friday from 7 to 9 a.m.

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