By Jordan Viener – While I was on lunch break the day we won the Stanley Cup, I was trying to reckon with a feeling that I had been having for a while. The feeling of finality, like something was coming to an end, but it wasn’t sad, it was a relief.
I was born about two months after the Capitals were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in 1998, Maryland won the title in 2002, I don’t remember that it basically didn’t happen for me, it’s a part of history. I’ve been waiting my whole life for a day like today, where I can say “we won the big game at the end.”
I’ve followed 5 teams for most of my life: Maryland Football and Basketball, the Redskins, the Wizards, and the Capitals. I never got into the Orioles, they were from Baltimore and I wasn’t, the Nationals came too late for me. For those 5 teams, none of them had gotten past the halfway point to win it all in my lifetime. As far as I can really remember Maryland football’s best season was 2006, when we beat Purdue to win the Champs Sports Bowl, basketball was 2016 when we lost to Kansas in the sweet 16, the Redskins had the 2012 season featuring RG3 (technically it’s the 2005 season with a divisional loss to the Seahawks, but RG3 was more exciting), the Wizards best came last season with a game 7 loss to the Celtics. I don’t even know where to start with the Capitals torturous last decade.
The first 20 or so years of my sports life have all been building to last night. That’s not exaggerating, it’s the truth. At some point, as a person, I started to need validation that all this suffering, from the heartbreaking losses for the Caps, to the disappointing seasons of the Wizards and Terp hoops, to the just often flat out awfulness of the Redskins and Maryland football, all the pain started to feel pointless. We needed to win, the losing should have been driving me away from sports, but instead it was sucking me in. It was like I was gambling, at some point it started to become a “double down and go for broke” situation because I was in too deep to lose now. I needed a win, but what if it isn’t coming. If the Capitals didn’t win soon I knew, given the state of the other teams I mentioned, a title wasn’t coming for a very long time.
Then Kuzy scores in overtime to beat the Penguins, and everything changes.
There are so many layers to beating the Pens of all teams, but that’s not important to this narrative. You all know what happens next, the Caps storm to a lead over the Lightning, only to have an collapse down to a 3-2 lead, and show the ultimate onions and take it back to go the Stanley Cup Final. In the Final lies the team constructed by George McPhee, the 15 year Capitals GM. The lose game one, and come back to win 4 straight. Just like that the Capitals, and the wider DC sports curse is lifted.
The win came, all of the suffering became worth it, my gamble had paid off. So, ends the first chapter of my sports life, a chapter that can be summarized as me sitting there, waiting for someone to win something. It wasn’t devoted of joy, I had several great moments, the Grevis Vasquez years at Maryland, the 2012 Redskins season was some of the most exciting football I’ve ever seen, John Wall hitting the game winning shot in game 6 against the Celtics, but all of those were most moments, none of them were the moment. The moment for me now will be standing outside of Capitals One Arena on G Street NW with my family and 50k+ other Capitals fans watching Lars Eller push in the game Stanley Cup winning goal, seeing the crowd explode as we realized that today was the day, and this time finally was our time. For all of us, the gamble had paid off. Here’s to the next chapter.
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