Growing up I was into whatever my dad was into, and one of the ways that manifested itself was in us attending Caps games together. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of sitting with him in the Caps Centre, and some of my most cherished possessions are my Rod Langway rookie card, Dale Hunter autographed puck and vintage Caps pennant.
But that was long ago. We stopped going to games, I went off to college and the Caps moved downtown. I stopped caring all that much about the Caps, probably because I cared more about the sports I actually played. I still liked the Caps, sure, but not as much as the Skins, O’s and Wiz.
I’d periodically attend games with friends, but it was mostly just an excuse to get some beers downtown. Beyond Olie or Bondra, I couldn’t name many of the players, let alone care about them. Then Ovi showed up.
My dad and I finally went back to a Caps game in February 2008, before that season’s ungodly run to a division title. Before the whole “Rock the Red” thing. Before the success of this season and last. The Verizon Center was dead that night, and we agreed that there was no reason to go back.
Of course, look at it now. Just two years later Caps games are a full-blown phenomenon, night and day from what they were. And, of course, we’re caught up in it. Dad just got a Langway throwback. I watch games, follow the team, blog about them and take heat for it.
Not once but twice recently I’ve been labeled as a “bandwagon” fan. The first was by Pensblog and the second was by ESPN’s DJ Gallo. I suppose they’re right, as I’m more interested in the team now than before. (Note: WaPo also profiled “die-hard” Caps fans vs. “newcomers” the other day.)
But I’ve always been a fan (see above). And it’s not like we just started blogging about the Caps; Chris and I have made 71 Caps posts on this blog in the past two-plus years. Our coverage has increased lately, sure. The same thing would happen if/when the Skins, Nats, O’s or Wiz are going good. And that’s not just native to D.C.
Since my critics hail from Pittsburgh, let’s look there for a comparison. The Penguins and Steelers get great support, and they’ve been winning teams forever. But what about the Pirates? They play in a wonderful ballpark but drew only 19,000 fans per game last season. The only time Pirates attendance has spiked over 25,000 fans/game was PNC Park’s inaugural season. Before that, you’d have to go back to 1990-91 to see Pittsburgh filling the stands. What was happening then? The Pirates were winning.
When they start contending again the fans of Pittsburgh will come, much like they do in Washington. If it’s alright with you, I plan on letting them enjoy it.