Like most Capitals fans, I’ve grown up in the D.C. metro area.
I remember the days of Richard Zednik’s bleached hair, O-LIE the Goalie, and round one of Jeff Halpern. I remember when the blue screaming eagle sweaters used to blend into the empty seats in the old MCI Center, hearing my voice echo from the empty 400’s, and when the Capitals’ season ended long before playoffs had begun.
Then, I could blame faithfully returning each season on my youthful naivety. Despite decades of seemingly endless mediocrity, the Caps made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. Since the Dark Ages of the most recent NHL Lockout, their fanbase has expanded considerably. The Caps have yet to miss a playoff run since 2007, and although their postseason is continually cut short, we return each October because we love our team that much.
During a losing streak, it’s extremely easy to hop on the good ol’ Negative Nancy train and vow to abandon all allegiance. Suddenly, every player should be traded off to God knows where and our only hope lies in another teenager from Russia. Everyone associated with the franchise becomes a bum and every blogger has an opinion. It’s embarrassing when your team goes down 5-1 to Columbus and even more so when those Pittsburgh transplants can flaunt another win in D.C. It’s fairly bleak to question whether or not the Caps will even make the playoffs. But what really breaks my heart is when I gain the rare opportunity to attend a game only to leave with a bad taste in my mouth when the final seconds of action are drowned out by boos from the home crowd.
I understand you’re upset. I am too. It’s difficult spending money on something that becomes disappointing. It’s easy to become disinclined and vindictive. But what each and every fan needs to remember is that we are here because we are passionate about hockey. It has become a way of life for us – an unlikely cult following in a disillusioned city wrought with cynicism. It is here for our entertainment. An escape, if you will. Yet it is also somebody’s very real job. To assume a player leaves a game pleased with himself after tallying one in the ‘L’ column is grossly underrating his competence as a professional. Whether or not we care to admit it, every last one of us has provided a lackluster performance at one time in some facet of our career. We just don’t have a scoreboard to remind us.
Supporting your team through a rough patch is not an encouragement of the issue, it is not turning the other cheek, and it is not endorsing bad decisions. It is being a fan. So as a fellow Caps fan, I implore you to find a dose of vitamin D in this hideous weather and continue rocking the red. Keep your torches and pitchforks for the overpriced beer in Verizon Center.