New Caps traditions must stand test of time
This weekend I had the pleasure of joining the Weiswerda family for a St. Louis Blues game (thank you!). I lived in St. Louis while I was in college, so I know a fair bit about the fans there – they’re dedicated, knowledgeable, and for the most part, they’ve loved hockey since before I was born.
In my very first post for Box Seats, I welcomed bandwagon Caps fans, saying that a large fan base was good for the D.C. community. I still believe that’s true, but watching the Blues play this weekend, I felt that some of our fan traditions were somewhat contrived compared to the ones in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Blues were founded in 1967, as part of the NHL’s original expansion from six teams to 12. The Caps’ founding in 1974 means we’re not that much younger, but the major difference is that more St. Louis natives stay there to raise their families, whereas D.C. is notoriously a transient town. The result is that Blues fans are clad in everything from vintage Blues t-shirts, to old Brett Hull jerseys, to blue denim shirts and Blues baseball caps.
The game experience kicks off the with the singing of “When the Blues Come Marching In,” and fans insist that the National Anthem ends “home of the Blues.” The Jumbotron’s graphics are old school, to say the least. Caps fans have always been treated to state of the art and often award-winning media, but in St. Louis fans are urged to “Go nuts” by, of course, a bunch of dancing cartoon peanuts. Midway through the second period, fans participate in Blues Karaoke, belting out “Sweet Caroline” and complying with the Jumbotron’s instructions to “sway back and forth.”
At Verizon Center, our entire approach is more modern. Our technology is newer, our music louder, and our graphics crisper. Our jerseys are bright and clean, we “unleash the fury,” celebrate the rockets’ “RED” glare, and when told who just scored on us, we cry “Who cares?!” And if I may be allowed a brief tangent, I am a believer that if you’ve just been scored on, you should probably care.
Our traditions are fun, and they work. Verizon Center has an impressive reputation as a tough arena for visiting teams to play in, and fans have a great time at Caps games. What more could you want?
I suppose it just doesn’t feel quite genuine to me yet. I first heard the “Who cares” jibe at a University of Minnesota hockey game, and that was long before it showed up in D.C. I’m not sure when “red glare” and “unleash the fury” first arrived, but I believe both are post-lockout, so around five years old. And money can buy great graphics and loud music, but it can’t buy long-term determination, grit, and the kinds of traditions that withstand the test of time.
For that kind of fan tradition, we need look no further than our own Washington Redskins, who provide proof that this town may be full of natives of other cities, but we can still support our teams through thick and thin, coming up with traditions we stick to and a vintage grit the likes of which are not surpassed anywhere else in the league.
Watching the Blues this weekend gave me a sense that, as fans, we have work to do. The way that fans in Detroit are known for throwing octopus onto the ice, we need to be known for traditions of our own. To make that happen, we need to work to “Build America’s Hockey Capital,” as the Caps so aptly put it. It is our responsibility to integrate this team and the traditions we’ve created throughout the D.C. community, so everyone knows what it means to be a Caps fan.
| January 5, 2011; 12:39 PM ET
Categories: Capitals, Nicole Weissman | Tags: Capitals, Nicole Weissman
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