Truly a Classic experience
On Nov. 3, 2008, FedEx Field was overrun by 25,000 Pittsburgh Steeler fans who came to cheer their team on to victory over the Redskins. It was one of the all-too-frequent lowlights of the Dan Snyder era. On Jan. 1, 2011, Washington exacted its revenge as 25,000+ Caps fans invaded Pittsburgh, took over hotels, bars and restaurants, serenaded the city with Caps-centric cheers, walked into Heinz Field and, for one night, crushed the soul of a city that believed it was entitled to a 7-0 romp. It was an amazing sight considering that a mere five years ago the Caps couldn’t even fill their own 18,177-seat barn on a nightly basis. Hockey in D.C. has undoubtedly come a long way.
Critics will say that those Steeler fans in 2008 weren’t gifted 18,000 seats like the NHL gave to the Caps. Fair enough. But I’ll counter by saying those 25,000 Steeler fans at FedEx didn’t travel 4+ hours to get to the game either. Those Steeler fans were from Fairfax, Rockville, Springfield and Waldorf, many of whom are bi-products of migrant Yinzer families and/or folks who jumped aboard the Bradshaw-Harris bandwagon of the 1970s and never fell off. Their numbers are no doubt impressive. But what the Caps fanbase did on Saturday was just as impressive. Those 25,000 Caps fans traveled from the DMV and shelled out some serious cash to spend New Years in overpriced hotels in a city that’s not exactly a hot spot of culture or entertainment. That’s dedication.
Some other thoughts on The Takeover of Pittsburgh:
- I’ve been to heated rivalry games: Cowboys-Redskins, Virginia-Virginia Tech, Clemson-FSU, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, SEC games, etc. This atmosphere at the Classic was truly unforgettable. Had the College Game Day crew set up shop before the game they would have been blown away by the atmosphere. (BCS Bowls take note…Caps fans travel better than a lot of Big 10 and Pac 10 schools! Our Takeover of Pittsburgh was what you expect from SEC schools during bowl season.)
- I’ll give credit where it’s due: Pittsburgh truly loves its Penguins. The love for the team cuts across age and socio-economic demographics and you can tell the team is truly ingrained into the fiber of the city. Everyone I spoke to – cab drivers, waitresses, randoms on the street – loved the Penguins and knew enough about hockey to have a conversation about it. Admittedly, DC isn’t there yet.
- No one can ever tell me that Penguin fans don’t take the Caps-Pens rivalry seriously. Heinz Field was Meltdown City for the black-and-gold after the game. Apparently, what was supposed to be a coronation ceremony for Sidney Crosby turned out to be a dud of a night, and a few folks were none-too-pleased that their stadium was overrun by visiting fans. As cool as Penguin fans were before the game, the bitterness of losing was very apparent afterwards. Personally, I was punched in the chest and spat on because I disagreed with a fan who claimed Crosby would pummel Ovechkin if they squared off. One girl hip-checked my friend on the walk to the car. Apparently, this was more than a hockey game to many Pittsburgh fans.
- One thing I didn’t like was the constant use of homophobic slurs used to describe Alex Ovechkin by the locals. Certain profanities are part of the everyday hockey lexicon; others flat out don’t belong, like the homophobic ones. I heard more of those slurs in the four hours I was at Heinz Field than I have at all the DC sports events I’ve been to in the past ten years. No matter the fanbase – Penguins, Caps, Rangers, Flyers, etc. - the stupidity needs to stop.
- The Caps defensive play was a thing of beauty. They put the clamp on the Penguins and, in a role reversal, boxed out the middle and forced the Penguins to take perimeter shots with no second chances at rebounds. For the most part, the Caps were also merciless on the backcheck. Whoever these guys are playing in the red, white and blue I hope they stick around until June.
- It was hard differentiating players in the upper deck, but I thought that John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Scott Hannan really stood out on the defensive side. And, at least from the nosebleeds, it sure looked to me like we played a trap in the third period. Boy, these Caps are transforming into a new team.
- Tuesday’s game against Tampa is important as first place in the Southeast is on the line. It’s also a classic let-down game. . Not only are we coming off of an emotional roller-coaster of a week, but Tampa is also looking for revenge after a 6-0 butt-whipping from November. For those of you going Tuesday night, make sure you bring your “A” game and help get the team through any mental hurdles they might face.
| January 3, 2011; 12:30 PM ET
Categories: Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily | Tags: Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily
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