An Interview with the World's Most Powerful Caps Fan
My feeling: are these people crazy? Which part of "star player gets hole-in-one during first trip to a golf course" did they miss? There is a word for people who get holes-in-one on their first trip to a golf course while swinging a golf club like it was a lightsaber and occasionally whiffing. The word is charmed. Who cares if you have no defense? Look at the Wizards. (By the way, are there two teams in one city that play worse defense than the Caps (29th in goals against) and the Wiz (20th)? Campaign slogan: "Washington is Weak on Defense.")
I'm telling you, ignore the skeptics. This team has 12th or 13th written all over it.
For support, I turned to Maryland delegate Rich Madaleno, who is heavily favored in his current race for state Senate. His campaign bio describes him as "an always devoted, currently disappointed, but ever-optimistic fan of the Washington Capitals." I assumed he was the World's Most Powerful Caps Fan, but he told me that Maryland Comptroller candidate Peter Franchot is also a fan, and probably more powerful. "See, there's an underground hockey mafia that's running the state of Maryland," Madaleno said. Anyhow, this is sort of our season preview, in Q&A form:
So do you mention the Caps in campaign speeches or brochures?
Oh yeah. This year because I ran on a slate I didn't have the same amount of space as you would have when you have your own piece, but my door-knocking piece that I used last year ended with that line: that I'm currently disappointed but ever-optimistic fan of the Washington Capitals.
Did you get any feedback on that?
Not that I remember. But there were a few times, whenever I was door-knocking and I saw that someone had a bumper sticker on their car that said Washington Capitals, I would definitely bring it up. And whenever I saw something like a Flyers bumper sticker, I would call Child Welfare Services.
So you don't think being a Caps fan has won you any votes?
Oh it has. Oh definitely. Believe me, there were times when I saw a Caps bumper sticker on a car and I would go up and show my brochure, and maybe five or six times people would say, 'Great, you've got my vote.' Probably just about as many times as someone said, "You're Italian? I'll vote for you."
Has it lost you any votes?
I don't think so. I would have lost more votes on the whole dog and cat issue. Fortunately I have both dogs and cats; you're more prone to lose votes if you're a cat person to a dog person than on hockey.
If they have a bad season, does that reflect poorly on you?
I have to tell you, it doesn't take long for people who know me to get to know how engaged I am with the Capitals, and so it's been a source of endless ribbing from friends and colleagues.
Like in the legislature?
Yes. Fortunately there's no NHL team in Baltimore for me to be tormented about.
What do they say?
I don't know if you know P.J. Hogan, a senator from Montgomery Village. P.J. is from Pittsburgh and has in his office some Steelers and Penguins memorabilia, so he's fond of pointing out
to me about how we can't get past the Penguins. Usually people just tell me to try to find a real sport.
Are other legislators Caps fans?
Well I told you about Franchot. There's no one else that instantly comes to mind. I don't think anyone else has the Washington Capitals home page bookmarked.
And do you have, like, clothing or paraphernalia or anything?
I do have a Jagr jersey that I just haven't taken out of the closet for a while. In the office I've got my little commemorative banner from when they won the conference, I've got mini hockey sticks and I've got the puck I actually personally caught in the Stanley Cup finals.
Ok, the preview. What did you think about what they did in the offseason?
Well, in my humble opinion, they didn't do much. I was very sad to see Jeff Halpern go, because Jeff was living my fantasy: local boy who got to play for the hometown team. I thought they never marketed him to the degree that they could have, as far as being the hometown boy. So I was sad to see him go, and then I don't know, I guess the defenseman [Brian Pothier] that they signed from Ottawa? I mean, it's interesting, he was like the fifth defenseman in Ottawa and they have him plugged in as our number one defenseman. There was a piece in the paper I think on Tuesday that said Olie bought a new house in Potomac; hopefully he's got a place where he can get a lot of rest. I mean, the poor guy's gonna get a lot of action.
What about Ovechkin?
He's unbelievable. He's a joy to watch. What I was saying last year to people was 'Ok, maybe we're like Edmonton 25 years ago: we draft Gretzky one year and then Messier the next. We just have to find our Messier and this will be the beginning of our dynasty.
Does being a Caps fan frustrate you overall?
It's the cross I have to bear. But I try to convince myself, look at all these people in Boston and Chicago who went for years waiting for the Red Sox and White Sox to win. My day will come.
Can you compare being a Caps fan to being a Democrat?
I guess you have many more victories as a Democrat than you do as a Caps fan, which doesn't say much about the Caps right now, in this political climate.
Can you levy extra taxes on players who don't play well?
Well, no, but it's a shame the Capitals now play in the District of Columbia, because one of the things I always thought would be an excellent piece of legislation would be to charge a 10 percent surtax on all concessions purchases for anyone wearing a shirt or jersey for another team, and that would be immediately donated to charity. Just as a way to penalize people for wearing the stuff from the other team. I've got to tell you, none of my friends will attend a Penguins game with me any more because I have no patience for Penguins fans.
What do you say?
You can't print it. I usually try to point out the fact that if there were economic opportunities in Western Pennsylvania, they would still be living there. (Now if I ever run for national office, I'll never carry the state of Pennsylvania.)
Most of the predictions I've seen have the Caps finishing 14th or 15th in the East....
If we're 14th, who's 15th? Listen, the problem is, it's kind of humorous to say it, but we probably do play in the best division in hockey. Tampa, Carolina, Atlanta, they're good teams.
Give me a number.
I guess I'd look irrational to say first? I'm hopeful that we'll sneak in at seventh or eighth, that Ovechkin will continue to dominate, that, helped by a bigger curve to the stick blade, he will soar to new heights.
And in your race?
Considering I represent a district that's three-to-one Democrat, I should be in good shape. I should probably be making more people's winners list than the Capitals.
October 5, 2006; 11:31 AM ET
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