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Are Washington Sports Pitiful?

Because I was off counting daisies last week, I never managed to reply to this CBS SportsLine column claiming D.C. to be "the most pitiful sports town in the country." Now, there are three ways to measure something like this: results, fandom and enfo'tainment.

1) Our results have been undoubtedly shoddy, but not as shoddy as this Eric Kay would have you believe. My groundbreaking ranked-winning-percentage formula, published last fall, revealed us to be 11th of the 12 four-major-league cities, ahead of Atlanta. So take that, Eric Kay.

2) Fandom. On the one hand, we live in a sports blogging mecca. On the other hand, every time I turn on a Nats game, all I see is the caps of the visiting team in the stands. Plus Eric Kay's column, which would have prompted civic meltdown and a mayoral proclamation in, say, Cleveland, yielded a total of 17 comments, one of which was basically an homage to the WaPo sports section. Plus, our WNBA players are getting hosed in the all-star game voting, which I'll discuss later. So I'll grant you that our fans are miserable, which I'm definitely going to use as the excuse for my traffic numbers if I'm ever given my unconditional release.

3) Enfo'tainment. We have Gilbert, Portis, Ovechkin, a Best Calves Contest on, Giant Racing President Heads, a pelvic-thrusting chicken, Eastern Motors and a sports columnist who rips his shirt off while doing karaoke. Beat that, Dallas. I mean, we're strictly top-shelf in this regard.

After the jump, I have a few more things I want to say about this Eric Kay.

Quote: Take the thermometer of the four major sports teams, add it to the current state of collegiate athletics and what you have is a scenario murkier than the Anacostia River.

Take the thermometer? Is that an expression? What do you do with the thermometer once you take it? Anyhow, the D.C. area has sent college basketball teams to the Final Four four times in the past seven years, the Maryland women's basketball team recently won a national title, as did the men's soccer team, and the Sports Bog Spectacular Poll sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament in March. I don't think "the current state of collegiate athletics" is doing much to advance this argument.

Quote: In a sport valuing ballpark aesthetics and character nearly as much as the actual game on the field, the Nats play in a concrete hole in the ground that has as much charm as Mel Gibson three drinks deep at an Anti-Defamation League champagne brunch.

But RFK is above ground. Anyhow, my neighbor insists that RFK is and will always be more charming than, say, Camden Yards, because it's so gosh darn real. It has something that is hard to find elsewhere, that's for sure. It's dirty and smelly and run down, but it's bloody well ours. If Eric Kay can't appreciate that, I feel sorry for the man.

Quote: Now the Nats throw glorified Double-A pitchers like Levale Speigner and Jerome Williams to the wolves night in and out.

Eh. Thirteenth out of 16 NL teams in ERA really isn't so bad, considering. Plus, in what way are they glorified? Plus, Speigner and Williams don't throw much nowadays.

Quote: Throw in owner Abe Pollin's advancing age, last season's epic meltdown and the franchise's recent 15-year courtship with failure and Gallery Place isn't looking so good these days.

Courtship? 'Twas no courtship. That was a full-on till-death-do-us-part codified relationship. Still, this is a ridiculous sentence. Abe Pollin, two freak injuries and Rod Strickland have nothing to do with how the franchise looks these days, especially after the Wiz get Acie Law this week. Seriously, would you rather root for the Hawks?

Quote: We can always expect George Washington to come up for air every once and a while and make a little bit of noise, but to expect any consistency from Karl Hobbs' under-resourced program would be unrealistic.

Does the phrase "overachieving" not mean anything to you? Anyhow, unrealistic or not, the Buff and Blue have made three straight tournaments, averaging 24 wins over that span. Which is, you know, consistent.

Quote: Soccer and women's basketball are novelties to Washingtonians, sort of like the few remaining healthy animals at the National Zoo.

Novelties? Does this guy really claim to be from Bethesda? Last year, D.C. United averaged 18,215 in home attendance. The Caps averaged 13,929. The Wiz averaged 18,372.

Quote: Yeah, the XXVI win still brings that warm, fuzzy feeling, but that was so long ago in sports years that even Tony Kornheiser had hair back then.

Actually, I don't think he did.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 25, 2007; 9:16 AM ET
Categories:  Caps , Nats , Redskins , Wizards  
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Next: WNBA Voting Scandal


I don't make a habit of commenting on articles like that. To contend violently with nonsense is to treat it as something more than nonsense. But I don't mind if you want to tear him a new one.

Posted by: Lindemann | June 25, 2007 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Anyone can rip on D.C. sports- it takes much more originality to find the good here. This guy's a hack, anyway; if the Nats have "the bleakest current state," as he maintains, why aren't they the worst team? How would he classify the Reds' or Rangers' current state, then? Lame.

Posted by: DC Sports Chick | June 25, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Dan, you want Gheorghe to rough this guy up for you?

Posted by: GTB | June 25, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm shocked that I beat unsilent to this ...


Posted by: littles | June 25, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

His arguments were sloppy and ill-informed so it was not worth the effort to argue with him and give him page views.

Posted by: WFY | June 25, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

The guy picked on the zoo, too? Man, some people are just full of negativity. I'm surprised he didn't say we haven't produced a good band since Velocity Girl.

Posted by: Beau Dure | June 25, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

You know, when you make a point like this, you really need to address the primary competition. This guy knows he has a weak argument because he so studiously avoided even mentioning Atlanta.

Posted by: Chris | June 25, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Not to toot my own horn, but I just did an assessment of local sports teams over the last 11 years (since DC United was founded) and nobody is above .500 during that stretch.

You can find it at

I wish things were different -- and hopefully things will change soon.

Posted by: Rob | June 25, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

But did he factor in polo?

Posted by: DD | June 25, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

If I commented on every jerk that said something stupid on the internet, I would not have time to pretend to work.

Picking holes in this guy's argument is too easy. Just like 90% of the people that write about sports on the internet, he's just trying to provoke. It's not smart, it's not well-argued, and it's not worthwhile. Sadly, there are very few people who feel this way, so we will continue to get such quality programming as "Rome is Burning" and 7 different Tony Kornheiser programs.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | June 25, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Why couldn't he pick on the "Mayor for Life" instead of the zoo?

Posted by: 761-091 | June 25, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

"Does this guy really claim to be from Bethesda?"

I would say that's his problem

Posted by: Kev | June 25, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

You've been trolled, Steinbog.

I go to a lot of Nats games. Yeah, I'm kind of bummed that there are a lot of caps from the visiting team, but there are a lot of hopeful signs:

* Fans have stopped shouting the last "OH!" in "The Star Spangled Banner." In '05, many ex-Orioles fans persisted in this habit. After a while, people started booing them during the anthem. Now, nobody does it.

* Whenever visiting fans try to get a cheer started, there are usually enough Nats fans to boo them into cowed silence.

Let's be real. The Nats stink, even if their stench this season is not history-making. We're not drawing 35,000 a night like the first half of '05. But look at the kind of fans that are turning up. I see many more fans keeping score--many even bring their own spiral-bound scorekeepers' books. We may only be drawing 20-odd thousand a night, but that's the 20,000 people in DC/MD/NoVA who actually love baseball, who are in the game, who are following every pitch.

Think about it: 20,000 might represent the attendance floor. Once the new stadium is built and the Nats play better ball, you get to add the wives/girlfriends/boyfriends/husbands/families and the fair-weather, go-to-the-ballpark-only-when-the-team-is-making-a-pennant-run "fans," things are going to look up.

Posted by: ouij | June 25, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Uh Rob. DC Sports isn't pitiful, but your math is.

From your blog post:

D.C. United (161-130-47 .478)

Uh, with those numbers United has a .553 winning percentage. (161/(161+130))

Posted by: Kim | June 25, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse


You didn't factor in ties though... The percentage I used factored in wins out of total games -- so that's 161/161+130+47 = .478

If you do it your way, then you're ignored the 47 ties and therefore not including that many games as well.

Posted by: Rob | June 25, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

See Littles.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | June 25, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse


In sports that have ties, that's not how you calculate winning percentage. You're saying that a tie is equal to a loss. I tie is neither a win nor a loss, therefore it is thrown out of the winning percentage equation.

Alternatively, you can add half of the ties to the wins and then divide by the total games. (Yielding a .545 winning percentage)

(I have no idea how you can handle the screwy NHL system now that they've got shootouts)

Either way, you can't call a team 30+ games over .500 losing team.

Posted by: Kim | June 25, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm kicking Kay out of our fantasy football league this year. It has to happen.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | June 25, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse


Thanks for the help! I just looked that up and was about to post the same thing.

I'm about to go correct my errors -- and figure out the whole NHL thing. I found a way to do that, but it's a bit odd with there being ties for part of the last 11 years and overtime losses for the rest.

Thanks again!

Posted by: Rob | June 25, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

It is depressing that you see so many people in the stands rooting for the bad guys, but you have to consider why that actually happens. Everyone has moved here from somewhere else, and they've brought their loyalties with them. All the guys I grew up with here are diehard fans of all the local teams. The problem is, we're outnumbered by everyone who moved here for school or work. But our fanbase will grow as people finally become acclimated to our lousy teams, and as I continue to 'accidentally' spill my beer on douchebags in Lebron James/Derek Jeter jerseys.

Posted by: bryc3 | June 25, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Winning pct w/ ties:

A tie equals half a win (and therefore half a loss).

So it would be:

161 + 23.5 / (161 + 130 + 47)

or 184.5 / 338

which equals: .546 (well, actually .5458579, but let's round up)

Plus, how do you mathematically figure in four MLS titles, a US Open Cup and a CONCACAF Champions' Cup?

Posted by: Incredulous | June 25, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

PS- Just want to add to ouij's excellent point about hardcore Nats fans.

When Luis Ayala took the mound on Friday for the first time since 2005, he got a rousing round of applause. You don't see that kind of response unless the people watching are true fans who're following closely.


Have you ever seen what passes for fielding at RFK when a popup goes into the stands? Step it up, people. I think we might lead the league in errors by fans. The lawyers that sit close to the field need to spend less time working on their handicap and more time shagging flies.

Posted by: bryc3 | June 25, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse


My math is the same as yours. If you check my blog, DC United has a .546 winning percentage.

I only used MLS games -- no US Open or CANCACAF games since it's not part of the MLS schedule.

Posted by: Rob | June 25, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I guess it's easy to attack D.C. when you're chilling out in South FLA, huh?

Posted by: littles | June 25, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

"I guess it's easy to attack D.C. when you're chilling out in South FLA, huh?"

He had to go someplace where his squat thrusting would be more appreciated.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | June 25, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Bobby Boswell's having a best calves contest?

He should be able to give a thorough judgment to Robbie Findley's.

Posted by: 232 | June 25, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I knew the shirt-ripping Karoke would make a good defense one day!

Posted by: WGDC- | June 25, 2007 11:09 PM | Report abuse


Yeah, the fielding in the stands is really pitiful. Note, however, that fans are starting to boo bad plays in the stands, especially if the error is committed in the expensive seats.

Posted by: ouij | June 26, 2007 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I can go to RFK, plop down $5, and watch major league baseball. It just doesn't get any better than that.

And as a technical note, if we're talking cities (as opposed to franchises), Washington has of course won the World Series (admittedly in 1924, but it still counts).

Posted by: Rich | July 5, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

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