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Sports Guy Spits on D.C. Sports Fans

(By Luis M. Alvarez - AP)

The thing is, when you look up at the rows and rows and rows of empty seats in the Verizon Center last night, when you think back on The Brave MASN 8,000, when you see the army of Terriblerific Towels at FedEx, it's sort of hard to argue with any of this.

But still, you never want your city to get called out in one of those triple-digit word rhetorical Sports Guy Mailbag questions, filled with all-of-the-above multiple-choice items in quotation marks, asides about one of his buddies, New England city addresses and '80s-style references, do you? From today's:

Q: I was in the Verizon Center in D.C. the other night when I looked up to the rafters to see banners claiming the Washington Mystics led the WNBA in attendance, not once, not twice, but THREE times (1998, 1999 and 2002). Has it really been that long for a championship in the D.C. area that they are clinging to WNBA attendance titles? Shouldn't there be a rule stating a city must be in a championship drought for a set number of years before hanging up meaningless banners? We need your expertise on this one.
-- Steve, Needham Heights, Mass.

SG: I don't consider those three WNBA attendance titles valid because half of those crowds were made up of Pittsburgh Steelers fans. But I mentioned your e-mail to my buddy House (a D.C. fan and resident) and he shamefully passed this tidbit along: Apparently last month during a Capitals game, the Caps raised a banner to commemorate their 2007-08 Southeast Division title. If you came up with some sort of formula to determine the worst four-sport city in America that included things like "sweeping lack of success," "general apathy," "ability of opposing fans to overwhelm your home crowd," "lack of tradition," "most transplants living in the city and rooting for other teams" and everything else, wouldn't Washington and Atlanta end up battling it out for the title like Sebastian Coe and Steve Scott in the '80s, like, they'd be so far ahead of the pack that it would be foolish to even mention the other contenders?

Like I said, hard to argue, though this still feels cheaper than a back-alley group attack from multiple members of the Cobra Kai Dojo, and heaven forbid any arena ever raise a banner for something besides a world title. But the thing you always have to remember is this: you could live in a city with marginal--or at least fluctuating--passion for many of its sports teams, cursed by widespread apathy about its men in tight pants and populated by tons of outsiders foolishly attracted to the promise of jobs, nightlife, and a lively economy. Or you could live in, say, Philadelphia. Like Bill's Buddy House, I choose the former.

(And yeah, this feels a bit like those times in middle school when you'd respond to taunts with the old, "I'm gonna make more money than you one day," before you realized that you were actually going to grow up to do a sports blog in a town where no one cares about sports.)

Incidentally, I was once told that Bill's Buddy House is an occasional reader here. House, are you out there?

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 13, 2008; 4:02 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media , Nats , Redskins , Wizards  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Wiz Discuss Their Win
Next: Local Poll Week I: Hoya Again


House better not be waving a Burgundy Towel this Sunday.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | November 13, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I'd craft a rebuttal, but I hear Rick Reilly is taking over the mailbag soon.

Posted by: Section117 | November 13, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

This is a huge "cheap shot" from The Sports Guy, which I could spend time refuting. Instead, I'll just let, um, The Sports Guy refute it by quoting a March 2002 column:

Take it from someone who attended back-to-back Caps/Wiz games on Sunday and Monday night: D.C.'s winter sports fans aren't bad. They had every reason to pack it in years ago, but they keep plugging away and supporting these two teams. Glancing around during Sunday's meaningless tilt against the no-name Oilers, I noticed the place was covered with fans wearing Caps jerseys, and the 400 level of the stadium (the cheap seats) were packed to the gills.

And later in the column: Truth be told, it was a surprisingly enjoyable two-day stretch of sporting events at the MCI Center, courtesy of the most dreadful winter professional sports tandem of the past 25 years: The Caps and Les Boullez.

Posted by: TheFingerman | November 13, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Maybe The Sports Guy should have asked the letter writer how Boston's WNBA team is doing.

Posted by: Reader_Glenn | November 13, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

lets see what other four sport towns there are:
CA Bay area

did i miss any?

ny and chicago are two of three largest cities in the country so they fill em up due to shear size..although the blackhawks just started to draw well again. the isle and devils are pathetic in attendance.

philly and boston bring it. detroit, not so much lately but i'll give em a pass due to economy and the pathetic lions.

beyond that, i'll stack the dc area up against any of those other cities for interest and attendance.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | November 13, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Great find there Fingerman. I hope you immediately e-mail that to Simmons.

Posted by: ThisGuy | November 13, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Come on, while Simmons veers into hyperbole in making his point, it's hard to argue that those WNBA attendance champion banners aren't completely freakin' pathetic.

Posted by: NateinthePDX | November 13, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Agreed that the attendance banners are lame. But what that has to do with the Caps raising a banner for the Southeast Division title (doesn't every team have banners raised for division titles in their arena?)or a "lack of tradition" for sports in D.C. (the Redskins have plenty of tradition, and the Wiz, Caps and old Senators all have/had plenty of tradition, it's just unfortunately a losing "tradition") is beyond me.

Posted by: TheFingerman | November 13, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe The Sports Guy should have asked the letter writer how Boston's WNBA team is doing."

This makes me feel sad inside. Is that really what's it come to in the nation's capital? "At least we have a WNBA team!"

I don't have a problem with the Southeast Division banner - you work with what you got. Those Mystics attendance banners, on the other hand, are embarrassing. More embarrassing than the Wizards uniforms and the Nationals television ratings put together.

Posted by: Tank2 | November 13, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

...And Atlanta is WAY ahead of Washington in terms of being a terrible sports fan city.

I'm pretty sure you have to get through Georgia Tech, Georgia, every other SEC team, NASCAR, and maybe the Masters before you reach any of the pro teams down there on the fan interest list.

Plus, you know, we have The United.

Posted by: NateinthePDX | November 13, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

i hate this crap...

Posted by: trolly_time | November 13, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse

I guess sportsguy's never been to miami or atl or phoenix. We're not the best, but we certainly not the worst.

Posted by: goskinsgo | November 13, 2008 9:59 PM | Report abuse

I think we have inadvertently proved SG's point. I mean, instead of a visceral and rabidly angry response on this blog, we have a bunch of people who feel inclined to agree with Bill and who give rational reasoned and thoughtful responses. Of course, it IS pratically impossible to refute the point about incredibly lame WNBA attendance banners...

Posted by: icantfeelmyface | November 14, 2008 2:39 AM | Report abuse

Lets see, terable sports town eh, Skins seem to have the most atendance per-game each year, yes there are betweeen 5-20,000 fans for the opponent, but in a 92,000 seat stadium only the Steelers and Cowboys can put up fan numbers to scare you, but those teams travle well, and always have. The Nats are too new to be counted, but if they are active this off season people will be into it. Ifbe the Wiz want to get atendance up they would just go back to ing called the Bulletts, I dont mind the gold uniforms but hate the teal and yellow how can you support a team with those kind of PR issues, stupid name+uncool look=low fanbase. Caps are setting atandance records this year. And atendance counts for something, something big, but does not earn a banner.

Here are your 13 cities with a team in the big 4 sports. Some of them don't have an MLS team for what its worth and 1/2 of NYC's teams play in . If you were to rank the fanbases I think we are in the middle of the pack. Here is my subjective ranking of the rabid fans when ballanced out agains all their teams, this is unfair to CHI and NYC as they have so many teams in the same sport & some have crummy fanbases.
1.Chicago, Illinois (by shear volume the greatest sports city)
2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (but the fans are butt anoying and maybe the dubmest too)
3. Boston, Massachusetts (see Philly but ad the word wicked randomly)
4. New York City, New York (yanks and giants fans are solid but the rest are average at best and they seem to have 40 hockey teams that no one knows about)
5. Dallas, Texas (bigest bandwagon franchise in the US is there so they edge us out)
6. Washington, D.C. (see discription above)
7. Denver, Colorado(I bet you can't name all 4 of their teams if you try real real hard)
8. Miami, Florida (A culture of falure in most sports, who cares the city will be under water in about 25 years)
9. San Francisco, California (49ers are a joke now, the Giants had Bondsgate)
10. Detroit, Michigan (the blackout for the Lions is a sign of a dieing city)
11. Atlanta, Georgia (The fans come out to watch but don't really see many diehards)
12. Phoenix, Arizona (a transplant's city so no crazy loyal fanbase to any sport, untill recently the Cardnals were not shown on TV in the city)
13. Minneapolis, Minnesota (single purpose stadium and may lose the Vikings)

Posted by: alex35332 | November 14, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I crafted a long response when I realized this "article" or blog or whatever didn't deserve one.

At least the Caps earned that banner -- when was the last time any of the other "4-sports" teams had anything to celebrate?

The Skins are always disappointing, the Wizards plain suck, and the Nationals/Orioles are worse than most A-League baseball teams.

Why don't you throw your support behind our nation's capital's best team with the best player in the world and with the best coach in the league?

Why do you hate hockey so much?

Posted by: DrinkingPartner | November 14, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: bryc3 | November 14, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

It hurts because it's true, but it hurts more because for those of us who DO support the home teams (even if we are transplants), it's always insulting to see people who have lived here for 40 years or even are second generation and still cheer for a different town's team. Those of us who are true locals need to thug-it-up like Philly fans and just intimidate transplants into converting for fear of bodily injury.

And while I do love the Sports Guy, he is a massive "homer" and elitist who overlooks just how lucky he is to be from a town with such a stories group of franchises. I imagine if we had success like the Celtics/Pats/Sox/Bruins have had, we'd see a lot more fair weather fan conversions. Hell, look at the 11 game run last year for the Caps... I certainly saw a lot of new faces that weren't there the other 71 games.

Posted by: TheGJ | November 14, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, well, our blogger is better than your blogger.

Posted by: WrongDog | November 14, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

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