Another New Caps Fan
Since a rule was recently passed that every news story about the Caps has to be of the feel-good and positive-publicity kind, meet Walter Scott Lovell. He's a 48-year old native of Charlotte, and a long-time Lakers and Cowboys fan. He never had any interest in the sport of hockey, nor in the Caps; "believe that, I would have never told nobody I would have been a hockey fan," he said today.
But this year's Caps team converted him, and now he watches every home game at 7th and G, and many of the road games as well, wearing his Caps hoodie and one of his two Caps baseball hats while counting down the days 'til the playoffs begin.
Where the story gets a little different, I guess, is that Lovell is homeless. Home games, he watches on the big screen attached to the outside of the Verizon Center. Road games, he sneaks a peek at the TVs inside Legal Seafood a few blocks away. Then he goes back to where he sleeps, near the D.C. waterfront. So, how did this all happen?
"I just watched it, that's all I did," Lovell told me. "Brashear going at it with another guy, that's what got me into it. I'm into that rush. And hearing them bang up against that glass, that's another rush, when you actually hear it."
See, two different couples have given Lovell tickets to games, which he watched inside the building. A third time, he was ushered up to the owner's box, an experience he described as "off the chain." (Yes, the Caps confirmed that this actually happened.) And as everyone knows, hockey live is even better than hockey on TV.
"That really did it," he said, "the first game when they took me inside."
Fans were just starting to appear for tonight's game as Lovell gave me the brief version of his life story. He said he was hit twice by two different cars in October of 1982, and his right leg was amputated two months later. He was homeless off and on before he arrived in D.C. for culinary school in 1989, but the school closed before he could finish the program, and after he wound up homeless again he began drinking heavily.
A letter he e-mailed me describes years when he was in and out of jail, before he finally was caught distributing cocaine and spent nearly six years in prison. A probation violation led to 21 more months, and when he finally got out in 2005 he said he had little remaining family and no place to go. So he bounced from Northern Virginia to D.C., stayed in several different temporary situations, rejected shelters because of vermin and drug use and began coming to the Chinatown area only recently, where he happened to see the Caps on the big screen.
"Right now, the biggest excitement I get is watching these games," he told me. "Believe this, if you were to sneak somewhere and watch me out here when the game's going on, you would really think I was watching hockey for years."
So now he has a Rock the Red cowbell that he rings after goals, and a Rock the Red towel. He leads fans in post-game "C-A-P-S Caps Caps Caps!" chants and tells visiting fans, "not in my house." He informs late-arriving ticket holders what's happening, since the big screen only shows the score during breaks in the action, and gets monthly schedules from the ticket office. One couple he's met regularly brings him game previews so he can have a roster while he watches (plus information on the opposing coach and GM), and he just got a new poncho so he can stay dry while watching Caps games this month.
When his prosthetic leg gets replaced within the next few weeks, he hopes to land a job hand washing and detailing the cars of team members, and, as he told Ted Leonsis, he's trying to get a Mike Green jersey.
"See, there's too many No. 8s walking around," he told me. "Green's my man; Ovechkin's everyone else's man. There's something else about [Green], I can't explain it. I like the whole team, but Mike Green's my man. I'm an odd man, I don't like who everyone else likes."
Before I left, as bus drivers waved to Lovell and Verizon Center employees came over to say hello, I asked Lovell whether he was looking forward to the playoffs.
"We're going to get the Stanley Cup, no doubt," he said. "That's the way they play. I'll be here rooting on the Caps all the way to the Stanley Cup, there's no doubt in my mind. I'm sure of that."
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