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About that Capstronaut

(Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

UPDATE: Ted Leonsis invites Capstronaut to his box.

"You go out and buy an astronaut suit and you go to a hockey game, and you can't really be certain how it's gonna go," the Capstronaut told me on Thursday. "I thought security might take me down, but I think they've seen it all there. You know, you show up enough times dressed as an astronaut, everybody kind of gets comfortable with you. ."

This seems to have some degree of truth. I showed up at Verizon Center looking for the Capstronaut last week, and all the ushers were extremely helpful in guiding me to the Capstronaut's section. Not a one looked at me strangely when I asked where the astronaut usually sits.

Of course, he happened not to be there at this particular game, but I managed to track him down on the phone. Or, I guess, someone claiming to be the Capstronaut. Or, more accurately, one of the Capstronauts, since the Original Capstronaut had to miss a recent game and sent an alternate in his place.

As you probably figured, the Capstronaut declined to provide me with his name, but he did tell me a few things about himself. He's a Washingtonian, born and raised. He's old enough "to remember when we landed on the moon." He's a lifelong fan of every D.C. team, was rooting on the Caps "when you could have a whole section to yourself" in Landover, and like just about everyone around here, was once crazy about the Redskins.

But the latter has entered some sort of gravitational free-fall in recent years. He's gotten disgruntled with both the Redskins' performance and their game-day atmosphere, calling FedEx Field "a hostage situation" that's "so completely the opposite of what's happening at Verizon Center." And he's reveled in the Caps' simultaneous orbit of success, Verizon Center's electricity and the vibrant atmosphere outside the arena on game nights.

Some people have commemorated this excitement by, I don't know, going to more games, or ordering an extra helping of nachos. Others have started wearing unsettling amounts of red, painting their faces and color-coordinating their undergarments. Yet others have gone online and ordered an astronaut costume.

"Nobody has a clue what it means, which is awesome," the Capstronaut told me. So, um, what does it mean?

"I'm working on that," he said.

But even if finding that meaning leads to emptiness and chasing the wind, the gimmick has succeeded, beyond any reasonable expectation. Comcast SportsNet's Craig Laughlin discussed him on the air, cracking "Ground Control to Major Tom." So Major Tom replaced "Rocket Man" as his informal nickname, until the Caps featured him on a Capstronaut video, changing his name once again. (See below.) He ran into the "Caps Rap" kids during a recent game and found himself with a cameo on that Internet sensation. He's posed for upwards of 50 photographs a game, and is making spaceball cards for kiddie Caps fans. He keeps showing up on the dance cam, and said he's considering dancing lessons. He walked by the owner's box at a recent game, and while Ted Leonsis "didn't jump up and high five me, I think he might have noticed me," he said.

He doesn't have season seats, and will be seen here and there and "with a sign that says need 1 from time to time." But he's already sat three rows behind the visitor's bench on several occasions, and claims to have unnerved the opposition.

"I think I'm affecting their play," he told me. "They try not to catch anybody's eye, but they keep looking over their shoulders at me. I give them the two fingers in my eye and then back at them, and they don't look back after that. I think they're a little concerned that I may be blasting off or something."

And it's all in the name of celebrating this city's only winning pro team. At least, that's what he said, repeatedly and earnestly, or as earnest as an anonymous hockey fan dressed like an astronaut can be.

"You go to the Verizon Center with the Capitals, it's unbelievable, and it just made me feel like celebrating," he explained. "What's going on in those games, in that building, is infectious. It carries out onto the street; people are happy. Even when they lose, there's such optimism. I mean, you can't discount Ovechkin's influence on the team, but when you look at all the players, there's just so much electricity and teamwork going on on that ice, [not to mention] the way it's presented, the way it feels. Hey, it made me crazy. I'm going to games as an astronaut."

Are there downsides? Well, it turns out the costume is hotter than expected. And he's found it tricky to drink any fermentables while in character. Other than that, though, it's been clean air.

"It's a little strange sometime in the line in the bathroom, but people are very receptive. [Although] the occasional person kind of looks at you like you're from outer space."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 14, 2010; 4:41 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Next: MASN vs. CSN, in HD


Thank you Steinberg. Mike Wise could learn a thing or two from you.

Posted by: freakinandpeakin | January 14, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

"the occasional person kind of looks at you like you're from out of space."

Wouldn't that be OUTER space?

Posted by: Cosmo06 | January 14, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I thought he was the owner of Rocket Bar? Or is that just a rumor?

Posted by: ThisGuy | January 14, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: kjhealey | January 14, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

@ThisGuy That is 100% true. Being a regular at that bar, I give him props for not plugging it. He easily could. But they pass the suit around and whoever wears it has to abide by the strict rule not to talk to anyone. period.

Posted by: HogsHaven | January 14, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Thank you so much for clearing up some of the mystery about this fan. At first, I thought perhaps he called out sick to work and was concerned about getting on TV. After a few more appearances, we though that maybe he had warrants and was going undercover to avoid arrest.

I must admit, I've wondered how folks behind him can see.

Posted by: zuco | January 14, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

So wonderfully random! Love it!

Posted by: elpando | January 14, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

He's my hero. especially when he puts the shiny twirly things in his helmet.

Posted by: MNMNT | January 14, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Excellent work, my good man! I love the Capstronaut.

Posted by: hithere1 | January 14, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was a fan being unique and quirky like the cloak guy. But since the suit is being passed around, it now comes across of just a means of drawing attention. Does Smileypen have a substitute blow the horn, does Goat have a substitute lead the Let's Go Caps cheer, does the cowbell guy have a substitute ring the cowbell? No. Mission Control can call the spaceman home.

Posted by: NovaCath1 | January 14, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

That video is unreal.. Keep it up Capstronaut.

Posted by: highshockey | January 14, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

The Caps fan base has become nothing but a bunch of freaks and castoffs.

Posted by: Randy_Hawkins | January 14, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

I don't see what the big deal is; with all due respect, it's hockey.

Posted by: Section117 | January 14, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

This guy is a fraud. No way is he a long time, capital centre fan. BS around with some astronaut suit instead of paying attention to the game? Amateur.

Posted by: ovyscaps | January 14, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

So I was at the Ottawa game with my dad last Thursday night and they showed the astronaut dancing on the screen. I said, "What is the deal with that guy?" and my dad responded, "I'm sure Steinberg will interview him."

And of course, he was correct.

Posted by: TheFingerman | January 14, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

This guy is a fraud. No way is he a long time, capital centre fan. BS around with some astronaut suit instead of paying attention to the game? Amateur.

Posted by: ovyscaps | January 14, 2010 9:43 PM

If you were a real fan you wouldn't have ovycaps as your username. it would be something like RODLANGWAYSMULLETRULES or ILOVEDALEHUNTER or DONNYBEAPSISTHEMAN.

My friend, you are the fraud caps fan. And what true fan calls it the capital centre? It's the Cap Center. I call BillShut on you, sir.

Posted by: MNMNT | January 15, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Time for blast off!

Lets go Caps!!!

Posted by: SA-Town | January 15, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse


We've been calling him the Space Cadet...

Posted by: CapsNut | January 15, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Whatever makes us unique! Every team has fans in jerseys, but not every team has its own Capstronaut!

Posted by: RusCap | January 15, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

This guy is a fraud. No way is he a long time, capital centre fan. BS around with some astronaut suit instead of paying attention to the game? Amateur.

Posted by: ovyscaps | January 14, 2010 9:43 PM

If you were any fan at all you would appreciate his enthusiasm! You can stay at home if you want to be that cranky, i love it when people get dressed up for the games! I grew up going to games at the caps centre and i have waited so long for the team to be loved like this. I believe him when he says he has been around, he sounds like he knows the slow mind numbing pain of a disappointment, ie being a long time DC fan...

Love you Capstronaut!

Posted by: mrszilla | January 15, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I don't care how goofy people are during games -- I'm just glad I no longer sit next to a bunch of empty seats. Like zuco, though, I've been wondering how the people who sit behind him feel about it.

I hope he doesn't really think he is getting to the opposing team's players. Presumably that was a joke.

The video was lame...not enough material there.

Also, that's a neat trick getting someone's phone number but not his name. Will have to try that sometime.

Posted by: CapsChick | January 15, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

It's actually a little disappointing if the Capstronaut is not at a game, and I actually catch myself saying "Wow, why am I upset that some dude I don't know isn't at one of 41 home games?" I think it highlights the excitement of Verizon Center and the atmosphere of Caps games. The Capstronaut is just one piece of a large puzzle of endless fun for friends and family...just like the guy who sits around section 105-106 and starts the "Let's Go Caps!" chants.

I think we should find him a female Capstronaut dressed in pink.

Posted by: Section104 | January 15, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Dude needs to make a slide up face shield thing so he can drink and create more realistic gravitational forces.

Posted by: WheresMyCoffeee | January 15, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Well, I was going to say the Capstronaut is inviting a beating every time he wears teh costume, but Section 117 is putting on a late rush.

Who let this guy onto the boards?

Posted by: jwash4472 | January 15, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

this guy rocks!

Posted by: doughless | January 15, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I say to each his own. I thinks its great. I am one of the head painters (sect 101 tonight! often in 121) and I get asked all kinds of questions. To me, its just another way of support. If other teams can have their chant (ole Ole ole anyone?) why can't we just be crazy? At least we don't pummel the visiting Fans into submission..

Posted by: jdhoover | January 15, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Who let this guy onto the boards?

Posted by: jwash4472 | January 15, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Apparently you don't know anything about context, otherwise you'd get the joke.

Posted by: Section117 | January 15, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

One thing I found somewhat coincidental is that the astronaut suit, including the patches like the NASA patch, looks authentic, except for the prominent Volkswagon patch. During one Comcast broadcast, there was a commercial break that ended with a Volkswagon ad, and when Comcast returned to the game, the first thing they showed was the Capstronaut adorned with his noticeable Volkswagon patch. I don't know if this was a one-time occurrence or not because I attend the home games, so I don't generally watch the home game telecasts (i.e, I DVR each home game and if it is a particularly good game, I later fast forward to the goals and other high points of the game).

Posted by: Monty2 | January 15, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Is it just me or would there be anyone else pissed off to be that old guy sitting behind the capstronaut? seriously, I'm sure if he's not standing up all the time his bubble has to get in the way of the game, and those are good seats to have to look around someone.

Posted by: superpaqman | January 15, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Finally someone talks to the Capstranaut! I've been wondering what that guy's deal was since the first time I saw him. Like who does that?! Funny stuff.

Posted by: ranndino | January 15, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm with everyone else who says let the guy celebrate the same joy and mind-blowing excitement we all enjoy watching the game. Heaven forbid we let anyone express their excitement in their own special way. Course, don't sit in front of me or I'll need to wrangle that helmet off your head. =P

Let's GOO Caps!

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | January 15, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

The guy in the cape and the plasma batons scares me.

Posted by: FusilliJerry1 | January 15, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Ted has offered up a seat in his box tonight for the Capstranaut.

Posted by: capsfansince74 | January 15, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

What does a spacesuit have to do with the Capitals? And it's not even red!

Posted by: RockRed | January 15, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't sit in that section so it generally doesn't affect me. I was annoyed when he was fan of the game. There is nothing caps related about that suit.

Posted by: tim-n-VA | January 15, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

That guy needs help. But, then again, who doesn't?

Go Caps!

Posted by: CF11555 | January 15, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Dude needs to make a slide up face shield thing so he can drink and create more realistic gravitational forces.

Posted by: WheresMyCoffeee | January 15, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

His face shield does slide up.

Posted by: HowdyDCU | January 15, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Wouldnt it be wild if the guy in the Capstraunat suit was also the old guy that does the sprinkler dance at the Wiz games?

Posted by: fushezzi | January 15, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Two comments: Whenever I hear that song, I ALWAYS think of this:

which begets this:

Moving on, I do agree with the comments that the Capstronaut does not have enough material or "moves". He mostly just sways back and forth like he's tripping on shrooms. My advice would be to surreptitiously try to plant an American flag, lunar style, behind the visitor's bench the next time The Habs or Senators (or any Canadian team) are in town. Canucks always hate any obtuse assertion of American dominance.

Posted by: vargulv | January 15, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

This is one fan I actually like and want to see more of.

In looking back, my all time fave fans are Chief Zee, the Hogs, the guy who dressed up as the Fat Lady during the Bullets games, Salvatore and his big Drum at D.C. United games and Wild Bill Hagy.

Posted by: bbride1 | January 15, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

"RODLANGWAYSMULLETRULES" - HA!!! Why didn't I think of that?!? :-) Although, with all due respect, it would be Caps Centre ... just sayin'! ;-)

Posted by: --Boo-- | January 16, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

DC could use an icon like that to enhance its sports identity. Right now, the faces of DC sports are Dan Snyder, Gilbert Arenas, and the miserable Washington Nationals.

Posted by: j762 | January 16, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I got my picture taken with the Capstronaut on Friday night when the Caps beat up on the Leafs. Nice guy, and I love the weirdness.

Posted by: arnoldturner | January 19, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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