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Was this the worst year of D.C. sports?

Beware the temptation to attach superlatives to the most recent anything, as in, that chunk of aged Gouda I just had was the most delicious piece of cheese the universe has ever seen, LeBron's elbow grimace is the most embarrassing display of nonsense from a league MVP in modern memory, my decade with The Washington Post coincided with the worst decade for newsprint since the 17th century, and so on.

Thus, please do cast a skeptical eye on what follows. Still, let me ask: were the past 12 months, May 1-April 30, possibly the worst in D.C. sports history?

ESPN 980's Andy Pollin asked that question on his blog, and he decided that over the past 40 years, this most recent stretch of failure was only the second worst.

Pollin's worst 12 months came in 1988-89, when the Redskins went from the Super Bowl to a 7-9 disappointment, the Bullets and Bernard King missed the playoffs at 40-42, the Caps fell to the Flyers in the first round, Georgetown missed the Final Four despite having Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo and Maryland basketball went 1-13 in the ACC, leading to the resignation of Bob Wade, which prompted Tony Kornheiser to describe the program as "literally and figuratively at ground zero."

I found Pollin's third choice to be at least as bad as that. That came in 1993-94, when the Redskins went 4-12 under first-year coach Richie Petitbon, the Bullets struggled through a miserable 24-58 campaign, the Caps blew a lead to the Flyers and lost in the second round of the playoffs, and Maryland and Georgetown basketball won just three NCAA tournament games combined. That, indeed, seems like a poor year. Petitbon's subsequent firing alone prompted Tom Boswell to write that "the nation's capital felt a chill that was even colder than the city's new-fallen snow," and The Post's editorial board to cite the case of 18th century British admiral John Byng.

But I'm sorry, the past 12 months matches up just fine with either of those offerings. For the sheer scale of failure, national humiliation and fans ritually wrapping their own necks with empty season-ticket lanyards, this year was something special. I know there's been a lot of negativity lately, but one more time, for history's sake:

* The Nats finished with 100 losses for a second straight year, making them one of only four baseball franchises over the past 25 seasons to reach the century mark two years in a row.

* Maryland football ended its season with seven straight losses to finish 2-10, its worst record since 1967.

* The Redskins were 4-12, failing to win five games for just the third time since 1963. That record cost the coach, the quarterback, and the executive vice president of football operations their jobs. Also, they lost to the Lions. Also, they turned the offense over to a bingo caller.

* Georgetown became the biggest upset victim in the NCAA tournament's first round, losing to 14th-seeded Ohio. The Hoyas allowed 97 points, the most a 1-4 seed had surrendered in the first round since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. Some longtime fans called it the worst loss in school history.

* Maryland basketball had a fine season, but was on the wrong end of one of the most brutal second-round games, getting felled by a Michigan State three-pointer with no time on the clock. It was the seventh straight year the Terps had missed out on the Sweet 16.

* At 26-56, the Wizards weren't close to being historically bad. They've had a worse record seven times in the past 20 years, and they actually improved on their 2009 finish. However, none of those teams saw their best player end the season in a halfway house. Plus, the team traded away all its good players, and its owner died. "Clearly...the most bizarre season in team history," Steve Buckhantz said on 980 this week.

* The Caps had, by just about any measure, the best regular season in their history. But they were the first 1 seed to blow a 3-1 series lead to an 8 seed, they became just the fifth NHL, NBA or MLB team to lose a Game 7 three years in a row, and their owner has repeatedly called this season a failure.

That's bad. I don't know, a lot of you have been around longer than I have. Were the past 12 months the worst?

By Dan Steinberg  |  May 4, 2010; 3:39 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Nats , Redskins , Terps , Wizards  
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Next: Nationals scoreboard goes dark


Also, DC United failed to make the playoffs on the last day of the season for the second year in a row, then did jack squat in the offseason and kicked off '10 with the worst start in team history.

Oh, and the guy who sponsors DC's PGA tour event, well, uh, yeah...not such a great year for the DMV in the golf arena, either.

Posted by: EdTheRed | May 4, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Andy Pollin is always looking for some other angle, never willing to accept the obvious. Which is: this year in DC Sports was by far the worst of my lifetime. It's a no-brainer, and it's not even close.

I can't speak for years before my lifetime, but in the last 3+ decades, this was the worst.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 4, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Many of us consider Maryland's losing to be a positive. (Of course, as a UVA fan I'm not in a position to say my teams did any better.)

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 4, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The Caps didn't play the Flyers in the 1993-94 playoffs. They actually beat the Penguins in the first round for the first (and as of yet, only) time before getting ousted by the eventual Cup-winning Rangers in the second.

Posted by: Goat_74 | May 4, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

No way 1988-89 is the worst, for this simple reason--while the Redskins had a very disappointing year, they had won the Super Bowl the year before. That certainly eases the pain of a Redskins season that was, in addition, hardly as disastrous as this year's mess. Otherwise, the Wizards had their typical 1980s season (a losing record), the Caps had their typical 1980s season (they blew a lead in the first round of the playoffs, although they did win a division title for the first time), and Georgetown lost to a number two seed in the Final Eight. Yes, Maryland was really bad, but at least they upset NC State in the first round of the ACC tournament.

That doesn't even compare to this year, with the Redskins, Wizards and Nats all having not only bad seasons, but seasons that left their organizations in disarry and laughing stocks in the rest of the country. Then there were the Caps having their most brutal collapse ever. And G'town lost to a 14 seed in the first round. Only Maryland didn't have a historically disappointing season. The two years are not even close.

Posted by: TheFingerman | May 4, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Beat it yahoo. This is a DC sports bog question about DC sports. Maryland Terrapins are a DC area sports team, UVA is not.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 4, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Ah, that should be:

Beat it wahoo. Or beat it nerd. Either would suffice.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 4, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

This year only seems bad because our expectations have risen. Remember the awful Deadskins of Bill McPeak, etc? And "first in war, first in peace and last in the American league"? And Maryland basketball under Bob Wade or football under anybody between Bobby Ross and Big Ralph? Or Georgetown before Big John? Overall, we have it pretty good around here.

Posted by: bethesdaguy | May 4, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The worst year ever in Washington DC sports was the year Daniel Snyder bought the Redskins.

Posted by: hockey023 | May 4, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Agreed this has to be the worst 12 month stretch in DC history. If you are counting from May 1st of last year you can throw in the Caps going up 2-0 on Pittsburgh and eventually losing in an embarrassing game 7.

What really makes it the worst though was all the extra stuff that went along with it, from the Redskins front office banning signs and all of that nonsense, to the Nats misspelling their name on the jersey of their two best players and also inviting opposing team's fan bases to invade our own home ballpark, to DC United taking out full page ads claiming "We Win Trophies" to promptly "stomp out" and lose one on our own pitch and eventually miss the playoffs. I highly doubt that any other losing stretch in DC history had so much embarrassing extra stuff attached.

Posted by: rademaar | May 4, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

On second thought, I think hockey023 has it right . . .

Posted by: bethesdaguy | May 4, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Skins didn't score a TD against dallas this year. That is low...

Posted by: Stu27 | May 4, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

1988-89 and 1993-94 were undoubtedly worse sports years than the past year, if only because we didnt't even have a local baseball team in those years. I'll take a year with 102 baseball losses to a year with no baseball team any day.

Posted by: theblitz | May 4, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

@theblitz I don't some ways, no baseball team is better than one that actively encourages Philly fans to come and take over the stadium.

Posted by: EdTheRed | May 4, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

My wife would def. call this the worst year ever for D.C. sports. More ruined nights and sleeping on the couch from all the swearing and fist pounding... on tables and doors, not her.

Don't get her started about Mike Green...

Posted by: saltine182 | May 4, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

If you want to rename the Wizards, please sign the petition at

The petition is in support of renaming the team, and it does not advocate any particular name. Ted Leonsis is famous for listening to the fans so express your opinion and please spread the word!

Posted by: emmet1 | May 4, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Go to hell, barno. If the Washington Post considers VPI a "local" team (as the sport section seems to suggest), then UVA is doubly so. Why don't you go back to antagonizing the cops on US-1 instead of picking fights here? Besides, if it is a **DC** discussion about **DC** sports, as you say, then Maryland doesn't qualify any more than any Virginia team does.

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 4, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I would definitely include United's "We Win Trophies" campaign which was promptly followed by the loss to the Sounders in the Cup final.

Posted by: leafblower | May 4, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

A question: is losing 100 games better or worse than not having a baseball team at all?

Posted by: NateinthePDX | May 4, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I vote for the year Sean Taylor died. No matter what else happened that year (yes, I know the Skins made the playoffs).

Losing ST21 was the biggest loss in my DC sports lifetime (too young to remember Len Bias). Considerably worse than the Caps blowing a 3-1 lead to a team with a hot goalie. And I'm a lifelong Caps fan. Not just some guy who moved here from out of town and likes to "Rock the Red."

Posted by: BornonChesapeakeStreet | May 4, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

This has absolutely been the worst year in my professional sports watching life. The '91 redskins are barely a memory to me anymore. I am a season ticket holder and I am constantly asking myself why i was time and money on Washington DC sports. I will always support the local teams, but lately I have found myself also rooting for other teams based on their players' ties to the DC area.
I have been rooting for the 49ers because of Vernon Davis and Shaun Hill. The Oklahoma City Thunder because of Green and Durant. The Dallas Mavericks because of Butler and Haywood. I will probably even be rooting for the Oakland Raiders this season (as well as the Redskins, of course) because of Jason and Bruce Campbell and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
This is how sad the DC sports scene has become. And just when people think that we may have something special in the Capitals, they go and suffer probably the worst loss in recent DC sports history.
Is there any other way for the sports gods to kick Washington in the crotch any harder?

Posted by: MeatSweats | May 4, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Teams may lose or stink. But there is also the tragic death of the Virginia lacrosse girl to consider, at the alleged hands of someone from the DC area. So yeah, this year sucked for DC-area sports.

Posted by: vicguru | May 4, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I think 2007 was the worst year. The death of Sean Taylor is enough. Throw in Gilbert Arenas's injury that would put him out for 2 plus years...

Posted by: st211 | May 4, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

It's been pretty awful. Maryland bball put together an awesome campaign though. It felt like something great was happening, and the final game was anything but anti-climatic for a career like greivis'.

Posted by: AndrewR1 | May 4, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

The NFL preseason! Redskins tout supreme talent.
Your 2010 Washington Capitals, '09 wounds licked, are raring to go.
Portis gets hurt.
I am still horny for Zorny, however.
Capitals start off strong, wow!
And, the Redskins lose to Detroit. Detroit.
Looking forward, not past. Skins could still make playoffs! (Could they?)

Damn the Capitals are a sight for sore eyes in this town.
Could they win the Cup?

Sports joke: four guns! LOLing all the way to the bank with you, Gil!
Pathetic. Skins offseason begins... again.
Oh, the Wiz are still playing, I guess.
Running through the Penguins like a hot knife through butter? Cup is ours!
There's a soccer team in DC? They haven't won a game yet? Oh.
Sour-lemon-face for the next 12 months: Capitals pull a Capitals.

Posted by: tuna_sandwich | May 4, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Go to hell, barno. If the Washington Post considers VPI a "local" team (as the sport section seems to suggest), then UVA is doubly so. Why don't you go back to antagonizing the cops on US-1 instead of picking fights here? Besides, if it is a **DC** discussion about **DC** sports, as you say, then Maryland doesn't qualify any more than any Virginia team does.

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 4, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

First off, antagonizing cops on Rt1? Wow, just wow.

Second of all, CP is less than 3 miles from the DC line, Charlottesville is what, nearly 3 hours? That was an absurd comparison.

Last but not least, if you went to UVA, chances are you are a big time nerd.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 4, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

To add on to EdtheRed's post about United, the sheer nature of that final game was particularly brutal. Coming from 1-0 down to 2-1 up (on a goal by Julius James, who picked up a hamstring strain but stayed in because we had used all our subs; James scored as a forward, despite playing his entire pro and NCAA career as a defender), United had to suffer 2 heartbreaks in stoppage time. First, KC converted a penalty kick after a handball by Fred (in his defense, Fred saved a sure goal with said handball). Then, with virtually the last kick of the game, Rodney Wallace hit the post with a shot that the keeper had no chance on. Literally another inch one way, and the ball goes in, which would have sent DC to the playoffs as the 8th seed.

And what did 2009's 8th seed do? Only win MLS Cup.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | May 5, 2010 4:14 AM | Report abuse

Its hard for me to really count a school that calls itself the university of MARYLAND or the university of VIRGINIA a DC sports team. They are state schools, DC has no Division 1 sports school, at least not in football, we need to just accept it. Its like people claiming Rutgers is a NYC school.

If you leave colleges out of it, this was easily the worst year in DC sports. Just get the average winning % for the 5/4/3 pro sports teams in each of those years, that is proof enough. Look at it this way. The 100 loss nationals had the second best record in the cities teams in that period.

Posted by: alex35332 | May 5, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

i'm just gonna slit my wrists now

Posted by: hockeypunk | May 5, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse


Last but not least, if you went to UVA, chances are you are a big time nerd."

Gee, a College Park fan slinging juvenile insults. Now THERE'S a big surprise. It's sort of like, say, the sun rising in the east in the morning.

My original point still stands: There are plenty of people in the DC area to whom Maryland having losing seasons is a positive that might mitigate a bad DC sports year.

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 5, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

...To be worst,
The lowest and most dejected thing of fortune,
Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear:
The lamentable change is from the best;
The worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then,
Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace!
The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst
Owes nothing to thy blasts. But who comes here?

Posted by: wbbradb | May 5, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

We can only hope signing McNabb instead of drafting Jimmy Clausen, which we could of in the second round, pays off. Because if McNabb is a bust and Clausen turns out to be a star QB.. then without a doubt this was the worst...

Posted by: sovine08 | May 5, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

This "worst year" includes the best April since the Nats moved to DC (and the drafting and signing of a potential star), a Capital being named MVP for the second straight year, the firing of a terrible Redskins coach and the hiring of a front office for which so many had been clamoring, Gary Williams being named ACC Coach of the Year, and Greivis Vasquez winning the Cousy and the ACC Player of the Year.

And the Wizards continuing to be an embarassment, which to me is too entertaining to not consider it a positive thing.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 5, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Man, you know things are tough in DC sports when the perennial whining for attention that we DC United fans do becomes "Hey, what about us? We suck, too!"


Vamos United!

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | May 5, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

How is THIS year different from any other?

Posted by: amontgomery1 | May 5, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse


If you are University of Maryland grad than your graveyard shift is starting at 7-11. Or you are almost making $10 an hour after 20 years supervising illegals for a landscape company.

One almost UVA grad dead and another spending his life in jail means two less A*sholes out there in the workforce who believe they are owed something.

Part of the reason my companies gave up recruiting at either school over 10 years ago.

Posted by: sheepherder | May 5, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Permit me to defend a former student from my school's rival for a minute. I don't believe in hell, but if I did I'm pretty certain there would be a special place reserved there for a person like sheepherder. Wow, just wow...did you really just call a murdered girl--who by all accounts was not only beautiful on the outside but a wonderful human being on the inside--one "less *sshole in the workforce who believes they are owed something."

Seriously, I'm all for busting balls of rival schools and teams, but what you just wrote takes it way, way over the line from friendly ball busting to spitting on the grave of a beautiful girl while her family hasn't even yet had a chance to bury her. You are one sick sob, and I feel bad for your parents. They raised a severely disturbed nut.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 5, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

And I know of no legitimate company that refuses to recruit MD and VA grads, two of the top public schools in the country. So, in addition to being a deeply disturbed individual, you're also a liar. Nice.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 5, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

great article but your comment on Letravel was brilliant.

Queen James is the biggest freaking baby...just can't give that idiot any respect. He cries every time someone dares to foul or touch him. Like my favorite quote from Brendan Haywood - "i just fouled him - he acted like someone shot him"

Posted by: wizzz | May 5, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

1993-1994 was the worst. It is not close.

Posted by: jeremybozz | May 6, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

The lack of competency amongst the "DC" sport teams should be considered as a reflection of the citizens in "DC." Nothing is produced here except hot air. BS is our product. Bureaucrats don't typically stand for anything other than incompetence and dishonesty. Most are unemployable outside of government and to really define "DC" remember that it's taking monies from citizens who're making enormous sacrifices. Frankly most in government are waddling through life while taking generous pay and benefits. Not earning your own living and being a parasite is not a good feeling. Such defines our top level citizens. The politicians are lower level vermin than the bureaucrats. Difficult to place the lobbyists especially when you consider that "you can't bribe an honest person." But who's ever met an honest politician or bureaucrat?

Posted by: individual | May 6, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

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