The Kastles and D.C.'s sporting resurgence
When did the rusting hulk of D.C. sports scrape its decaying engine lowest on the cracked road of despair? When could you look down and see no floor, because things had already descended into some subterranean hell? When were things so bad that they couldn't get any worse?
Was it when Sherm Lewis came out of the bingo hall? When Gilbert unleashed his finger gunz? When the Natinals had their uniform malfunction?
At least one source suggested to me that the bottom came last July 7, when the Washington Kastles lost to Philly at home to drop to 0-3.
"We may be 0-3, but we're gonna win the championship," Coach Murphy Jensen announced on the court after that embarrassment. "I guarantee it!!!!"
"You thought I was being a clown," Jensen recently reflected. "Who's laughing now, funny man?"
(Yes, I'm writing about the Kastles, a month before their season starts. Look, it's this or more radio transcripts about Albert Haynesworth. Your choice.)
The Kastles fell to 0-4 the following day, and then the rebirth of an entire city began. First they won five straight matches. Then they clinched a playoff berth with a win on the season's final day. Finally they swept through the playoffs to bring the city a title.
Shanahan and McNabb? John Wall? Stephen Strasburg?
"I think it all started when the Kastles won last season and turned things around," said Jensen, a man who goes through ironic exclamation points like you or I use consume Fritos. "The other stuff, it's great. I think it's wonderful that the other teams are trying to get an organization that runs at the height and the talent pool of the Kastles."
My original question for Jensen, believe it or not, did not involve the Kastles's quest to redeem an entire city's sporting faults. I was just trying to ask him where his team's stars - Venus and Serena Williams - rank in a city suddenly flush with them. Jensen didn't have much doubt.
"They're already in the Hall of Fame," Jensen said. "Ovechkin will be a hall of famer, [so] I think they're in the same position. Serena and Venus, as a sibling pair, I think they surpass McNabb. I love McNabb, and I think he's had an unbelievable career even though he hasn't won the big one, but Venus and Serena are among the top 10 sports figures in [tennis] history. [ellip]
"They're the Pacquiao of women's tennis. They're ridiculous. Because it doesn't get the acclaim of football or basketball in America, that doesn't mean we don't have some of the biggest stars in the world playing, and playing in D.C."
Well, you could certainly do worse than Strasburg, McNabb, Wall, Ovechkin and two Williams sisters, anyhow.
Jensen, not surprisingly, is already talking three-peat. He promised to leave four tickets for the Obama family at every home match this season, "whether it's Barack or some other family with the name Obama." He admitted that "there'll never be another first time" for the Kastles, but said that his gang will continue to scrub away the stench of decay from this city's athletic resume.
"We've set the standard for the other sports teams in D.C.," he said. "We're not getting lost in the shuffle, because we have the opportunity to carry our cup around. They have to talk about rebuilding and the future, but it's all about the present with the Washington Kastles."
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