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Posted at 2:11 PM ET, 12/28/2010

Top 11 D.C. Sports Moments of 2010

By Dan Steinberg


Author's note: This is the fourth time I've done this (I think), which is equivalent to several centuries the way things change around this place. For past years, see 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Because I'm getting old and soulless, my criteria have changed somewhat. As always, the moment has to be locally based. As always, it has to have attracted national attention. As always, it has to pass the "will we remember it in 10 years" test. But rather than also include a bloggability category, as in the past, I'm going to instead try to judge these events by their importance to actual D.C. sports fans. This means it'll be more depressing than usual.

11. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper become Nats. This goes in the "close your eyes and imagine the future" category. The net impact of drafting Harper first overall and signing Werth to a seven-figure contract was pretty minimal on current D.C. sports fans. But if Harper turns out the way people think he'll turn out, this will be one of the best parts about a pretty dreary year in local sports. And handing Werth by far the largest contract in franchise history could also be seen as a turning-point moment one day. Possibly. Maybe. If things go well. And planets align. And cows and pigs and other farmyard animals sprout wings. Perhaps. Hey, it's only No. 11.

10. Ted Leonsis buys the Wizards. It was entirely anti-climactic, but it's hard to diminish the importance of an actual ownership change, which landed Leonsis recognition as one of the most influential fellas in sports. And while one of the primary things people had associated with this ownership change -- a return to the Bullets -- has been put on extended hold, Leonsis already gave fans the next best thing: a promise of a uniform and color change. That, along with his 101 signs of change, will wind up being one of the few joyous parts of being a Wizards fan in 2010.


9. Icons Depart. I'm not sure that any of these merit inclusion on their own, but as a group, D.C. sports said a (non-fatal) farewell in 2010 to some pretty large names. Joe Bugel retired from the Redskins. So did Chris Samuels. Stan Kasten left the Nats. Jaime Moreno played his last game for D.C. United. Ralph Friedgen was pushed out at Maryland. Michael Wilbon left The Washington Post. As a group, that's almost a century of being D.C. sports touchstones.

8. The Caps cap their best-ever winning streak with a Snowvechkin. I feel like this should be higher, but I just can't find a spot. Those magical weeks in January and February when the Caps couldn't lose felt, at the time, like something we would never forget. The Capitals went from a good team to a team we expected to be playing into June, to the point that I begged out of a World Cup trip. They set a franchise record for consecutive wins. Their ratings skyrocketed, with all five of the most-watched regular-season games in CSN history to that point coming during the streak. And for D.C. sports fans, the climax -- the snow storm win over the Penguins on national television -- was a terrifically fun time, far outclassing the Super Bowl later that night. That game must have been one of the two best D.C. sports events to attend in person in 2010. It was just pure good stuff.





7. Haynesworth Haynesworth Haynesworth Haynesworth. In a year when Donovan McNabb was acquired and Mike Shanahan hired, can you really call Haynesworth one of the biggest Redskins stories in this market? I'd submit that you can. McNabb, it sure appears, will have a shorter (and less destructive) tenure in Washington than No. 92. Shanahan's hiring was massively important, but also pretty predictable and dull. Haynesworth, though, dominated the entire offseason, most of training camp, and much of the regular season. The pinnacle, of course, was the conditioning test, which turned what should have been a time of optimism and hope into a succession of staged runs by fans and journalists, hyperventilation-fueled blog posts and TV reports, and jokes about potty breaks. Without question, it marred much of Shanahan's first season in D.C.

6. Mike Shanahan Happens. Hiring the two-time Super Bowl winner hasn't dramatically changed the on-field results, yet. It wasn't particularly surprising, after months of speculation. And while Redskins fans are more optimistic than they were during the dying days of the Maroon and Black Era, Shanahan still hasn't made people forget even the modest accomplishments of Gibbs 2.0. Still, the Redskins hired a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach with the most fantastic face coloring you've ever seen. That has to be on here, and high.


5. The Rise and Fall of McNabb. I originally wanted to make this into two different entries, but it's so hard to separate the fall from the rise. The Easter day trade was galvanizing, even if a good number of fans and analysts were skeptical from the start. Still, to go from the always controversial Jason Campbell to a guy who had been to five NFC title games and six Pro Bowls? The most recognizable and accomplished Washington quarterback in a quarter-century? It was hard to believe. No harder, though, than when McNabb was benched for cardiovascular and/or terminology reasons before running the two-minute offense in Detroit, and then benched for good in favor of Rex Grossman. I mean, the Redskins traded for Donovan McNabb and then benched him for Rex Grossman. Still feels like buying a Christmas wheel of Sottocenere al Tartufo and then instead busting out a block of Velveeta for your guests.





4. Finga Gunz end Gilbert Arenas's tenure in Washington. Sure, the actual trigger for his demise, so to speak, came in 2009, when he brought guns into the locker room. And sure, it was the weeks of subtle deception that clinched his legal difficulties, which were the real cause of his split with the Wizards. But no single moment from the entire incident will be quite as memorable as this bizarre scene in Philadelphia, which is the first thing I think of when remembering his downfall. In a fitting twist, the same bloggers who gave Arenas his Agent Zero label came up with the Finga Gunz phrase that came to symbolize the end.





3. The Wizards win the lottery. As with the top two events, this moment is frozen in my mind: Irene Pollin's face, my Wizard-obsessed friends turning into yammering four-year olds on the Internet, the instant feeling that Ted Leonsis was transferring his Ovechkin-fueled Caps luck onto the forever-failing Wizards. Whether John Wall redeems this franchise in the long run, who knows, but that moment -- combined with the arrivals of McNabb and Strasburg -- felt like a breakthrough.

2. The Caps get Halak'ed Well jeez, this is getting to be a depressing list. Part of me wanted to rank the Snowvechkin stuff higher than this: maybe we'll remember the good things, with time, and forget the bad things. But the problem is, the good things made us so excited for the spring, and the bad things lingered for such a very long time. Plus, while the winning streak was historic for this franchise, the blown 3-1 lead against eighth-seeded Montreal was historic for the NHL. And the feeling of utter emptiness left behind -- even for objective sports writers -- was one of the enduring emotions of 2010. This was supposed to be the team that rescued us all from a miserable decade of Washington sports. Instead, they just added to it. "That's the sound of 18,000 people vomiting," one fan told me after it was over.





1. Strasmas happens. Unforgettable. Electric. Nationally resonant. Seemingly historic. Ultimately disastrous, but that's D.C. sports for you. I'd put it up with the George Mason-Connecticut game at Verizon Center and Usain Bolt in Beijing as one of the coolest sporting events I've ever viewed in person. So even if it was one-and-done, I still put it at the top of this list.

Honorable Mentions: The Drama of Rob Dibble, Maryland basketball beats Duke on senior night, the Redskins beat the Cowboys on national TV, the Wiz trade DeShawn/Brendan/Caron/Jamison, Brooks Laich changes a tire, the Caps make HBO.

By Dan Steinberg  | December 28, 2010; 2:11 PM ET
Categories:  Caps, D.C. United, Nats, Redskins, Terps, Wizards  
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Next: Ovechkin's Winter Classic skates

Comments

Strasmas was definitely top game I've seen in person in any sport. Good #1. Redskins at 5,6,7 but not in top 4 is interesting. If measuring upon ink spilled they definitely take 1,2,3

Posted by: JDP_ | December 28, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Def the Wizards winning the lottery, that saved the franchise period! John Wall is the savior.

Posted by: MrWillie | December 28, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, this list seems pretty right to me. As fun as the Caps streak was, and as glorious as that comeback win over the Pens was, it's still overshadowed by the playoff loss--which the team is obviously still feeling the effects of today.

If anything, the Haynesworth stuff is probably too high. Certainly a bloggable and engrossing story, but it was a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing--and will end up being just another one of the Snyder busts when we look back in the long term.

Posted by: TheFingerman | December 28, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

agree with most although i think jaime moreno by himself deserves a top three being one of the greatest dc athletes last decade and all time goal scoring leader in mls. Also, i would put gilbert gun incident top three just cuz of how much that shaped the team we see today and the whole blowup, as well as affected our destiny in winning the lottery and getting john wall, which should be number 4. Haynesworth was probably the most hyped of all stories which really says more about the washington post and their habit of stretching stories that arent really there then it does for how newsworthy it really was but i'd prob put haynesworth where he is on that list just because its the skins and it even got espn interested in us.

Posted by: bbachrac | December 28, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm not trying to be an ass, but... this post is not what it purports to be at all

nice amalgam of stuff though

Posted by: JohnnyBlades | December 28, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

True, Johnny, True. I guess I switched it from Top 11 Sports Stories to 11 Most Important/Most Newsworth Sports Stories, but I wanted to use the same headline anyhow. Apologies.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | December 28, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse


How about "continuing decline of Post sports section?"

- Departure of Mayor McCheese and other notable writers
- Tarik "graduates" from Caps beat
- End of Dan's Tuesday chat (and other regular Sports chats)

Let's hope Boz (and the Bog) don't go anywhere.

Posted by: metatext | December 28, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

If this is the top then I really don't want to see the bottom

Posted by: Kev29 | December 28, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

This somehow went from "top moments" to "top stories"...?

If it's indeed top moments, how about Jaime Moreno SCORING in his last DC United game? Something that actually happened in an actual competition that actually took place within the borders of Washington, DC? Are all of those true of anything that made this list--besides Strasburg?

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | December 29, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm asking this question truly out of ignorance. Is it a right of passage for Jewish men to become cynical and bitter as they get older? "I'm getting old so I'm bitter" is becoming irritating. Stay away from Tony K!!!

Posted by: Albright4Snapper | December 29, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper become Nats. This goes in the "close your eyes and imagine the future" category.

---------------------------------------

What future? Werth will be 32 years old on Opening Day.

Posted by: RiverOtis | December 29, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper become Nats. This goes in the "close your eyes and imagine the future" category.

---------------------------------------

What future? Werth will be 32 years old on Opening Day.

Posted by: RiverOtis | December 29, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Too many Redskins stories, I know this is a Skins town but really? They aren't as relevant as they used to be and we have enough diversions.

Posted by: break20 | December 30, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

i'm so proud to be able to say i was at both the superbowl sunday snowvechkin vs the pens game and strasmas... what a year!

Posted by: rubyx4soho | December 30, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Too many Redskins stories, I know this is a Skins town but really? They aren't as relevant as they used to be and we have enough diversions.

Posted by: break20 | December 30, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

i'm so proud to be able to say i was at both the superbowl sunday snowvechkin vs the pens game and strasmas... what a year!

Posted by: rubyx4soho | December 30, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

"agree with most although i think jaime moreno by himself deserves a top three being one of the greatest dc athletes last decade and all time goal scoring leader in mls."
-->OK let's compare DC United interest to other sports teams- Skins, CAPS, Nats, Wizards, Terps basketball then football ALL rank ahead of DC United.

Posted by: break20 | December 30, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"I'm asking this question truly out of ignorance. Is it a right of passage for Jewish men to become cynical and bitter as they get older? "I'm getting old so I'm bitter" is becoming irritating."

Answer: No, though I'm sure there are all kinds of Jewish people if you look around, or think back to even the recent past: Red Auerbach, Abe Pollin (not an old and bitter man if I remember correctly), Marv Albert, etc... even Einstein

Posted by: gadlut | December 30, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

No real complaints about the top 11 taking the whole area sports scene into consideration. But as a big Terps fan, I had forgotten about beating Duke on Senior night. On the other hand, I am still haunted by visions of Michigan State's buzzer beater to eliminate Maryland from the NCAA tournament. That would have been in my Top 11.

Posted by: mikeinrockville | December 30, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

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