Whatever happened to the Capstronaut?
The NHL All-Star break is a nice place to take stock of the season to date. Who has surprised us? Who's disappointed us? Who signed sponsorship deals with global men's hygiene companies? Whose eyes bled on national television? What happened to that team that used to score six goals a game? And more importantly, what happened to that guy with the astronaut costume?
Yeah, it's time for a Capstronaut retrospective. Last year at this time, you'll recall, the pseudo-anonymous fan who showed up at Verizon Center dressed like an astronaut was quite the rage. Kids asked him for autographs. Grown men and women wanted to pose for pictures. Ted Leonsis invited him into the owner's box. The team ran a video package about him on its Web site. Just about every local TV station profiled him. He showed up on camera behind player interviews. The Washington Post, of all places, published a story about him. And players even commented on the phenomenon.
"He looks like he's straight off the moon," Brooks Laich told Fox 5. "We have some wild and crazy fans."
The Capstronaut, by his own recollection, attended the team's first two home playoff games, which the Caps split. He was unable to make the final two home games of the season, both losses. And then the offseason came. And then?
"You know, it was a good ride last year," said Geoff Dawson, whose cover was increasingly blown as the media coverage increased last season. "It was a brief step into a little insanity and a lot of fun. It was a blast...[but] it kind of ran its course."
Dawson, a longtime Caps fan and one of the partners behind Chinatown's Rocket Bar, had the costume largely because of his tavern's outer space theme. A lost bet sent him to the arena in costume, and the rabid response (plus all the wins) kept him coming back. The shilling for Rocket Bar part got completely overwhelmed by his sudden inclusion into the ranks of the team's super fans. By the end of the season, he was posing for 100 or 200 photos a night, and while some fans objected to the sideshow elements of the costume, many others enjoyed the act.
On the other hand, he couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't drink beer, and had to watch hockey games from inside a heavy and stiflingly hot costume. So while Dawson still goes to games, he's been doing it as a civilian, absent his trappings of stardom.
"I'm going as Clark Kent," Dawson joked. "What I'm feeling is he's lost in space right now. I'm not ruling out a rescue. The costume is safely tucked away at mission control, ready to go. My 12-year old son is ready to go every game -- where's the costume, let's go! He's in. I'll be back....I'm waiting in the wings for the occasional flyover. That might be the way to look at it."
Indeed, the Capstronaut did make one appearance this season, when the Caps were in a prolonged losing slump. The flashing lights and bulky suit were witness to an overtime loss, which was probably not justification enough for a return to helmeted glory. Like so many other fans, Dawson is enduring a confusing regular season, slightly concerned by the team's play, but hoping that this regular season might lead to a more vulnerable and hungrier postseason approach.
As for the fan base, Dawson still loves it, its fun-loving nature, its embrace of craziness, its contributions to a few months that he won't ever forget.
"I feel like maybe I wrote a line in my obituary," Dawson said with a laugh. "I don't think I'll be able to outrun this one."
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