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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | June 25, 2010

When did the D.C. sports scene become exciting?

By Senior Airman Patrick McKenna 316th Wing Public Affairs

The headline says it all. When did D.C. have this much excitement over not one, but all four of its professional sports franchises? In the past, each has had their time when they were the talk of the town, well, except for maybe the Nationals, but there hasn't been a time in recent memory when they all were heading in the right direction.

The Nationals in less than two years have gone from laughing stock (case in point the "Natinals" jersey incident) with a bleak farm system to a team a few games under .500 and in possession of two of the most heralded draft picks in recent memory (Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper). The team also boasts one of the best young hitters in all of baseball in Ryan Zimmerman and a fantastic bullpen led by Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen. If Harper fulfills his potential and the Nationals can somehow keep Strasburg away from the bright lights of New York or Los Angeles, the Nationals have the potential to be very good for the next decade. That's light years ahead of where they were a couple of years ago.

The Capitals are the current darlings of the city. Sure, they squandered a fantastic opportunity to make a long postseason run when they choked in the first round versus Montreal, but this team is immensely popular and, more importantly, talented. Those thinking this team lives and dies with Alexander Ovechkin could not be more mistaken. The Capitals also have studs Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green filling out their roster (none are over the age of 26). This team is here to stay and has set the bar high for what D.C.'s professional teams are capable of achieving.

The Wizards have had an interesting year. There was a lot of excitement surrounding this team entering last season. They had a new coach, a healthy Gilbert Arenas and two other potential All Stars in Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. They also had a very strong bench with the acquisitions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye. All the signs pointed to a return to the postseason. So how'd it turn out? Well, before the season was over, Butler and Jamison were on new teams and Arenas was up on criminal charges for brandishing a weapon in the locker room. You could say the team had a disappointing season. But, they find themselves a few months away from a fresh start and the beneficiaries of some great luck. They won the NBA Draft lottery which afforded them the opportunity to draft a stud first overall in last night's draft. Another bright spot for the team going into this season was the emergence of Andray Blatche as a legitimate post player. Lastly, the team has a new owner(Ted Leonsis who also owns the Capitals) who is determined to make the Wizards a contender. The NBA season is a long way away, but as things stand right now Wizards fans have a reason for renewed optimism.

Finally, we get to the Redskins. This team has tormented its fan base for years by not living up to its potential. Last season, this team, despite having a very easy schedule, finished with the fourth worst record in the NFL. Frankly, the team was a mess from head coach down. But, owner Daniel Snyder has never been one to be scared of making changes, and he certainly lived up to that reputation this offseason. He brought in two-time Super Bowl champion head coach Mike Shanahan and traded for perennial Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb. Additionally, the team brought in running backs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker to add some much needed depth to the position. The only issue with the Skins right now is Albert Haynesworth. You know, the guy who signed an enormous contract with the team only one year ago and is already giving them headaches. If, and it's a big if, Haynesworth can buy into the new defensive scheme, the Redskins will be more balanced than they have been in years. Here's hoping the Skins don't break their fans hearts again.

Despite all the bright spots for each respective team, nobody truly knows how things will shake out. Strasburg could turn into the next Mark Prior. The Capitals could continue to struggle come playoff time. Donovan McNabb could realize he no longer has DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook and fail to live up to expectations. The Wizards could, well actually, things can't get any worse for them. The point is, that the die hard fans of these franchises no longer have to look at the glass as half empty. There are reasons to get excited for each franchise and that's rare, not just in D.C., but in any city with four professional teams. It's an exciting time to be in this area if you are a sports fan.