Living in the D.C. area for 23 years, and closely following local sports, I’ve noticed a lot of things. First and foremost, it was hard for a while for DC to become an exciting sports town. There weren’t many consistent winners. The Capitals changed that in 2008 by making the Stanley Cup playoffs, and since then in all but one year.
I usually go to a good number of games, mostly Nationals games in addition to Capitals games and this is just an observation. I’ve noticed that of the four major sports teams, three out of the four teams have a lot of their crowd divided.
Let’s start with football and the Washington Redskins. When you attend a game at FedEx Field, don’t get me wrong, you’ll see some loyal Redskins fans loud and proud rocking the burgundy and gold. But there are also many fans of the opposition as well, especially within the division. Whether it’s the Giants, Cowboys, or Eagles, it seems like half the stadium is full of those fans. I will never forget watching a Redskins game in 2008 when they hosted the Steelers on Monday Night Football. From what some friends of mine who attended the game told me, “every third fan was a Steelers fan.”
Games like the Steelers, Eagles and Giants are all driving distance to Landover, Maryland. As for Cowboys fans, they’re everywhere.
Next up are the Nationals. The one thing that’s different about them is they’re an 11-year old franchise, so there were fans already rooting for other teams prior to their arrival in 2005. I get that they are still a young franchise. Thankfully, interest in them has gradually gone up thanks to Bryce Harper. The Nats are establishing themselves in the DMV, now they just need to sell out more games.
Now comes the Wizards and I didn’t need to do much research from the past. I can already look at two games this season that caused controversy. The biggest one came in December in a home game against the Lakers. It came just days after Kobe Bryant announced his retirement, so there were already a bunch of Kobe fans at the game. There were so many Lakers fans that John Wall was getting booed at the free throw line, IN HIS OWN ARENA. I also saw from reporters and fans that some Wizards fans were cheering when Kobe Bryant scored. It even caused CSN’s own Michael Jenkins to go off on the air:
Two months later, Steph Curry and the defending NBA champion Warriors were in town and Verizon Center was filled with more Warriors fans than Wizards fans.
Capitals games are a completely different story and in my opinion, no sporting event in the area competes with a live Caps game. Of course when I grew up and started watching Caps games, I noticed when they played the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins or Sabres there used to be a whole lot more fans of those teams. Nowadays, people in our area are noticing the Caps potential and how special this team is and throwing their support behind them.
I’ve never attended a Caps game until the season after they made the playoffs for the first time in the “Rock the Red” era. I just never really had the chance to go out to Verizon Center, but when I finally got my dad to get us tickets for a game, he became hooked like I already was. Everything from a majority of the fans “rocking the red,” to going crazy after goals scored, to “Unleash The Fury” late in the game; there is nothing in this area like it.
Since 2008/2009, the building has always sold out. Maybe it’s the excitement players like Alex Ovechkin provide. Maybe it’s the whole “Rock the Red” marketing campaign. Regardless, the atmosphere and the crowd at Caps games continue to make Verizon Center not only one of the loudest arenas in the NHL but a nightmare for opposing players.
This is why Caps fans are the best sports fans in the DMV. They are hardcore “ride or die” fans. When you attend a Capitals game, you don’t see much opposing fans. All you see is a big sea of red.
By Michael Marzzacco