City Paper is not for tourists
The Washington football team is on its fourth starting quarterback of the season, and fans often leave FedExField early, disgusted with the on-field product. The Wizards are mired in mediocrity, and can’t avoid questions about locker room chemistry. The owner of the Nationals doesn’t believe that Bryce Harper, the homegrown MLB superstar, will be returning to the District.
But D.C. sports fans can still feel good about 2018. All they need to do is go inside Capital One Arena, look up at the rafters, and say, “At least that happened.” That’s where the Capitals’ Stanley Cup Championship banner hangs.
Here’s a look back at a historic year in D.C. sports.
March 15: As expected, free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, who broke several records while in D.C. and went viral for screaming, “You like that!” at a television camera, signed with the Minnesota Vikings. He agreed to a three-year contract worth about $84 million.
April 27: The Wizards’ caustic season mercifully concluded with a six-game loss to the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. (As a reminder of the tension level, John Wall publicly called out his teammates and the front office a day after the loss.)
June 7: Mark this day on your calendars. The Washington Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, to finally end the 26-year D.C. sports championship drought in the four major leagues. Thousands of fans witnessed the victory at the watch party at Capital One Arena, and wiped away tears before swarming downtown D.C. in celebration.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” one of the fans, Anthony Moton II, told City Paper that night. “Everyone is out here. This is so exciting. I can’t fucking explain it, it’s so crazy. … All that’s going on in our country, this city needs this so bad. We haven’t had a winner. Our city needs this and I’m here for it.”
June 28: Wayne Rooney, international superstar, and to date the most popular D.C. sports athlete on social media, arrived at Dulles International Airport to hundreds of screaming fans. Though some questioned Rooney’s true purpose in signing with an MLS team, one thing was clear: His arrival generated an excitement for the franchise that D.C. hadn’t felt in several years.
“It is fantastic to be joining D.C. United at such an exciting time in the club’s history with the new stadium opening in just a few weeks,” Rooney said in a news release. “Moving to America and MLS fulfills another career ambition for me. I have the hunger to be a success here and will give D.C. 100 percent.”
July 14: D.C. United debuted Audi Field, the team’s brand new, $500 million stadium at Buzzard Point. The summer evening was an on-field success, but the protest from the team’s supporter groups and a freak accident in which a railing hit a D.C. United staff member (giving her a concussion) marred the festive opening night.
July 17: Nationals Park hosted MLB’s biggest stars and baseball fans from around the world for the MLB All-Star Game. One night earlier, Harper won the Home Run Derby in thrilling fashion while wearing a D.C. flag headband.
July 28: Sports owner Ted Leonsis won his second championship when the Washington Valor of the Arena Football League won the four-team playoffs after finishing with a 2-10 regular season record. (This one wasn’t quite as exciting as the Caps’ victory.)
Sept. 12: The Mystics defied odds all season and made it to the WNBA Finals.
Global basketball icon Elena Delle Donne and veteran guard Kristi Toliver led the way for the team but the Seattle Storm swept the Mystics in three games.
“I think it’s important to realize that we just rebuilt this team last year with bringing in Elena and Kristi and some other pieces,” guard Natasha Cloud told City Paper after Game 3. “In our second year we’re a championship-caliber team. We’ve continuously progressed from semifinals to the finals. There is another level to this team, so we have a lot to be proud of.”
Sept. 22: Mayor Muriel Bowser and other D.C. politicians gathered with sports figures and members of the community for the ribbon-cutting of the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Ward 8.
Sept. 26: The Nationals beat the Miami Marlins, 9-3, in their last home game of the season. But this date is significant for another reason: Harper may have played his last game at Nationals Park with the home team. He arrived at the stadium three and a half hours early to soak in the atmosphere and put on the Nationals’ white jersey for what was potentially the final time. He is now a free agent.
Oct. 16: Toliver became one of the few female coaches in the NBA when the Wizards named her as an assistant coach. “I’d love to be a coach in the NBA, that would be a dream,” Toliver told City Paper a few months earlier.
Oct 21: D.C. United completed its miraculous turnaround from last place to qualifying for the MLS playoffs. “No one was talking about us, and now everyone can’t stop talking about us,” said midfielder Paul Arriola. “It’s a good feeling to be able to win and I think the work that we have put in has paid off. But we’re not done yet.”
The team would lose a little over a week later in penalty kicks to the Columbus Crew in the knockout round of the MLS Cup Playoffs in front of a sold-out crowd at Audi Field.
Oct. 31: The University of Maryland fired D.J. Durkin as its football coach one day after reinstating him. Controversy surrounded the school after the heat stroke death of linebacker Jordan McNair and reports of a toxic football culture.
Durkin was in the third year of a five-year deal and was paid approximately $5.5 million to not coach the team. In December, Maryland announced that D.C. native and former Alabama football assistant coach Michael Locksley will take over as head coach of the Terps.
Nov. 3: The Capital City Go-Go, the Wizards’ G League affiliate, made its debut at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Ward 8. The announced crowd of 2,383 included NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Nov. 18: Exactly 33 years after Joe Theismann suffered a broken leg that ended his career, the Washington football team’s starting quarterback and offseason pick-up Alex Smith broke his right tibia and fibula after being sacked by Houston Texans’ Kareem Jackson. Smith would require several surgeries due to infections and would not be released from the hospital until Dec. 16. Washington has started three different quarterbacks since his injury.
Dec. 3: The D.C. Overwatch esports team (owned by Washington City Paper owner Mark Ein) unveiled its logo and official team name, Washington Justice, ahead of season 2 of the Overwatch League. Washington assistant coach Kyoung Ey Molly “AVALLA” Kim will become the first female OWL coach.
The franchise’s first match will be on Feb. 16 and the team will be compete at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.
Dec. 17: In a surprise trade that almost didn’t happen, the Wizards said goodbye to Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers and welcomed back Trevor Ariza.
“We got to move forward,” said Bradley Beal. “I definitely have to reach out to Kelly [Oubre Jr.] and Austin [Rivers] one more time before Trevor [Ariza] gets here, especially Kelly because Kelly is one of my young guys. … I get my OG back, my vet, in Trevor Ariza, so I embrace that and that’s a plus. It’s kind of a two-fold situation but just got to keep moving forward.”
Dec. 23: The local NFL team was officially eliminated from the playoffs for the third straight season, and the ninth time out of the last 11.