Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Loss and Sports Fandom

(I wrote this a week after the Capitals got knocked out of the playoffs, but left it in my drafts)

I reflected a bit on this on Facebook the night of the loss, but over a week after the Caps lost game 7, I feel like I have a little more clarity.

I found the Capitals on February 26, 2008, back when the Capitals still did Student Rush promotions. The first NHL game I ever saw (and I spent just $30 on a lower bowl seat) was against the Minnesota Wild, and the Capitals won handily. Brooks Laich scored two goals in a 4-1 victory. I was in the 7th or 8th row of a mostly empty arena.

At the time, I was a few months out of college, only a few weeks away from eventually getting laid off from my non-profit job, and I thought I'd be working there for a while. I was barely thinking of what I would want to do in the future.

All I knew was that this team inspired me. I started this blog in January 2010, writing about a Tomas Fleischmann appearance that was basically a recap post for the people that were not able to attend. Little did I know that starting this blog would change my life forever.

Soon thereafter, people started asking me to write for them. Some of them asked me to write for them for money. I got media credentials for practices. My articles started getting featured weekly on the front page of

I came back home to Chicago and applied to Northwestern University's Master's of Sports Administration program and got in. I now owe tens of thousands of dollars to student loan corporations getting this degree so that I could hopefully work for a sports team, ideally doing community relations.

I'm not pointing all this out to brag or anything. I'm just trying to emphasize that none of these monumental events would have happened if it were not for the Washington Capitals. I have a deeply personal connection with this team because they changed my entire life.

This team and their wonderful media relations department is how I got to have my very first interview be with Philipp Grubauer during his first development camp. My first in-season roster-player interview was with Matt Hendricks. I regularly got to hold my recorder in front of guys like Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Nick Backstrom.

I take it personally when they lose. I know how much these guys care. I've never personally been there for a clean-out day, but I've seen plenty of their interviews.

They're the reason for so much good in my life, so much direction. So yeah, they're a little bit important to me. And it's devastating to see them get knocked out of the playoffs, especially when they were the odds-on favorites, to see them continue to be mocked and made fun of.

This group of guys this year was really the best I have seen. It wasn't like years before when they added people like Jason Arnott or Martin Erat (I don't want to talk about it) expecting that they would make a big difference. In the past few years, the Caps have brought guys like Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie, Daniel Winnik and Kevin Shattenkirk into the mix. Guys that have improved the lineup during the regular season.

As a fan, obviously I want my team to win. But of course, at the same time, I don't want to see this team get blown up.

I wish I didn't care so much. And people might say I'm stupid for caring so much. But if this team had never come into my life, my life would be a very different thing.

Sports fandom is stupid but there is a reason.

And frankly, this team changed my entire life. I went back to school for a master's in sports administration. My dream job became one with a sports team. If I had never cared about the Capitals, my life would have been so much different.

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