A lesser-known French travel writer named Bernardin de Saint-Pierre once mused, during his travels, that it is Nature's intent that humanity be organized into families, rather than larger fraternities or affinity groups, as the latter tends toward conflict, and can too easily reveal our combustible nature. I'm not sure whether a certain gentleman's affinity for a sports team led to the fisticuffs and broken glass witnessed in front of the main bar at Bar Louie prior to the Capitals game this past Saturday, but I wouldn't be surprised.
But I am sure that the "fraternity" (for sure, not gender-specific), the community created by mutual admiration for the same group of hockey players that play in our nation's capital has proven to be quite a positive influence. (Particularly the community created here.) It's a part of my identity written in indelible ink.
So I'm reading that passage out of this admittedly obscure work on my Acela ride back to New York yesterday from attending Saturday's overly-dramatic contest, and of course I am making a connection to hockey, because thoughts of the game and the Caps course through most every neuron of my brain at all times. Just how much of my identity is connected to Caps fandom, being part of that loyal group, disparate in age and background but united in one common pursuit?
It's perhaps an odd question to pose at this time of the season, but one that I've often pondered since I've moved to New York, a very passionate sports town in its own right. And one brought back to mind after attending the last home game and swiftly returning home. (Plus, it's March Madness time, when so many of us reconnect and get back to our college roots.) After almost a decade up here, I remain completely unable to wrap myself in the colors of any of its major professional teams. Supporting the Caps in Gotham, amidst three old Patrick Division rivals, I'm both a loyalist and a renegade.
Obviously, the team in one way represents us who live in the vicinity of the District or have a strong connection to its environs. They're the Washington Capitals, and the three stars on the jersey are said to signify the diamond-shaped enclave of the District as well as Maryland and Virginia. While no current players on the team actually hail from those parts, they do live here most of the year, and many have publicly expressed their happiness with the area. Why do we care? Because it reflects on us. It's a vote of confidence.
Particularly these days, there's a lot about the Caps organization which with one would happily identify: perseverance; development of "home-grown" talent; major star power from authentic personalities; an owner who professes to run the team as a "public trust;" inspirational stories of determination; and a steady, carefully-designed course toward success. There is pride for the fan in wearing a Caps jersey.
While being a out-of-town supporter and writer does have some redeeming qualities, I miss being part of the society of fans back home. Most of those fans that I’ve met over the years have been a joy to chat with (and, lest there be any doubt, quite knowledgeable of the game and its history). They feel like part of my extended family. And I've made several lasting friendships from this shared obsession with Capitals hockey. Folks that I likely wouldn't have met any other way. We're all on this roller coaster together.
So how much of your identity is wrapped up in supporting Les Capitals? Particularly now where the team has a better chance at ultimate glory than at any time in the last two decades, if not in franchise history. When you speak of the team, do you use the pronoun "we" or "they"? At what point on a dating or social networking profile would you, or do you, mention that you're a Capitals fan?
When the team is victorious, do you feel that you've achieved a personal victory, a validation of your support? When they lose, do you feel betrayed, cheated? Or do the results of games fade from your mind soon after the final horn?