On radio, I said, "Because it's hockey." Flippant, quick, good for polarizing people either way. In truth, we have neglected a very good hockey team -- perhaps a Stanley-Cup winning hockey team in five months -- in this town. Tomorrow on the Mike Wise Show, it's all Ovie, all the time. Promise.
Okay, for at least an hour.
On Monday afternoon, the Washington Post's Mike Wise participated in an online chat about the Gilbert Arenas situation, fielding questions about everything from guns to contracts to shoes filled with...stuff - and this question, from an interested reader: "[W]ith the most exciting hockey player in the world and the top notch Capitals in town, far too much attention is spent on the dysfunctional Gil Arenas. Is it because only bad behavior sells?"
Wise's response outlined the "equal" coverage given to Arenas' good deeds in the past, noting his off court generosity. All well and good...until he decided to wrap it up with a flippant but pointed bit of snark, adding "and with all due respect, it's hockey."
It was an offhand remark; a blind stab at edgy humor tossed into the crowd with the simple aim of either garnering a laugh or pissing someone off. And while it's doubtful that such a response was planned by Wise, the inherent meaning behind it was troubling.
Over the last few years, Washington has undergone a transformation - following the lead of its exuberant new captain and a cast of equally mesmerizing cohorts, the city has embraced hockey and covered itself in red. It's been a rebirth, one that has been chronicled and acknowledged by everyone who comes into contact with it.
Everyone, that is, except for the media whose job it is to cover it.
I'm not talking about those on the hockey beat. If anything the hockey folks at the Post, and until recently the Times, have actually stepped up their coverage to meet the rising demand. We've been treated to huge full page spreads on the return of hockey to the District after a summer that was far too long, to blog posts on development camp and intersquad scrimmages, to lengthy pieces on lesser-known heroes, the works. Those assigned to the task have done their job and, for the most part, done it fairly well.
No, the media I'm referring to is your general, all-sports media, the people whose job it is to report on anything from NFL football to high school lacrosse - and everything that falls in between. Guys like Mike Wise, Michael Wilbon, and some sportscasters on local news teams. They break down the news of the day into digestible tidbits and report on things that matter - and yet the fact that the local hockey team is currently tearing it up, and doing so scandal-free, seems to have more or less eluded them somehow.
And with all due respect, it's hockey: Last time I listen to your show buster. I used to like you.
Mike Wise: Figures a hockey fan would take everything so personal.
There just remains a general lack of respect for the Capitals and for the sport of hockey itself that goes deep in this town, and it's puzzling to say the least. Gone are the days when the Capitals were a team to be mocked, when empty seats yawned up around the ice and the losses piled up at a disturbing pace. This is now a first rate team, led by a first rate player and providing a first rate piece of entertainment to all who wish to watch - an option 18,277 people elect to take every time the boys are in town.
So why is it that this team is still a punchline to some so-called sports journalists? Why is it that names of players on our team are butchered nightly by the people who supposedly cover them? Why are comments like "with all due respect, it's hockey" allowed to be used by people who cover DC sports - and when they're called out on it, why does it then become an excuse to bash both Caps fans and the sport of hockey?
"My job isn't to build up the Capitals fan base."
- Mike Wise, The Mike Wise Show
No one's saying that the Caps should get equal coverage alongside the Redskins. That's a losing battle right there, and it's a battle that Mike Wise and friends seem to think we're fighting. We're not. And no one's insisting these reporters memorize Dave Steckel's faceoff percentage this season or know what Varlamov's GAA was in last year's playoffs or even particularly like hockey, for that matter.
But in a time when the only bright spot in DC sports is a bunch of guys on skates - you know, the ones who actually win games - to ignore hockey is to turn a blind eye to what's really newsworthy; to disrespect and mock it, an affront to legitimate journalism.
Right now there is only one major sport in DC whose local representatives are legitimate contenders. Right now there is only one major sport whose DC affiliate can claim to be just about scandal-free, save for the occasional goaltending controversy. Right now there is only one major sport in DC whose season will likely extend well beyond the regular slate of games.
With all due respect, Mike, that sport is hockey. And as "warped" fans, you're damn right we take it personally.
[By the way, if you're unsure whether or not you're among the "warped," we've got a checklist of possible indicators after the jump...]
Top 10 Ways To Tell You're a "Warped" Caps Fan
10. You've heard of "old timers" like Peter Bondra, and never forget to put the accent on Joé.
9. You know that "icing" doesn't just refer to frosting a cake.
8. You're not afraid of Flyer fans (...okay, that might mean you're legitimately warped).
6. You think that multiple sources covering the team is actually a good thing.
5. You believe that every day #needsmoreBradley (and some more than others).
3. You appreciate Jeff Schultz's value as a hockey player.
2. You truly love the Caps, recognize their faults and embrace their strengths, and proudly defend both them and the sport of hockey - no matter when you became a fan. Because after all, "fan" is short for "fanatic".
1. You're reading this blog.