Updated: Apr 10
It’s thrilling for me to be writing this and to join House Enterprise to cover D.C. area sports. As a kid who grew up watching and covering sports throughout high school and college, I’ve moved away from coverage and more to casual fandom over the past three years or so.
I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, known for being the home of the Men’s College World Series. My family had season tickets to the CWS and to Creighton basketball and would often make the one hour drive in the fall to go see Nebraska football games or the more ambitious three hour drive to see the Kansas City Chiefs play.
Since Nebraska has no professional franchises, you get a very eclectic collection of “favorite teams” across the state. For me, I’m a Chiefs, Chelsea FC, Cincinnati Reds and Creighton basketball fan, which put me through some dark younger years that are beginning to get much more exciting.
In my life I’ve already seen the Chiefs go from 2-14 in 2012 to lifting the Lombardi trophy in 2020 and Creighton basketball transition from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big East.
My baseball fandom, however, has reaped no rewards. I was born in 1996 and the Reds have made the playoffs in my life four times and have never won a series. In fact, the first time in my life they made the postseason in 2010 they were no-hit by Roy Halladay and the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS.
I’m only 25-years old, but I have already seen how a team can completely transform in the blink of an eye just as the Chiefs have in drafting Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL draft. This brings me a sense of optimism not just in my other favorite teams during down years but the teams in my new city, Washington, D.C.
My transition to casual sports fandom from sports fanatic coincided with my graduation from the University of Nebraska and cross country move to Washington, D.C. in 2019.
D.C. is not known by most for being the most passionate sports city, but that was not my immediate impression. The city loves its teams, most notably the Washington Capitals, who were coming off a Stanley Cup title in 2018 when I first got to town.
I’ve never been super plugged into the NHL but I know enough to tell you that this is clearly the most beloved and currently successful professional franchise in the DMV.
The 48-year-old Capitals have spent the bulk of years in the lower half of the league, but have steadily begun to rise. This is thanks in no small part to one of the best hockey players of all time, Alex Ovechkin.
With ‘Ovi,’ the Caps have only missed the playoffs once since 2007 and won the teams only championship in 2018.
Going into 2022-23, the team finds itself almost in a “now or never” situation as its best player is 36-years-old and the team has lost in the first round every year since the elusive title.
The D.C. baseball team has had a similar last few years comparatively with the Caps…minus the part where they still maintain some success following a title.
In 2019, the Washington Nationals came out of nowhere after a horrible 19-31 start to clinch a wildcard spot on their way to winning the franchises first and only World Series title.
Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post
In the immediate offseason following the championship, the Nats began to let its best players walk away, beginning with Anthony Rendon, who today is with the Los Angeles Angels.
In the years since, it’s only gotten worse. Staples of the winning team like Adam Eaton, Howie Kendrick and Ryan Zimmerman are all gone.
The stars are gone too. Max Scherzer and Trea Turner both have won another title with the Dodgers since the 2019 campaign and Scherzer has now found himself pitching for a division rival in the New York Mets.
And of course, just days ago, the team said farewell to perhaps the best young player in all of baseball, Juan Soto, 23, who turned down a 15-year, $440 million deal in early July that would have kept him in D.C.
The Nats did make sure they retained one player, however. Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg was the 2019 World Series MVP and following the 2019 campaign signed a seven year deal worth $245 million, all guaranteed. The only problem with that contract? He’s only appeared EIGHT times since his Game 6 start in the World Series three years ago, for a whopping average earning of $13.13 million per appearance.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to find optimism in the Nationals. The Soto deal did provide a load of prospects but surely none will turn out as well as he did. For now, it looks like dark days are only getting darker at Nats Park.
The…’Commanders’ I guess?
Throughout my life I was always struck by the old name of this franchise. How is it that perhaps the country’s most progressive metro area could have the least progressive team name? They were named in 1937…that’s how…but I digress.
The Washington football team enters 2022 set to kickoff its inaugural season as the ‘Washington Commanders.’ Founded in 1932, the organization has played in five super bowls and won three, most recently in 1991.
However, the glory days of the 80s and early 90s are long gone. The franchise has only made the postseason seven times in the past 31 seasons since its world title and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. That, plus the leadership of perhaps the most loathed owner in all of professional sports has led the team to the basement of the NFL.
On any given Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, MD, you’ll find the stadium flooded with opposing fans. The team still has its loyalists, but the majority view attending games as directly helping Dan Snyder maintain ownership of the team…plus FedEx Field is inarguably the worst place to watch a game in the NFL.
Luckily, the team has loosely defined plans to move locations! The team's lease at FedEx field expires in 2026 so they should be on the move in the coming years, providing a wonderful opportunity to do the right thing and bring the team back into D.C. proper.
The idea has been floated to move the team deep into Virginia, about 25 miles from the city. The more popular idea is to bring the team into D.C. and play in a new stadium at the site of RFK Stadium, the old home of the team from its glory days. Only time will tell if Snyder will for once do something to benefit the organization and not his ego/wallet.
As for the on-the-field side of the team, the 2022 outlook is highlighted by the new man under center, 29-year-old veteran quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz spent his first five seasons in Philadelphia and last season with the Indianapolis Colts before finding his way to the Commanders.
This just might be the perfect situation for Wentz. He’s likely the most serviceable quarterback the team has had since Kirk Cousins and he’s working with a veteran head coach in Ron Rivera, not to mention he’s surrounded by a skill group that includes Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Curtis Samuel and rookie receiver Jahan Dotson.
Don’t be surprised if this team is in the mix come December. They have talent on both sides of the ball, a top 10 head coach and play the NFL’s sixth easiest schedule, according to Sharp Football Analytics. I like this Commanders team more than most and (hot take), I think the long-term outlook of the team is the most positive of any DC-area professional franchise.
This one is probably the hardest to provide a decent outlook for. The Washington Wizards have been a fringe playoff team at best for the past 30+ years and the future looks like more of the same.
The franchise won its only NBA championship in 1978, coming back from 3-2 down to beat the Seattle Supersonics in seven games. The next season, in a finals rematch, the Sonics got the better of the Wizards (referred to as the “Bullets” from 1974-1997).
Since that finals appearance in ‘79, the team hasn’t even made it past the second round and they’ve only made it past the opening round of the playoffs five times in 42 seasons.
The recent years at Capital One Arena have been highlighted by the star play of John Wall and more recently Bradley Beal.
Wall was a human highlight reel. Selected with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Kentucky, Wall was a five-time all-star for Washington in his 10 seasons with the team before departing for the Houston Rockets via trade in 2020.
In early July, unlike Juan Soto, Beal inked a five year, $251 million supermax contract extension to stay in D.C. This should at least provide a reason to go to a Wizards game other than to see the other team, as Beal is undeniably one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA.
So begins year two of the Wes Unseld era for the Wizards. The team was one game worse last season than the season before so one would surmise that some significant improvement is required this year, especially with a healthy Bradley Beal returning following last season's wrist injury.
The historic men’s basketball team has not won a conference game since the 2021 Big East Tournament Final (0-19 in conference last year). The legend Patrick Ewing, who was the team's best player on its only national title team in 1984, is entering year six as head coach and it’s time to see some kind of improvement.
The team has finished below .500 in conference all but one season so far under Ewing and only have one NCAA Tournament appearance in a season where they finished 8th in the conference before a historic conference tournament run. All eyes on Ewing, who sits on perhaps the hottest seat in the Big East.
It’s a good thing that relegation in the MLS doesn’t exist (yet), because United would be going down. At writing, the team sits in last place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind Toronto.
The outlook, however, is positive. The team does have one of the best stadiums in the MLS in Audi Field and they now have a brand new head coach in Wayne Rooney. The Englishman, one of the best players in the history of Manchester United and more recently, D.C. United, Rooney brings tremendous experience to the table.
Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports
However, this is his first run as a manager. We’ll see if his on-field experience translates into coaching success. He’ll likely have to wait until next season to have a true opportunity to show us what he can do.
University of Maryland:
Mark Turgeon is no longer the men’s basketball coach and that’s probably for the best. It’s officially the Kevin Willard era. Willard has spent the last 12 seasons as the head coach of Seton Hall and has an impressive resume. Of any team in the DMV, the Terps by far have the best chance to have a great 22-23 season and potentially make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.
The Maryland football team is positioned to be entertaining as well. The younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia Tagovailoa is to be the starting QB for the Terps this year. They’ve got a tough schedule, but the team should be as good if not better than more recent seasons. Full season preview to come before week 1 on September 3 vs. Buffalo.
George Washington University:
The basketball team hasn’t exceeded 12 wins since the 2017-18 season and it’s hard to see that trend changing for the upcoming season. The Atlantic 10 conference is probably the best non-power conference in college hoops (pretty close with the American Athletic).
It’s been eight years since the school’s last NCAA Tournament appearance.
The basketball team hasn’t made the ‘Big Dance’ in eight years (in a year that GW and AU made the tournament, but Georgetown and Maryland did not). The Eagles have only put together one winning season since that tournament appearance and are heading the wrong way, only scrummaging 14 wins in the past two seasons combined.
At writing, the Mystics sit six games above .500 in 3rd place in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference. Mike Thibault has been the head coach since 2013 and has won two titles at the helm (2018, 2019) but missed the playoffs last year.
The 2022 playoffs begin August 17 and the Mystics have already clinched a playoff spot. We’ll see if this can be the team to bring the DMV back to title town status.
It’s been 30 years since the men’s basketball team has won the MEAC Conference. As a big college hoops fan, I dream of a day when the DMV gets all five of its teams into the NCAA Tournament (it’s never happened).
The Howard football team started a new tradition last season when they hosted a game at Audi Field, home of D.C. United and this year that tradition continues.
On Saturday, October 15, Howard will host Harvard in the annual Truth and Service Classic at Audi Field in what promises to be a DMV Sports can’t-miss event.
With only seven games to go in the NWSL season, the Spirit find themselves in a similar position to D.C. United, third to last in the league. While the men’s and women’s professional soccer in the city may not be the best at the moment, Washington, D.C. remains one of the country’s best soccer towns.
So at least we got that going for us, which is nice.