Washington Wizards John Wall drives to the basket while teammate Bradley Beal looks on. (AP Photo)
Opinions on LeBron James may vary, but there’s no denying the incredible story that the 2016 Finals MVP just penned for the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is no author, but if he ever wrote a tell-all book about how the hometown Ohio kid was drafted, departed and returned to win a title for a city that hadn’t seen a champion since 1964, it would be on every newsstand in America.
Cleveland’s title troubles have been well-publicized. The former 51-year championship drought and the heart-breaking fashion in which it was annually extended were even the subject of an ESPN special titled “Believeland.” The documentary chronicled the numerous failures by various Cleveland sports club that resulted in pure letdown within the city and its fans. Through some historic play, James was able to finally lift the drought—but now another city will have to take Cleveland’s place as the biggest loser.
In this photo taken Dec. 7, 2015, Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones (31) gets a hand off from quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Landover, Md. Jones finds it strange not to see Alfred Morris in the Washington Redskins huddle. With Morris gone, the No. 1 running back job is his. Jones knows that going into next season. During offseason workouts, hes trying to tighten his grip on the football because hell be getting the majority of the carries moving forward. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Cleveland’s story was so painful because it wasn’t just one sport that the city was deficient in—the drought extended city-wide across the four major sports leagues. With Cleveland now off the list, the longest city-wide title drought will fall to San Diego, which hasn’t won a title since 1963. Buffalo, Minneapolis, Toronto and Atlanta round out a sad bunch that should also include Washington, D.C., which hasn’t celebrated a title in 24 years.
Washington Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor catches a fly ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
While all those cities are in desperate need of vindication, perhaps no city needs it more than the District. Washington, D.C. often struggles for validation when it comes to the conversation of big American cities. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles typically dominate headlines in and out of sports. Aside from government dealings and some of the best museums in America, residents from the District would love to take pride in their sports teams, but that’s a tough sell.
Washington hasn’t celebrated a title since the Washington football team won the Super Bowl in 1992. Since their NFL championship, that team has made the playoffs just six times and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. The Washington Capitals have never won an NHL title despite being one of the most talented teams on ice over the last few years. The Washington Nationals currently sit atop baseball’s National League East, but D.C. last celebrated a World Series win over 90 years ago, in 1924. And the Washington Wizards haven’t had much success since transforming from the Washington Bullets, who last won a championship in 1978.
In this May 10, 2016 file photo, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby blocks a shot during the third period of Game 6 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh. Vezina Trophy finalist Holtby will represent the Washington Capitals in the annual Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 11, 2016, which the goaltender hopes is just the start of his involvement in the pro-gay-rights movement. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Sports fanatics in the District who weren’t born in time for the 1978 title or were barely old enough to grasp the 1992 Super Bowl crown could probably write their own memoirs over the snake-bitten times of D.C. sports. The Capitals continue to choke in the postseason. The Wizards can’t string together positive momentum and the Washington football team isn’t strong enough to compete with the heavyweights of the NFL. However, hope remains for the Nationals.
Washington can’t lay sole claim to “saddest sports city,” but it’s fans definitely deserve some sympathy. From the sudden deaths of Sean Taylor and Len Bias to Gilbert Arenas’ gun charges, the city has had its share of heartache. Plenty of towns haven’t tasted success in a while, but the lack of it feels drier in D.C. The inept play of its sports teams reflects badly on the nation’s capital. You can’t have the U.S. president living down the street from a team that can’t break out of mediocrity. Washington might not be the worst sports town, but it’s definitely headed in that direction. Good luck to the Nationals.