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D.C. sports fans: It’s OK to show some Spirit

An appeal to those yearning for a glimpse at D.C. sports glory.

Spirit lineup 6/10/2016 Stephanie Yang

If you’re a soccer fan in the DMV, you’ve probably done this exercise once or twice with friends of yours:

Friend: "Jeez, D.C. sports can’t buy a break. The Nats and Caps lose every playoffs, and the Caps usually choke in the process. The Wizards don’t do much, and the Redskins are hopeless!"
You: "Well yeah, but D.C. United has won MLS Cups and won a trophy as recently as 2013."
Friend: "Yeah, but that doesn’t count, because soccer."

And in the afterglow of the Washington Spirit’s thrilling extra time win Friday night over the Chicago Red Stars, Steve Goff, decided to touch upon this in his game report. While looking at the "Major Sports" trope that many in the area lean on, Goff included some teams that are even less likely to be counted:

Should we include the Kastles, who won six World Team Tennis trophies in seven years in a league with only six franchises and a season that lasts four weeks? Or the D.C. Divas, the successful women’s football team?

There is an interesting subtext here, which addresses a D.C. sports fan’s acceptance of D.C. United and the Washington Spirit, but then turning around and including the Kastles and Divas as part of some weird ‘slippery slope’ motivation, because apparently lumping in the WTT and WFA is going to cheapen the accomplishment of the Spirit, or DCU, et al.

But what’s the point of doing that, when you can just follow a team who will be playing in a nationally televised championship game this Sunday? And it’s a team full of personality and talent:

  • You want international World Cup players on your local club? The Spirit have Diana Matheson, Shelina Zadorsky, and Stephanie Labbe (Canada), as well as semifinal match-winner Francisca Ordega (Nigeria).
  • You want United States players to root for? Well, the Spirit have that covered too, with Ali Krieger and Crystal Dunn (last year’s NWSL Most Valuable Player) both regulars with the USWNT. Krieger would be 35 at the time of the next World Cup and possibly on the outs, but at 24, Dunn is likely part of the roster for the next two cycles and a possible third.
  • You want local players on your roster? It should be no secret that Krieger played her youth soccer in Woodbridge before moving on to bigger and better exploits. Whitney Church grew up and played in Ashburn. Fan favorite Joanna Lohman is a Silver Spring native, and fellow starting midfielder Christine Nairn is from Annapolis.
  • You want to support a team who did well in the regular season and didn’t just fluke their way into the big game? The Spirit had the best record in the league for most of the season before defeating the Red Stars due to Ordega’s heroics last Friday.

As one who has been following the D.C. sports landscape since he was a kid, I understand and get the neuroses involved with being a ‘D.C. sports fan,’ but let’s not pretend that some of those neuroses haven’t been self-inflicted over the years. If you want to turn your head away from the accomplishments of your local soccer teams, it IS on you a tiny bit.

However, it does serve as a larger reflection on what is ultimately a sports media landscape that generally has a problem with embracing anything other than ‘Big 4’ sports. For example, as of this writing, as best as I can tell the last post from the DC Sports Bog that claims to be "A fresh take on D.C. sports..." that didn’t cover the Redskins, Nationals (or Orioles), Wizards, or college football/basketball was on September 13. If that’s true, the lack of any voices of support for coverage of other teams in general sports coverage needs to improve, and there is a fine opportunity now for that to happen. Open your heart, give in to optimism.

Folks in and around Washington D.C., Sunday gives you the perfect chance to rescue yourself from sports depression. It’s OK to root for soccer, and very much OK to root for women’s soccer. But when you root, you root for the Spirit.