To be a sports fan in D.C. is to know disappointment. And while 2012 was an exceptional year that filled even the gloomiest fans with a sense of hope, 2013 re-established the agony of defeat as the knees of the boys brought in to restore the legacy of their beleaguered teams failed one by one. Dreams of parades down Pennsylvania Avenue quickly buckled.
The knee of greatest concern for local sports fans belonged to Robert Griffin III. In the Pigskins’ Jan. 6 wild-card loss to Seattle, RGIII tore his right LCL and ACL; he’d sprained the LCL weeks earlier but continued to play, despite warnings from an orthopedic surgeon to take it easy. He had his knee surgically reconstructed two days later. Football diehards then spent the next eight months worrying whether the quarterback would be back for the 2013 season. Well, he was back, but unlike after his first ACL surgery in 2009, RGIII didn’t appear to be better than ever. He looked hesitant and didn’t project much authority on the field. With the playoffs safely out of reach, Coach Mike Shanahan decided to bench Griffin, ostensibly to keep him healthy. You know, for the offseason.
Another knee preoccupied local hoops fans. John Wall returned to the Wizards with great fanfare on Jan. 12 after spending the first half of the basketball season nursing a mystery injury (eventually revealed to be a stress fracture in his left patella). He recovered well enough to average a career-high 18.5 points per game for the 49 games he did play, even earning player of the week honors in March. But that couldn’t help the lowly Wiz reach the playoffs: They finished 12th in the Eastern Conference and quietly prepared for the next season, which (so far) is going better.
After one disastrous inning destroyed the Nats’ 2012 playoff run and laid fans low, things could only get better this year. Remember Opening Day, when Bryce Harper hit two home runs in his first two at-bats? It seemed like the team was unstoppable…until Harper collided with an outfield wall in May. He avoided a concussion but received 11 stitches under his chin and developed bursitis in his left knee. Off he went to the disabled list, returning six weeks later slightly slower but still with the ability to slam pitches out of the park. But his season was interrupted in early September by a hip injury and by then, the Nats were already out of the playoff chase. By October, Harper was in the operating room getting the bursa sac in his knee repaired. He should be back (soon!) for spring training.
So now the city is at a sporting impasse: The Wizards of late 2013 look healthy and athletic, while the ’Skins appear weary and confused. Are the struggles of D.C.’s teams only due to the knee injuries of their stars? Of course not. But when we assign superhero qualities to the guys team owners drain their pockets to obtain, we aim for perfection. After all, Superman appears infallible when we see him on the big screen—we want our sports stars to appear the same way.