Michael Wilbon has lived in the Washington D.C. area for 38 years. For most of this time he penned columns about sports for the Post. In all that time the local fans never managed to prove to him that D.C. is a real sports town. In 2012, he famously got in a spat with Dan Steinberg after writing that the nation’s capital “doesn’t compare” to other big markets.
“No, it’s terrible,” Wilbon wrote in an issue of ESPN the Magazine. “It’s not even close to New York, Philly, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, LA. It’s last….It’s because people don’t call this home, really. They still call somewhere else home. I’ve been here 32 years, and I still barely call it home….”
Deadspin’s Drew Magary wrote the definitive rebuttal piece at the time and, friends, I regret to inform you that is once again relevant thanks to Wilbon’s comments on Pardon the Interruption. The venerable journalist and celebrity gadfly is up to his own tricks, calling D.C. a “minor league” town in the wake of — squints — fans celebrating the Capitals series victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Capitals had lost 10 out of 11 playoff matchups against the Penguins with the only prior win coming in 1994. Alex Ovechkin, a future Hall of Famer, had never before reached the conference finals. Add this frustration to the playoff failure of the Wizards and Nationals, and one understands that part of the jubilation is born out of relief.
Obviously, the Caps’ work is not done. Anything less than a Stanley Cup will be a disappointment. But if fans aren’t allowed to be happy when their teams achieve stepping-stone success hopefully en route to the ultimate prize, what’s the point? Aren’t sports supposed to be fun?
It’s quite rich, too, that Wilbon has previously mentioned Philadelphia as a beacon of true and good sports townsmanship. This is a city that treated the Sixers making the playoffs like a damn title. He also points to Detroit, which I can assure you would shut down if the Lions were to win even a wild-card playoff game.
Perhaps the reasons Wilbon “gets in trouble” when he derides D.C. as a sports town are obvious. People don’t like being talked down to and they don’t like being told not to enjoy something they enjoy — especially if the supporting reasons are dubious. But, hey, he’s lived there for almost four decades so he surely has his finger on the local pulse.