Washington D.C. Sports: Top 10 Stories of the Year
In 2012, Washington sports fans featured an array of emotions, from jubilation to heartbreak to frustration. The Redskins, Capitals, Wizards and Nationals have made this one of the most memorable years in sports that I can remember.
The Washington sports teams are emerging with young and talented stars who have the potential the carry their franchises and even their sports themselves.
Below is a countdown of the top 10 Washington sports stories of the year.
10. John Wall's Injury
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Back when John Wall was selected in the summer of 2010, he was considered to be a godsend. After the dismantling of the “Big Three” (Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas), the Wizards were in complete disarray.
Drafting Wall with the No. 1 overall pick was supposed to return Washington to the playoff runs it had earned years beforehand.
Since then, it’s been a downward spiral for both the Wizards and their star player, John Wall. The talented point guard has yet to see the court this season with a lingering knee injury, while his team has earned the worst record in the NBA.
Throughout John Wall’s tenure in D.C., he has been inconsistent. His effort and body language at times can be questioned, his jump shot has remained awful and he appears disinterested on occasion.
The Wizards organization is hoping to get its best player to return soon, because the fan upheaval is approaching at a catastrophic rate.
9. James Harden's Nixed Trade to the Wizards
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The NBA is a star-driven league. You need superstars to compete with the best and brightest on a season-long basis.
By all accounts, James Harden is a young and talented All-Star and would have filled a void the Wizards desperately needed to fill.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Oklahoma City Thunder were interested in acquiring Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton for Olympic gold medalist James Harden, which the Wizards inexcusably rejected. (You are an idiot, Ernie Grunfeld)
Since then, James Harden has been dominant in Houston and Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton have been decent at best.
It’s been an ongoing disappointment with the Wizards franchise. An organization that is so bad, it hasn’t won its division in over 30 years.
With a record of 4-23, the Wizards are failing at an epic pace, and owner Ted Leonsis is losing fans on a daily basis.
The only reason you can watch the Wizards this season is for comedic purposes.
8. NHL Lockout
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With the Wizards' continued failures, Washingtonians have relied on their hockey team every winter and spring to provide excitement.
Every night, the Verizon Center is filled to the brim, as Capitals fans always “rock the red," creating one of the best home-ice advantages in the NHL.
Over the offseason, the Capitals brought back another one of their former players in Adam Oates to reestablish the franchise as a premier organization, and with the emergence of goalie Braden Holtby, it appeared that the Caps were back on track again.
Well, now the entire league has until January 11th to reach an agreement or hockey fans throughout the world will be deprived of the sport.
7. The Cinderella Story of Alfred Morris
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Rewind to one year ago—how many of you had heard of Alfred Morris? The former Florida Atlantic running back has taken the league by storm in his rookie season, out-rushing all but three other running backs in the NFL.
Morris was taken in the sixth round in this year’s draft and was originally projected as a potential fullback. Since then, Morris has outplayed every other back on the roster and might be the biggest Pro Bowl snub in the league.
He has been consistent all season and has the opportunity to break the franchise’s single-season rushing record if he runs for over 104 yards on Sunday.
Morris has been an interesting character all season, from his baseball swing of a touchdown dance to his car. Add Alfred Morris to the impressive list of running backs that Mike Shanahan has been able to find.
If it weren’t for RGIII’s season, Morris would be the talk of the town.
6. The Nationals Earn the Best Record in Baseball
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The Nationals dominated all of the major leagues from April to September, as they finished with a record of 98-64.
They took control of the division within the first month of the season despite suffering major injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, Mike Morse, Drew Storen and Wilson Ramos.
The Nationals, lead by manager Davey Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo, were able to do it the old fashioned way with extensive development of their young players, and controlled their destiny through superior pitching.
Although the season was cut short due to one of the most heartbreaking losses that I’ve ever witnessed, the Nationals will be one of the top contenders for years to come given their core group of ballplayers and organizational philosophy.
5. Joel Ward's Game-Winner Against the Bruins
I was alone in my basement screaming at the top of my lungs. The playoffs had been the Caps' Achilles' heal for a while.
The Capitals sneaked into the playoffs after a tumultuous season, and Joel Ward was the hero of Game 7 against the defending champions. Watch it here.
Even though the Caps' season ended seven games later against the Rangers, the team feels confident in their abilities in the future. They’ve gotten rid of Alex Semin, Ovechkin appears to be rejuvenated and we finally have an answer at goalie.
4. Bryce Harper's Arrival in Washington
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You can always tell which players have the potential for greatness; they affect the game even when they aren’t supposed to.
That’s what Bryce Harper did in his rookie season. He was a menace on the base path, in the field and, of course, at the plate.
Harper battled through slumps in his first year and finished the regular season with 22 home runs, 59 RBI, and 18 stolen bases, while batting an impressive .270—and just to remind everyone, he was a teenager.
The excitement of Bryce Harper made non-baseball fans interested in what the teenage phenom was capable of.
His season might be remembered for stealing home on Cole Hamels after the Phillies pitcher intentionally threw at him, but Harper defied his critics with a great season and eventual Rookie of the Year honors.
3. The Shutdown of Stephen Strasburg
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The topic that can still be debated today; did the Nationals do the right thing? Would they have moved on to the NLCS if their best pitcher was available?
We’ll never know, and general manager Mike Rizzo took a lot of swings from colleagues and former athletes, but he sticks by his decision.
Now that Strasburg has successfully completed his first year back from Tommy John surgery, the gloves are off for the All-Star.
2. The Redskins' Current Winning Streak
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Washington, D.C. will always be a Redskins town. No matter how good the Capitals and Nationals can be, the Redskins are priority No. 1 for this city.
On November 4th, the Redskins were smacked by the Carolina Panthers, who had one win at the time. The loss brought the Redskins to 3-6 and caused Mike Shanahan to state that he was looking at the future of this team during his postgame press conference.
We all took that to mean he was looking ahead to the next season and letting the evaluation process begin. Well, the Redskins haven’t lost since.
They’ve played in some blowouts and some nail-biters, but the Redskins have come together as a team and bought into what Mike Shanahan is doing.
I’m laughing at myself now, because after that loss in Carolina, I thought Shanahan’s job was potentially on the line. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the Redskins would rebound with such force.
Now the Skins are in position to capture their first division title in over a decade with a win over their hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
1. Robert Griffin III Is a Washington Redskin
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This is a quarterback-driven league. If you want to win in the NFL, then you need a premier quarterback to lead the way.
After his Heisman season at Baylor, the Redskins' front office gave up the house to put the team in position to select Griffin.
The trade to acquire the second overall pick in the NFL draft came under much scrutiny. The Redskins gave up three first-round picks to the St. Louis Rams, as well as their 2012 second-round pick.
Since then, Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have looked like geniuses, as Griffin is playing at an All-Pro level and has single-handedly transformed the foundation of the franchise.
Yelling “RGIII!” throughout the area is a common occurrence at your local watering holes, people of all ages and races are sporting their No. 10 jerseys and ESPN analyst Rob Parker is not appreciated in this area.
Griffin has ignited a fanbase with his infectious personality, demeanor and obvious stellar play on the field.
The Redskins might not be the best team in football, but they are the most exciting one.