The D.C. Messianic Sports Syndrome (DCMSS) is an illness that has struck Washington D.C. I believe DCMSS is unique to Washington D.C. There is always pressure on athletes in any sports town, but I think the pressure that the D.C. fan base place on their athletes is unique to other sports cities.
DCMSS is when the fans declare an athlete as the savior of their respective sport, and the city in general, and the bringer of championships and glory, usually before a game is even played. There are incredibly high expectations and crushing disappointments.
D.C. has a rabid fan base, and we expect to win. Whether those expectations are warranted is a different story, but we have them. We then tend to treat our superstars as our saviors, brought in to return the city to its former glory.
Even before the player touches a ball, we expect him to bring us rings and trophies, and we put them on a pedestal, declaring that the next [insert name of former superstar] has arrived, and the bringer of glory. We are then stupidly inpatient when they fail to develop and we run them out of town, declaring them another [insert name of former failed superstar].
So who can withstand DCMSS? Two types: The stars that embrace the media and thrive on DCMSS, and the stars that simply do not care, and are unaffected by the Messianic treatment.
Gilbert Arenas, Clinton Portis and Alexander Ovechkin are superstars that meet the first type. We've all seen Agent Zero hit the buzzer beater 3, and walk away before the ball actually goes in the basket, then bask in the praise of D.C. We've seen Dolla Bill, Southeast Jerome and Sheriff Gonna Getcha in press conferences, discussing his upcoming 200 yard rushing, 3 TD game. And of course, Alexander the Great who, after scoring his 50th goal of the season, couldn't handle his hot stick, and the infamous driving of a zamboni in the basement of the Verizon Center.
The second type, the unaffected ones, are few in number, but they're out there. Chris Cooley and John Riggins comes to mind. Chris does embrace the media, but he doesn't seem to readily accept it. He's able to deal with it. He doesn't go around seeking attention, and when he gets it (penis playbook), he handles it well. Same goes for Riggins. He did not care at all what others thought of him, winning games while inebriated and other such instances.
The DCMSS is blinding D.C's view of potential players. Before the season started, we crowned Brian Orakpo the Rookie of the Year. As long as we have DCMSS, we will never properly allow an athlete to grow and mature in D.C. We watch a young athlete flame out, then quickly call for their heads. We then wonder why everyone who leaves D.C. goes on to win with other teams.
Jason Campbell is a casualty of DCMSS. Sure he's been subject to a questionable offensive line, no production from his receivers outside Santana Moss, but I think the fan base hasn't given him time to fully mature as a quarterback. We expected a pro-bowl caliber quarterback, and when we didn't get one, we want to run him out of town. This isn't a defense for Campbell or an attack on Campbell. I'm just saying, on top of the stress involved in being the starting quarterback in a big-market, football town, there is the added stress of DCMSS.
While most cities give a "Do good or else" pressure, D.C. give an "Alright, he's gonna bring us a championship" type of pressure. Most athletes, I believe, always have the 'do or die' pressure on them. Only a small handful of athletes, however, experience D.C. Messianic Sports Syndrome.
*This article is a result of a conversations I've had with a friend about the subject, so a nod to Mr. John Choe.*