Analysis: A Capital Curse

Ben R, Caleb C, Aditya T, and Akhil K

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If a sports broadcasting network were to rank the biggest sports towns in America, the list might go something like this: New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, and Washington D.C. Our Nation’s Capital is home to four major sports teams: city’s teams The Redskins, Wizards, Nationals, and Capitals. These teams don’t have much in common, seeing that these four sports are very different. Washington teams, however, have one thing in common that others do not.

They never do well in the playoffs. D.C. may as well have the most disappointing postseason history record of all time.

A seventh grader on the All-Stars says, “Lots of them have good players, but they choke in the playoffs. Even if they get past it, they’ll choke in the next because it happened before. But one day, it’ll change, probably.”

For now, Washington sports teams have only four championship wins, three of which are the Redskins’, and one of which is the Wizards’. While the Nationals have only been around for roughly 13 years, they have made the playoffs a total of four times, but never made it past the first round. Many experts believe that a team of this caliber, with stars such as Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, should be a major World Series contender, but as recent history shows, they’ve never lived up to the hype.

Fans cheering for the Nationals in D.C. Photo Credit: Howard Smith

The Wizards, widely considered one of the best teams in the NBA, have a little more success than the Nationals. Previously called the Bullets, the Washington basketball team has won the NBA championship once in 1978, making it nearly forty years since D.C. has won a title. They aren’t a so-called “Superteam,” such as the Warriors or the Cavaliers, but they do have talent in the likes of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Both have the potential to be All-Stars, and John Wall could be an MVP candidate, but other than them, the team has no major names. The team does have talent, however, and if they can win games, they should be capable of going far. Alas, this is not the case.


The Capitals are a playoff caliber hockey team, with talented players such as Niklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, and Alexander Ovechkin, widely considered the best in the world. The Capitals have been in the playoffs a total of 27 times since they were established in 1974. However, they have never won a Stanley Cup.

The Washington hockey team always seems to be doing well in the playoffs — that is, until they hit a certain foe: the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins are without a doubt the biggest rival of the Capitals, beating them it what seems to be 1,000 big games. That has proved well for them thus far, earning them five total Stanley Cups, including the 2017 championship.

Of course, this is not the only reason the Caps haven’t done well in the playoffs. Some other ones include bad defense, bad offense, bad leadership, and bad managerial decisions. Mistakes like these don’t lead to good things, as Washington teams seem to prove, again and again, every year. The Caps just can’t seem to catch a break.


The Washington Redskins have the most championship wins of any D.C. team, but that doesn’t mean they’re always that good. Up until about 2016, the Redskins was not considered to be a good football team, comparable to the likes of the Cleveland Browns, who haven’t been good in what seems like ages. They have had a huge, gaping hole in the quarterback position, arguably the most important, for as long as people can remember. They drafted Robert Griffin the Third (or RGIII), a supposed rising superstar, second overall in the 2012 draft. He had a very successful rookie season with the ‘Skins, setting multiple records for the highest passer rating and the highest touchdown to interception ratio by a rookie in NFL history. He also led the Redskins to the top of their division, bringing D.C. to its first playoff appearance in five years. Obviously, being the Redskins, they didn’t make it far, but at least they had an amazing quarterback for the future.

Or so they thought. Griffin suffered several gruesome injuries to his ankle, LCL, ACL, and various other parts of the leg due to twisting his leg while getting sacked. Redskin coaches took him out to assess him for injury, then told him to play through it. That turned out to be a huge mistake, basically destroying his career. This knocked the promising young star off track, leading the Redskins to a 3-13 start to the season. He didn’t have much more success after that, eventually getting benched for backup QB Kirk Cousins, and later getting traded to the Cleveland Browns. He was benched there too, and eventually got put into the vast black-hole of free-agency, where no team would find interest in him or his talents. Since the sad history of RGIII, the Redskins has started Kirk Cousins, who has proved to be an excellent fit for the team. He had an amazing 2016, leading the Redskins to the Playoffs, and in 2017 is a possible MVP candidate. Hopefully, he can bring a little more success on the Washington football team than Robert Griffin the Third did in his time here.


The big question that we’re trying to answer here is one that many people have asked: Why do D.C. teams choke in the playoffs? Is it the managers? The players? The city itself? Is it a curse? Who really knows. The real question is will it ever get better? Ethan Bower, an eighth-grader on the Voyagers team, says, “Washington sports [teams] might not be the best in the playoffs, but give them time and they will shine.”

With a healthy, star-studded Nationals team, this may finally be the year for our nation’s capital. We’ll just have to sit back, relax, and hope for the best.

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