Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Best Professional Team "Current"ly in DC.

Our nation's capital likes to pride themselves as a sports town, and by all means they are! They have a professional football team, men's and women's basketball, hockey, baseball, men's and women's soccer, a professional rugby team, and now two professional ultimate frisbee franchises as well as many other teams. However with all of these teams, the District of Columbia has not had a league champion in any of these sports in almost 10 years. The last well-known team to do so was the 2004 DC United team (MLS), in these ten years there has been no championship parade, no championship rings, no recognition from the White House, and nothing that DC sports fans can call to in recent memory. For now fans must celebrate the small successes in hopes that it will later translate to championship glory, I'm mainly referencing the division championships. But as mentioned above there are two professional ultimate frisbee teams that now call Washington DC home, the DC Current and the DC Breeze, and both are currently in their second season.

For some reason that area reporters and commentators have been trying to comprehend for years, Washington DC professional teams cannot make a playoff push. Yes, recently the Nationals with Bryce Harper have had incredible regular season performances but tank in the postseason. The Capitals have been one of the best hockey teams in the Eastern Conference for the past seven seasons but Alex Ovechkin and company have never made it past the Conference Semi-Finals. The Washington football team has probably one of the most interesting players in Robert Griffin III, but after a respectable 10-6 playoff season, last year they were a disastrous 3-13. Finally the Wizards, who I feel like are the team with the most potential in the near future, arguably had their most successful season since the late 70's (when they were called the Washington Bullets) in advancing to the Conference Semi-Finals. I have been around these teams for my entire life, I grew up in Southern Virginia, my friends and my family support and call these teams their own, I myself tend to think differently but that is another topic for another day. Now that I go to college in the suburbs of the District, these teams are a part of my everyday life. They are, by definition, the local teams, the teams that people grew up supporting, watching, and rooting for to make it all the way. However for some reason it does not feel this way.

I will in no way, shape, or form will call myself a DC sports expert; but I do know sports and I know how sports work. They are my life and have been for my entire life, I pick up on patterns and can normally tell the future trends of a franchise. One problem that I foresee in all of the Washington DC teams is that they all focus around one superstar, one player, that will be the savior for the franchise as well as the city. Think about it, look at all the previously mentioned teams associated with their top players. There's Harper, Ovechkin, RG3, and some may even consider John Wall for the Wizards. However with every accusation, there must be exceptions. The only team that I feel truly gets it (and by "it' I mean marketing and promoting a team) in Washington DC is the Washington Wizards. The Wizards do not just have one player that they showcase to their fans; they have an entire team with John Wall, Trevor Ariza, Nene, Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Andre Miller and more. Now I just named half of their roster and none of these names are new to a DC sports fan. Can you say the same about all the other teams in DC? This is where I bring the ultimate question into play.

The DC Breeze are experiencing their best season so far into their existence. The Breeze are in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), and went 4-12 in 2013, their inaugural season, with their home games being at Anacostia High School. This year the Breeze are now 9-4 with one week remaining in the regular season and play their games at the University of Maryland Field Hockey Stadium. They have clinched a playoff spot in due part to Tyler DeGirolamo, one of the best ultimate players in the college ranks in recent memory, as well as Brett Matzuka, Jon Pressimone, Alex Thorne, Justin Solis, and other top DC area players, that look to make a run in the playoffs. A team that relies on not just one player but a combination of players on an entire team. In ultimate that is what you need, a collectively team on and off the field, not just one individual doing whatever it takes to glorify himself and living up to the fans standards. It quite simply cannot work that way. Their main opponents in the Eastern Conference are the defending champions, Toronto Rush who are an astounding 18-1 over two seasons, and the New York Rumble who the Breeze have only beat once in their series history. If the Breeze were to advance far into the playoffs they would face teams from across the nation like Chicago, Madison, San Francisco, San Jose, and Indianapolis, before the championship game in Toronto.

Now I move to the Washington DC Current, the main reason why a majority of you read this post. The DC Current are a team in Major League Ultimate, and were founded in the same year as the eight team league two years ago.  In their short history they have found success in becoming one of the premier  teams in the MLU's short history. In 2013 the team had a rough start to the season going 1-4, but in the second half of the season  they climbed back up in the standings and made the playoffs with a 4-6 record.  In the Eastern Conference Championship the Current would lose to the eventual undefeated MLU champions Boston Whitecaps ending their first season as a pro sports franchise. However 2014 started with a bang for DC, with a new home field at Cardinal Stadium on the campus of Catholic University of America, they were set to be the team to be able to knock of the Whitecaps. In Week 2, they did it, a story that many DC ultimate fans will remember for decades, the DC Current defeated the Whitecaps for the first time ever with a game winning hammer from Peter Prial to Calvin Oung after a game ending foul that added seconds to the game. The equivalent of this would be on a last second hail mary in football with a pass interference call on the defense, allowing the team to move closer to the endzone and to get another play off. Well DC scored on that hail mary and the Eastern Conference was changed for the rest of the season, yes the Whitecaps would get revenge the next weekend in Boston, but DC then dominated the rest of the year finishing the regular season with an impressive 9-1 record. In the Eastern Conference Championship they hosted their biggest rivals the Boston Whitecaps again at home where the team went 5-0 in the regular season. In another unbelievable game between these two squads, DC would not be denied as their ferocious defense, that the team has prided themselves on all year, won them the game as they advanced to the MLU Championship. 

The Current now have the opportunity to do something that has not been done in the past 10 years. Bring a championship to our nation's capital. Sure if the Current were to win there would be no championship parade, the likelihood of the team being able to visit the White House and be recognized by the president is slim to none, championship rings are not out of the question but still a heavy expense for a brand new league, but they will bring a sense of sports pride back into the city for a small group of fans. Slowly the fans will grow larger as the league and team hopes to do so in the next coming years, and that sense of pride in the District will grow with them.

If they are able to accomplish this feat, it will be done the "right way" as many sports fans would like to call it and none can argue with. The team was built from the ground up, with tryouts over four weeks at 4:00 in the morning, no "free agency" to bring in superstars from across the league, no yearly draft that rewards bad teams, none of it. Simply players coming together, playing the sport they love, and representing a city that has needed a team like this to root for. There are superstars, there is no denying that, but no one on the team would think that one of the players stand above the rest. 
There is last season's leading goal scorer, Peter Prial (who moved from Boston to DC for school), there is "Can We Call Him MVP Already" Alan Kolick, his right hand man Markham Shofner, the man who always knows where to be Jeff Wodatch, defensive guru Daniel Kantor, and a multitude of other players. All 30 players on the roster recorded at least three points this season; they won as a team, they won as a franchise. This team was compared to being the '85 Bears of the MLU by the John and Greg Show last week, noting that we may never see another team quite like this DC team. One thing is for sure, I am proud to call the Washington DC Current my team and still will be win or lose July 19th for the MLU Championship.  As for the city, that may take some more convincing, but I know that it will only be a matter of time before the rest of the District of Columbia feels the same way that I do.

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