[During this past Friday’s evening drive timeslot, passing reference was made on 106.7 the Fan to the fact that local high school classes of 2010 have lived their entire lives without knowing a major sports championship among the major professional hometown teams. The very last Redskins’ Super Bowl triumph occurred in January 1992. The local sports landscape has been championship-bleak ever since. What then might a sports-loving, native hockey blogger say in a commencement address to so beleaguered a class of graduates this month? Admittedly, the odds of that orator’s invite are small, but it’s a fun hypothetical.]
Graduates, family, faculty, I am honored to address you on this solemn but celebratory day. My remarks will be brief, so that richly earned partying can commence promptly. But please, if any of you soon off to four-year colleges and universities have designs on majoring in journalism, talk to me first before parting today.
As 2010 graduates, with birth years of 1992 and ’93, you bear a black mark of a distinction: not of one of you has in your youth formed an attachment to a championship season earned by any of our four major professional sports franchises. I cannot admit titles earned by DC United on your watch: if a tree bearing the fruit of soccer balls falls in a forest, does anyone in the First World hear it? In inflating the standing of the local soccer franchise we would necessarily omit to some degree accountability among the Big Four Sports, and that accountability is at the heart of my remarks today.
You are here today in no small part by virtue of the sacrifices and commitments made by your parents. Love and honor them for that, always. And yet, chide them, with just judgment, for their roles in promulgating an attack against civic Washington these past 18 years. That attack — a plague, really — is unlike any Washington has endured before, and may it never visit us again.
I speak of course of the barren wasteland of achievement on our playing fields.
My charge to you today going forward is to be ambassadors of change, to maintain a vigil of accountability over those managing our local teams. Demand of them more, much more! When they stink, season after season after season, register your censure, not by abadoning them but by loving them from your living rooms. The managers of mismanagement only listen to empty seats.
I absolve from my dishonor roll our Nationals, whose arrival on the scene remains still too nascent for full-throated attack. Though it should be said: has any franchise in the history of professional sports christened a sparkling new home in consecutive seasons of losing infamy a rival to that of the Nats in 2008 and 2009? That was a disgraceful bit of management, but sunnier days on the diamond are on the near horizon.
Some of you have parents laboring for employers who purchased ticket plans or even suites for the local basketball and football teams these past 18 years, and in some instances your parents purchased these admissions themselves! They bear the burden of no small sum of blame in this tragedy. They have been enablers.
I have a special message for them today: small children were watching when you pulled into FedEx Field all these years, handed over not one but two Andrew Jacksons merely for the privilege of parking, and bore witness to the desecration of the once-proud Burgundy and Gold. For shame!
When we cast our gaze intently upon only the playing fields, and take no notice of the business practices that delivered the final product competing in embarrassing fashion before us, we necessarily become passive patrons, sycophant supporters, and, over a long enough period, accomplices to a sporting crime. This I allege is the fate that has befallen your generation of Washingtonians. We do not hold youths accountable for such misfortune; instead you have been victims. But today commemmorates your transition from youth to young adulthood. Beginning today you can enlist in an Army of Much Needed Change.
To be sure, the truly villainous are the architects of this plague, their names already all too well known. But I am here today to remind you that you possess the power to effect change. You are the economy with which our Enemy Owners must traffic; without you they cannot persevere. Embrace that power, wield it proudly, defiantly, and, going forward, with Revolution in mind!
God knows we cannot count on local media to hold the perps accountable.
Some on such a special day of celebration would have me sugarcoat my reflections, and exhort without due diligence. But as a Washington elder who has dented kitchenware in the streets of Bethesda when the Diesel dashed past the helpless Dolphins and into that Pasadena end zone of yesteryear, I take it as my solemn duty to shoot straight with you. It can be better here, and it must be better.
I once wore a ‘Fat Lady Has Sung’ t-shirt to school when our beloved Bullets beat the entire basketball world. I once proudly carried a Redskins’ lunchpail to school and slept in Redskins’ pajamas. Once upon a time I sat in the Channel 9 studio on Monday nights as audience to ‘Redskins Sideline’ and savored the Jurgenson patting of my Redskin-loving little head as the previous day’s glory was recounted! Once upon a time ours was a town of sporting triumph and pride!
Then Dan Snyder arrived. And Abe Pollin kept owning. Up the road a bit, Angelos assaulted. Now we at least we have our own baseball team, and soon a new basketball owner.
Hope springs eternal, and in this year of your matriculation you’ve been offered the best of all possible commencement gifts: the totality of Washington’s winter sports franchises are mere days away from being turned over to our Missionary from misery, Mr. Leonsis. On his watch a Red Army has formed for hockey. If he applies a similar management ethos to the basketball team — one badly in need of its former name and colors — a second inspiring army will follow for that sport.
That leaves us with football, the perpetually ill patient among the Big Four. Your effecting leadership change there is on the order of achieving world peace: Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.