Yes, they exist. Tuesday night I saw them, spoke with them, and most especially, asked them if they had escorted passage back to their cars at game’s end.
We do have OFB readers at the Pentagon; our nation’s defense leadership may want to recruit these valiant souls for service.
You’ve heard the horror stories of extreme rudeness, and worse, befalling the visitors in Philly arenas and stadiums over the years — it’s a large part of this sports town’s lore. Tuesday night I set about surveying the reception experiences of the Red-clad in Wells Fargo Center. Their numbers were modest, as you might imagine, but what they lacked in brigade breadth they more than made up for in proud fashion bravado.
Matt Kosmel, 23, of Silver Spring, Md., made the trip up Tuesday with his college buddy, David Clifford, of Bethesda, also 23. The two attended the University of Maryland together. Tuesday night Kosmel wore a red Nick Backstrom sweater as he navigated the Wells Fargo concourse in search of frothy refreshment. Clifford was wearing a red Alex Ovechkin sweater, hard by his buddy’s side. This stunned me: not only didn’t they report any assaults against their persons, instead they reported more than civil treatment prior to puck-drop — Flyers’ fans, struck by the novelty of seeing such fashion courage in their home rink, actually asked the pair to pose for pictures and engaged them in cordial, welcoming fashion.
The world is supposed to end in 2012, not 2011.
But this civility, alas, didn’t last.
Three questions into my interview of these brave Terps a bellicose brute in orange, seizing upon our patriotic confab, walked by us, shot us a dagger stare, and bellowed, “Asshole! . . . Asshole!”
“Well that didn’t last,” a smiling Kosmel said of his party’s pleasant early evening experience.
Kosmel is a newcomer to the Red Army, having been introduced to hockey by his buddy just in 2007. His mid-week roadtripping, while wearing the colors of his team in one of hockey’s greatest hornet’s nests for visiting fans, qualifies him for fanbase captain’s status. Clifford is a Capitals’ fanatic from deep in his youth — since age 8. The pair were seated in section 217 Tuesday night, and I asked them how prepared they were for taking in a hockey game in hotseats.
“I can run!,” if need be, Clifford told me with a laugh.
More Courage Caps: no less than the owner, Mr. Leonsis, who spent most of Tuesday night seated two rows behind corner glass nearest the Capitals’ bench. No attending security posse, it seemed, just Ted, in the company of a business companion and friend. Leonsis’ son Zach, who attended Penn, once went to a Caps’ game in Philly with college buddies while wearing the patriots’ sweater and had beer dumped on him by surrounding ruffians. I thought about that incident last night while looking down on the exposed owner from the Wells Fargo press box. Hopefully, I thought, Mr. Leonsis was wearing one of his older, more replaceable suits.
No Caps’ fan, though, was more noticeable in vulnerability than Tatsiana Kopach, an international business major at Temple University who arrived in the States five years ago from Belarus. Tuesday night Kopach moved about the beachhead in an authentic Alexander Semin visiting white sweater, replete with a stylish red cap. Her admission Tuesday was the gift of friends who know well her passion for the Caps. When I interviewed her she was all alone in her row, unguarded.
“I’m not intimidated at all!” the Baltic beauty told me from her seat about 20 rows up behind the Capitals’ bench. “I feel special in all this orange,” she added with a beaming smile. Tuesday was Kopach’s third Caps-Flyers game in Wells Fargo. I asked her if she owned a copy of ‘Braveheart.’
“The first time I came, I was walking with too many Caps’ fans outside [the arena], and then I did get grief, but nothing too bad,” she acknowledged.
“All my Russian friends liked hockey, so one day they invited me to a game here. I prefer the Capitals because of Ovechkin and Semin.”
Two years ago Kopach was in Miami at the same time the Capitals were playing the Panthers. She went to a nightclub popular with athletes and learned of the presence there that night of Ovechkin. She failed to see him, but the proximity to a hero from near her home delivered an excitement she remembers vividly to this day.
She has been to D.C. twice, but never been seated in Verizon Center for a Caps’ game. I think the owner should host a night honoring the Philadelphia courageous in his Verizon Center box. Theirs is a special badge of honor.