The Big Twenty: What it means to look back on two decades of heartbreak, jubilation and history

JP Finlay

20 years.

Two decades.

Five administrations on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A lot happened in and around the District in the last 20 years, and for us, those from here and of here, the sports world flipped upside down.

There were droughts, intense droughts. Then parades, intense parades.

There was heartbreak. There was elation.

To really experience life as a D.C. sports fan, misery became the currency over the last 20 years.

Playoff flops, unbelievable upsets, unfortunate injuries and one painful, gut-wrenching display of the fragility of life.

That despair, that dismay, that depth of loss, eventually, allowed for growth.

And then, out of nowhere, improbably and incredibly, came the boom.

Kahlil Gibran wrote The Prophet in 1923, but one passage in particular applies to life as a DMV sports fan in 2020: "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."

The sorrow was real. But the joy made the trip worth it.

Nothing will ever top the image of Alex Ovechkin skating to Nicklas Backstrom in the Las Vegas desert. Ovi holding the Stanley Cup high over his head, finally, mercifully, ending D.C.'s championship drought that stretched nearly three decades.

The Capitals finally broke through in 2018, taking down the Penguins in the second round of the playoffs en route to their first ever Stanley Cup Championship, and with that win, the curse was broken.

If that curse was real or perceived didn't matter.

Perception becomes reality, and as the Caps, Nationals and Redskins all learned during the drought, playoff heartbreak was all too real.

One year later, with the championship door kicked in by the Caps, the Mystics and Nationals joined the party.

The Nats title was almost make-believe, a series of events more improbable than the last, and the final chapter a storybook ending of perseverance.

Those titles are the best moments - obviously. Deservedly.

There were plenty of other moments too, and unfortunately, many of them aren't pleasant.

Nothing will ever change the shock and sadness of Sean Taylor's passing. Nothing.

Time won't be able to dim the glow of Robert Griffin III's rookie year, even all the losing and the long, slow implosion that followed.

After plenty of long droughts and ugly moments, the area again found college basketball's peak.

Maryland's men's and women's teams won titles and eventually Virginia too broke through to cut down nets.

Baltimore knew no such title droughts as its Ravens proved to be one of the best franchises in football. Twice Super Bowl winners, it's undeniable that some of the best modern players wore purple. They've got statues to prove it.

Legends came back, including huge names like Michael Jordan and Joe Gibbs.

The success of their earlier career didn't follow, but it was still a wild ride. Another legend said goodbye, but the Ironman Cal Ripken never actually leaves. He's the Ironman.

The greatest swimmers in the world emerged, and they're from here. They're household names now - Ledecky and Phelps.

A Cinderella broke through, and by George Mason making the Final Four in 2006, changed the game for future "mid-majors" forever.

D.C. United won and built a new showcase.

Stephen Strasburg piled up strikeouts and got shut down.

Alex Ovechkin scored. And scored. And scored. Gilbert let us all down.

Trying to boil down two decades of sport is hard. Looking at the totality of the events, the totality of a region divided by state lines and distinct cities and mountains to the west and water to the east, yet still united by sports, speaks to the immeasurable heart and spirit of what being a fan means. The drought is over. Long live the good times.































































The Big Twenty: What it means to look back on two decades of heartbreak, jubilation and history originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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