A kick in the gut. Devastating. A loss for words. Or as Capitals forward Jason Chimera said, "If someone came to your work and stepped on your desk or punched you in the head, that's how it feels."
This post is not about blame, bad calls, a dreadful power play or a brick wall-like goaltender. Nor is it about what the Caps do off season to make any necessary changes. I leave that up to the pundits, sports radio and sportswriters to debate in the coming weeks and months.
Over the last 12 hours or so, I've been thinking about how best the community of Caps Nation can move on from such a devastating defeat after a season where we had the best record in the league. For inspiration, I sought out the insights of a former colleague, Andrew Cuneo, a Red Sox fan who until 2004 experienced gut-wrenching defeats almost year after year. He had this to say:
"It hurts. Sure it hurts. I still to this day say seeing Aaron Boone's homer in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS is the closest I've ever come to crying over a sporting event. But I can say this. The greatest part about losing like this is knowing that once it does happen (and it will) winning will be that much sweeter. The feeling in 2004 was so unreal I honestly STILL haven't come down from it. '07 was nice, but that 2004 club will go down as the greatest sports moment of my life. Losing hurts...and you feel [just awful]. But then you start to realize the day will come when we can all celebrate. It has to."
Thank you Andy. Your words are dead on.
I am an Orioles fan too. Just shy of my 10th birthday in 1979, I experienced my first "kick in the gut" sports moment. That year I attended my first post-season game in Game 2 of the ALCS when Jim Palmer pitched against Nolan Ryan -- one of my fondest childhood memories. We went on to win that series to play the Pirates. Like the Caps, the O's went up 3-1. Then suddenly hall of a famer Willie Stargell led the charge and they came back to take the series. To this day, the song "We are Family" makes me cringe. Then in 1982, we were -- if memory serves -- three games behind the Brewers going into the last series of the season. As fate would have it, we played the Brewers in a four game series at home. We won a double header and then won the third game -- only to lose the AL East on the very last day of the season. But then I experienced such joy in 1983 when the O's took the World Series. The image of Cal Ripken catching that last out will always be in my memory.
I also am a Terps fan. They were up 20 points on Duke in the 2001 Final Four only to lose. But then they came back the next year to win the whole thing. That win was sure sweet.
So Caps Nation, we too can learn to move on as the days turn to weeks and months. Again, the team may change before October, but we can hope and have faith that we too one day will see Ovie and the boys lift that Stanley Cup.