Washington Capitals F Alexander Ovechkin has enjoyed a healthy stay atop the popularity polls as the top figure in Washington, DC sports.
Is he still there?
I doubt it.
Ovechkin once dominated the DC sports scene.
ON AN APRIL MORNING in 2008, Alex Ovechkin emerged from behind a wall at the Capitals' practice rink in Arlington, Va., hair unkempt and flashing his signature gap-toothed grin. Hundreds of red-clad fans had packed the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, which sits atop a shopping mall, just to see Ovechkin skate for five minutes. As No. 8 took the ice, grown men squealed like tween girls at a One Direction show. They loved him.
But love can be fickle. "Sometimes things change," the 27-year-old left winger says. "I still love them, but maybe they don't love me as much."
Much has changed since 2008. Back then, outside Clinton Portis and possibly Chris Cooley, Redskins to put at the top were not plentiful. Redskins popularity itself was on the decline right before the Fan Revolt of 2009. The Nationals were in the midst of a painful building period that still had a few years remaining. Outside Ryan Zimmerman, casual fans could barely name any other Washington National. Stephen Strasburg was still at San Diego State and Bryce Harper wasn't even driving yet.
Now, Ovechkin is facing decline in his level of play, arguably,since the Olympics. Fiirst, his offensive prowess has notably declined. His 65 goal 2007-08 season has since reduced to 56 goals, 50 goals, 32 goals, and 38 goals in subsequent seasons. The last two seasons, he has failed to hit triple digits in total points. Ovechkin's name has rarely been mentioned over the past two seasons in any discussion related to the current best player in the NHL. He once dominated that discussion. During the current lockout, Ovechkin is not gaining fans by threateneing to stay in Russia. Where is the commitment to his fans? Yes, it appears the luster of Ovechkin has faded significantly since 2009. HIT CONTINUE READING FOR MORE OF THE ARTICLE
Additionally, new superstars have emerged in Washington that have either supplanted Ovechkin or joined him as the top sports figure in the District. Listen, no polling has been done on this, but it is clear, the most popular DC sports figure is by far rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. It's not even close. RGII has taken the DC area and the NFL by storm. He is on pace for a record setting season. He has not only added excitement to Washington Redskins football, a reason to watch Redskins ootball, but even more so, has provided something lacking for twenty seasons of Redskins football --- HOPE. It's helps the kid has a great personality and tremendous character. It was only a matter of time. The Washington Redskins still are and will always be the dominating sports franchise in the District. Kind of like the NFL dominating over all other porfessional sports associations and leagues. So, it was only a matter of time that Washington would acquire or draft that one player that would become the toast of the District. That time came when the Redskins traded three first round picks to the St. Louis Rams to move up to draft RGIII. It was sealed at that point.
As for the baseball team in DC, much has happened since 2008. The 2012 Washington Nationals have provided the District with it's winningest baseball team ever and its first playoff apperance since 1933. The team was led all season by two other phenoms, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Strasburg came to Washington via the 2009 MLB Draft, first overall pick, and Harper came one year later, first overall pick. Strasburg is one of baseball's most dominating and talked about starters. Just look at the media fiasco centered around his season ending shut down. Proof enough how popular Strasburg has become. Then there is the nineteen year old phenom. Who can't love Bryce Harper? He embodies everything you think of when thinking of the great stars of the past. He hustles every play. He has fun playing the game. He hits like a best. His arm is an accurate cannon. He is a great fielder. Heck, he is even cocky! Then there is a trade that brough an interesting, fun loving, jovial pitcher to Washington. You know, a guy that can take the reign of Ace. That guy was major league baseball's only 21 game winner this season, Gio Gonzalez.
Suddenly, the Capitals do not dominate the Washington sports scene. They are not the only winning franchise in the Nation's Capital any longer. With an NHL lockout underway, the massive casual fans they picked up over the last five years, may dissipate back into non-hockey fans. The hard cores will stay. However, casual fans are less forgiving. As for Alex, he is coming off a mere 65 point season. He is coming into a season where questions will dog him whether he is just struggling a bit, or is in actual decline, as a player. You can also get a feel for the decline of Ovechkin when you see arguments in message boards and blogs centered around whether he should be stripped of the 'C'.
Regardless, one thing is clear. Given the arrival of guys like RGIII, Strasburg, Harper, Gonzalez, and more, Ovechkin's days sitting alone at the top of the DC sport scene are over.
Now he will have to fight just to stay in that discussion.