Carroll County Times

Commentary: Royal mess in D.C.

Things were a mess in Washington in 2013.
Governmental gridlock was worse than ever, healthcare reform looks like a fiasco and we can thank leaders whose approval ratings are lower than John Wall's shooting percentage.
As bad as things got with the politicians in D.C., however, that was nothing compared to how unsuccessful the sports teams were in the nation's capital.
Expected to get back to the playoffs, the Redskins turned into maybe the worst team in the NFL while reverting to their old soap opera-like ways. Expected to do nothing less than win the World Series, the Nationals fell out of the playoff race in July. Expected to contend for the Stanley Cup, the Capitals lost in the first round of the playoffs with an embarrassing 5-0 defeat at home in Game 7. Expected to, well, OK, the Wizards probably lived up (or down) to expectations more than any other Washington team based on their talent - and they went 29-53 and missed the playoffs as usual last spring.
Was any city's fan base more disappointed by the collective performances of its teams? New York maybe? Who really expected anything out of the like so the Yankees, Jets or Knicks this year? Dallas? Come on, the Cowboys performed exactly to anyone's realistic expectations.
Baltimore fans might be feeling a little woe as me right now - understandable with the Ravens on the precipice of their first missed postseason since 2007 and the Orioles following a season of regression with an absolute disaster of on offseason - but get real.
The calendar year began with the Ravens' remarkable playoff run capped by an unforgettable Super Bowl victory. The Orioles contended into the summer and boast four everyday star players who are 28 or younger. No, Baltimore doesn't have an NBA or NHL team, but the Wizards have been largely irrelevant since the disco era and hockey might still be politely referred to as one of the Big Four, but it's really more of a niche sport.
Major League Baseball has, oddly, become the most unpredictable sports league. So while it seems right now that the Nats are among the favorites next year, they have an unproven manager, are as vulnerable to injury as any team and, of course, they are coming off the disappointment of 2013. The Orioles look set for another drop-off, but they do have Buck Showalter as well as a lineup filled with All-Stars and Gold Glovers. If they can just get some starting pitching ...
Let's face it, in both Baltimore and D.C., the fan base's collective self-worth largely comes down to its NFL teams.
Yes, Joe Flacco is overpaid and his 2013 season was underwhelming. But put a real offensive line in front of him and reestablish a running game and watch his numbers go up in 2014. No, he doesn't have the upside of Robert Griffin III. RG3 might one day be best quarterback in the league. But right now his health and maturity are both in question. Flacco's durability and demeanor look pretty good by comparison.
As for the respective coaching staffs, well, John Harbaugh and his coordinators didn't have their best season in 2013 but there is one heck of a track record there. It's looking more and more like 2012 was a fluke for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins. Meanwhile this season is reminiscent of the Spurrier or Zorn eras and the guy brought in to bring respect and stability might be on his way out with yet another period of rebuilding to follow.
As for the front office, Ozzie Newsome left the Ravens a little short on offense this year, but he has a Hall of Fame resume as a general manager. The only decision maker that really matters in D.C. is owner Dan Snyder, who has become Washington's very own Peter Angelos.
And while we can all take solace in the fact that we can throw out many of the lackluster politicians in 2014, Washington sports fans, stinging from a most forgettable 2013, will be stuck with largely the same cast of characters for the foreseeable future.