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Kushner: Can The Nats Woo The DC Sports Fan?

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Kushner: Can The Nats Woo The DC Sports Fan?

Thursday, April 29, 2010, 4:49 PM
By Holden Kushner
CSNwashington.com

So Im watching the third installment of the Washington Capitals Playoff Edition and it hits me: How long will it take for the Nationals to reach the Caps Q rating?

In 2005 when the Expos relocated to D.C., Nationals attendance ranked 11th out of 32 teams. Last year, Nats crowds drew the 24th-smallest crowd in baseball, and through 13 home dates in 2010, that ranking has dropped a spot to 25th.

There are similarities between the Nationals attendance and that of our local hockey team. In 2006, Alexander Ovechkins rookie year, the Caps placed 28th out of 30 teams in the NHL. They climbed to 24th in 2008, the first year an Ovechkin-led team went to the postseason. In 2009 they leapfrogged to 13th and this year sold out each and every game to boast the 11th-highest attendance in the National Hockey League.

Is it possible that the Nationals can take this town by storm the same way the Capitals have?

The Nats do have a few things working in their favor. For one, Washington is eager to root for a winning team. Given the recent failures of the Redskins and Wizards, locals would even jump on the bandwagon of a good tennis team. No, check that. The Kastles won their Championship in 2009, and many of you are learning of it for the first time right now.

Also, the product that the Nationals are expecting to run out to the field over the next two seasons is expected to be quite impressive. George Will, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and a major proponent for bringing baseball back to the nations capital, joined 106.7 The Fan with Mike Wise and I and said, Look at how well they've played this year. I think the Nationals have a good manager, a good core offense and their best pitcher is in AA-Harrisburg. This is already a better and more interesting team. Last year they were bad and boring. Not this year.

The Nats do have the schedule working in their favor to some extent. From June through August there are no other major sporting events taking place, although many would consider Redskins training camp a much bigger spectacle than any baseball game.

On the other hand, there are some factors working against the Nationals in their quest to catch the Capitals as Washington D.C.s second-favorite sport.

This franchise had been dreadful and without an identity every year other than their inaugural season in 2005. Even if the Nats were to get into a pennant race and make it to the postseason, theyd be going right up against the Redskins regular season. The Nationals could appear in the World Series, and Id be willing to bet that a Skins regular season game would outdraw them on television. Thats just the odds theyre up against.

Can the passion for Nationals baseball ever exceed that of the Capitals? Not this year. Even with the Caps early exit from the postseason, local fans have had three years to hop on the bandwagon.

The Nats need to give D.C. a reason to climb aboard. Baseball appeals to a greater number of people because its easier to pick up a bat and ball rather than find an ice rink to play on.

Once the Nationals start winning, attendance will rise and broadcast ratings will too.

We all know that this town is jonesing for a true winner. Lets just hope success happens much sooner than later.

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.