D.C. sports fans are lucky. Please hear out the argument before you start throwing shoes (that means you, Caps commenters). Washington-area teams might not always have success in the playoffs, but wow do they have stars.
Big ones with generational talent. The players that opposing fans hound for autographs as soon as they get off the bus. Really, if you think about it, D.C. is home to some of the most entertaining names in their respective sports.
John Wall and Bradley Beal. Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby. Josh Norman and Jordan Reed. How could you ever decide who's the best?
Inspired by a tweet from The Washington Post's Chelsea Janes, SportsTalk Live's Rob Carlin and Brian Mitchell decided to try ranking the top 5 D.C. athletes they love to watch most.
That criteria is interpreted here as the athletes you most enjoy watching play their sport, both for their incredible talent and the personality they bring to the game. For the sake of argument, let's not include players solely on the basis of quotability, otherwise Markieff 'F--- This Ankle' Morris would take all five slots.
Here's Rob's list with his reasoning for each pick transcribed below.
5. Josh Norman, CB, Redskins
“He’s going to make it a show. He’s going to shut down the best wide receivers in the game. And he’s probably the most influential defensive player this team has had since Sean Taylor? Probably, he’s that kind of guy. That kind of defining talent. I think he’s the only Redskin to make this list for me.”
4. John Wall, PG, Wizards
“It’s tough because John’s so electrifying. He's the face of the franchise and he's made the Wiz as interesting as they are right now. There’s no one, probably, more fun in the open court to watch. I’ve never seen anyone go that fast with the ball on the dribble, but there’s just a couple of other superhero-type guys in the D.C. market, so John’s great, but the other three are just greater for me.”
3. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals
“He built the Capitals. The Rock the Red is Alex Ovechkin. [Verizon Center] is one of the great arenas in hockey because of Alex Ovechkin. He had a down year, right? Everyone’s saying that he’s slowing down. T.J. Oshie just reached 30 [goals] for the first time and we’re like, ‘Sign him! Sign him long-term!’ Ovi ties him for the team lead and we’re like, ‘Trade Ovi he can’t score anymore.’ It’s because we’re accustomed to him putting up 50 every year and being the greatest natural goal-scorer on the planet.”
2. Max Scherzer, P, Nationals
"When he starts that little [woofing sound] and he gets into it, right? It’s just, ‘Gimme the ball. I’m gonna throw it and I’m gonna strike out [everyone]. I’m going to walk around the mound. I got attitude.’ So I grew up on Long Island, I was a big Mets fan. Every time Dwight Gooden went on the mound, I thought, ‘Well, he’s either going to throw a no-hitter, a perfect game or strike out 20.’ It’s kinda at that point with Max Scherzer.
“When he starts that walk [around the mound], I always say there are demons right behind the eyes. Plus he’s got two eyes that are different colors. It’s weird to begin with and then the demons behind the eyes, it is all completely crazy but completely dominating.”
1. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
“To me, it’s Bryce Harper. It’s the reason he’s going to be a $500 million free agent, either with the Nationals or someone else. Someone’s gonna start that with a 5. To me it’s must-see TV. If I walk by a Nats game and Bryce Harper’s up, I’m stopping to watch because he might hit the ball 450 feet to dead center, he might hit it 475 feet into the upper deck in right field. Or he might throw from right field from the warning track and get a guy out at home. He’s electrifying, and to me, that’s my No. 1 athlete to watch.”
Brian Mitchell's list has some overlap, but not a single Redskins player. Here's his top 5.
5. Bradley Beal, SG, Wizards
4. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals
“I love what this guy’s been doing a long time, Alex Ovechkin. Still is exciting. Didn’t have as many goals this year, but I like watching him because he does more than just score goals now. He plays the whole game.”
3. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
“They say chicks dig the long ball. I dig it, too. Baseball is slow for me, ok, it’s slow. But when he gets up [to the plate] or whenever he’s out in the field, I like to watch him because he does a little bit more than the ordinary baseball player.”
2. John Wall, PG, Wizards
“John has evolved into probably the best pure point guard in the league and I like the fact that he attacks. He cares about it, he gets emotional. And he holds grudges. If you go at him, he’s going to come back at you. I like that aspect of him.”
1. Max Scherzer, P, Nationals
“He’s a pitcher, and normally pitchers don’t have personality, you don’t really talk about it. He gets you excited when he’s going to pitch because ... he’s going to have a career-type game when he gets out there. And I asked, ‘When you start walking around the mound, what are you [thinking]?’ He said, ‘I’m starting to feel it.’ And I like watching him play. The last guy way back when, Nolan Ryan, the batter ran out there and he’d be like, ‘Come on’ [punching motions]. They have a different mindset."
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A few things that jumped out at me from these lists: Only one Redskin appears; Wall didn't take No. 1 in either; and people get excited over baseball.
It's hard to argue this topic without introducing my own opinion because there's no 'fun factor' stat proving anyone right or wrong. So first let me share my top 5, then tell you why it's the best one.
5. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins
Huge, fast and deep down the field, Reed is on the receiving end of Kirk Cousins's most exciting passes. If Reed makes a play, it's thrilling by definition. That's the reason I have him here instead of Josh Norman, who's at his best if no one ever throws his way and then he gets to talk about it afterwards.
4. Braden Holtby, G, Capitals
Holtby under fire is the most mesmerizing showcase of reflexes I've ever seen. And his Vezina-level emergence on a team that went so long without a top netminder makes watching him even sweeter.
3. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals
Greatest Russian NHL player ever? Greatest goal scorer in the NHL right now? Of all athletes on this list, Ovi is by far the most accomplished. He's a legend in his own time. If expectations weren't so out of control (50 goals per season isn't the measuring stick for anyone but him), Ovi's 2016-17 season wouldn't be viewed as a disappointment. The only reason he's not No. 2 on this list is because he's not as demonstrative, which is part of the entertainment factor for me.
2. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
Perhaps more than any other D.C. athlete, Harper has most potential to be a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He's already won an MVP, but the talk around Harper always focuses on what he could become, not what he already is. That's part of the joy of watching him play, the knowledge that you never got to see Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson, but that one day your grandkids might lament that they never got to see Harper.
He's a home-run mashing, outfield-to-home throwing, big-as-the-ballpark player. Harper's on a mission to make baseball fun again, which it so desperately needs. The Yankee way is boring. Give me crazy beards, bat flips and pimping homers any day. Oh, and a cool $500 million to spend on keeping Harper here.
1. John Wall, PG, Wizards
Wall is arguably the most athletic player pound-for-pound in the NBA. I'd probably take him in a straight-up foot race against anyone in the league, but it's his speed moving the ball that really drops jaws in a game setting. Only rightful MVP Russell Westbrook is in the same conversation. Add strength and leaping ability to that speed and you'll see how Wall became a chase-down block artist on par with the big fellas. The All-Star's court vision also makes him one of the most acrobatic passers in the game. Instead of having one incredible specialty, Wall has highlights reels of circus shots, passes, dunks, steals and chase-down blocks.
It's hard to overstate the entertainment value of fast, strong, coordinated and airborne.
Also consider that no sport puts its star more front-and-center for fans than basketball. Wizards fans get to see Wall for 36.4 minutes per game. He's handling the ball 8.9 minutes per game, tied for most in the league with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. How often in the course of a Nationals game is Bryce Harper touching or hitting the ball? Jordan Reed? Ovechkin and Holtby handle the puck a lot, but still not close. It's not their fault that their positions are more specialized, but it means more idle moments and less entertainment.
Not only is Wall the most explosively athletic player in D.C., but also his sport gives him the most exposure to entertain fans. Add to that his incredible competitiveness, the jawing, the stare-downs and that one time he jumped on the scorers' table. There's really no one even close to as fun as Wall.