This is a tough day. The coronavirus has had an impact on all sports and all fans are missing their escape, but Thursday is a tough day for Nationals fans as it was supposed to be the home opener and the day of the World Series banner raising. For now, that stinks. There's no way around it. This should have been a day of celebration for the city and instead we are all locked inside finishing "Tiger King" so we don't feel left out by the fact that everyone has watched it. But that day will come. At some point, this will all be over, baseball will be played again and the city of Washington will get its chance to celebrate the World Series one last time. As someone who was at the last banner-raising the city enjoyed, when the Capitals raised their Stanley Cup banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena, let me tell you what you're in for.
Nothing will compare to the excitement of the moment in which the championship was won. While the Capitals very publicly turned the summer of 2018 into one big party, the peak of the entire celebration came on June 7 when the clock hit zero in Las Vegas and the Caps streamed off the bench and onto the ice as champions for the first time.
That's the moment the players play for, that's the moment the fans cheer for, that's what it's all about. But that moment is fleeting.
It's not as if we can't look back on that day and smile, I sure can. It's more that, there is no way to replicate that feeling of the moment the championship is won after the fact. Nothing really compares to that. It feels surreal, like it's not really happening, especially for a team like the Capitals that had plenty of moments where it felt like it never would happen. Nationals fans can certainly relate. When the banner gets raised, that's when it all starts to feel real. That's when you realize, yes, it actually happened.
I am 33 years old. The Wizards won their championship long before I was born. And yet, of all the years and hundreds, probably thousands at this point, of games I have gone to at Capital One Arena, that banner has always been there, a constant reminder that in 1978 the Wizards were the NBA champions. They will always be the 1978 champions. No one can take that away. That's what that banner signifies.
That was the first thing I thought of when I saw the Stanley Cup Champions banner being raised to the rafters. That banner will always be there. The Caps will always be the 2018 champs. When I take my son to games, I will be able to point to that banner and tell him about all the great moments that went into earning that banner. Whenever I look at it, all the memories of that one glorious run come flooding back.
That's what a banner raising really means.
When the Nationals finally get the chance to raise their banner, it will be a party. There will be lots of cheering, you will see all the phones out with fans taking pictures, it will be a moment to celebrate and enjoy for sure. But ultimately what that banner represents is a memory. Whenever you see 2019 World Series Champions, you will remember how the Nationals scored three runs in the eighth inning of the wild card game to rally back and beat the Milwaukee Brewers. You will remember Game 5 against the Los Angeles Dodgers when the Nationals rallied from a 3-0 deficit to force extra innings and Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam in the top of the 10th. You will remember how the Nationals swept the St. Louis Cardinals to punch their ticket to the World Series. And you will, of course, remember how the Nationals won four times in Houston including Game 7 with five runs in the final three innings to forever silence the trash cans.
You will remember all of those moments because that banner belongs to you.
The Stanley Cup has the Caps players and managements' names on it, but not the fans'. The Commissioner's Trophy awarded to the Nationals is for the team. Most fans don't get to touch or even get close to it. But the banner is something that belongs to all of us. Everyone gets the chance to look up at it as it hangs. That is the part of the championship that fans get to share with the team. That's your trophy, you earned it by sticking with the team through all the ups and downs.
When you see the banner at Nationals Park, you won't get the same euphoric feeling you had when Daniel Hudson completed the strikeout of Michael Brantley to finish off the Houston Astros, but you will have the memories and the satisfaction that, yes, it was all real. That's what Nationals fans have waiting for them once we can get past the coronavirus.
Trust me, it will be worth the wait.
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