When the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup Championship, it was a thrilling and dramatic event. In addition to the Caps’ long-suffering fan base, now richly rewarded for their loyalty and support, the entire city joined together in a happy and unified celebration, the likes of which had not been seen in these parts for over a quarter century.
This championship was particularly special for the young people who have grown up here and had never seen a championship with their own eyes until now. They will now have their own unique memories of these great days, filtered through each one’s personal experiences. These memories will be a special part of their lives from now on. No longer will they have to be content listening to the stories of champions and heroes who made their mark before they were even born!
I had always hoped for such a moment for the young fans of our teams, including my kids, who have grown into adulthood without it. I know how special it is. Even if it never happens again (chas v’sholom [G-d forbid]), these days are theirs to keep forever. All the memories of sports teams of years past, good and bad, will forever end with the image of Alex Ovechkin holding the Stanley Cup high for all to see. People and places will forever trigger images of days gone by and the sports teams that were part of those days. I know because such memories have been part of my life for many decades.
Every time I drive by RFK Stadium, rotting away and abandoned and awaiting the inevitable wrecking ball, a torrent of memories floods my mind. It’s the 1960s and there I am inside, a kid watching my beloved Senators and Redskins.
And then it was the 1970s. George Allen came to town and said, “The future is now.” All of a sudden the Redskins were one of the best teams in the league. These were the days of Sonny and Billy pulling out victories without even one good knee between them. I was there on New Year’s Eve in 1972 when we finally beat the hated Cowboys and were really going to the Super Bowl. Grown men wept in the stands in sheer ecstasy.
It would be in another place that the dream first came true. The Capital Center in Landover, Maryland, home to the Washington Bullets. These were the 1978 Bullets of Wes, Big E, Bobby D, and CJ. In an era when basketball had not been firmly established, so much so that the championship games were shown on CBS at 11:30 at night on tape delay! The Bullets built momentum throughout the playoffs and then brought home the first world championship in 36 years. And now, I had a champion to call my own.
But as it turned out, the best was yet to come. The Redskins of the Joe Gibbs era exceeded all expectations. I will never forget the excitement of the playoffs, sitting in the stands with my cousin Larry, G-d rest his soul, with our hearts in our mouths, the ballpark shaking and thundering with the three words that said it all, “We Want Dallas!” Then it was the Super Bowl, Joe Theismann and Riggins, 4th and 1. The rest is history. They were great years and memories to last a lifetime.
One funny story goes along with this: My step-grandfather, Charles Abramson, used to make his own schnapps out of cherries, sugar, and grain alcohol. I had a bottle of it but I never had the nerve to taste it. Cousin Larry and I decided that if the Redskins would win the Super Bowl, we would uncork it and make a nice l’chaim (toast) to celebrate. After they won, I took out the bottle and poured us each a glass. It made your eyes burn just to smell it. It smelled like a thousand magic markers! But we counted to three and drank it. Let me just say that it was a unique experience, and one that we never repeated.
These are the kinds of memories that the Capitals have given a whole new generation. From now on they will be (say it with me now) ALL CAPS!
NEXT TIME: The King of the Cantors
By Larry Shor