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We can wait…can’t we? October 19, 2007

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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It was a hot one yesterday in Washington–I think we went up to 80 degrees.  And the humidity!  Oy!  You guys have no IDEA how uncomfortable I was in my cloak on the way down to the rink.
Naturally, I got the usual snarks, and someone asked me why I was wearing wool when the weather wasn’t that cold.  Without missing a beat, I said, “Because it’s going to be about this warm in June, thank you very much.”  Yes, I’m ever the optimist where the Caps are concerned.  Perhaps foolishly optimistic.  However…
That got me thinking about the concept of delayed gratification–hating things now to enjoy other things later.  I sweat in my cloak in September and  October so that I’m ready to sweat when the Finals roll around.
We’ve been through a couple of seasons of delayed gratification here in Washington–two 70-point seasons, nowhere near the real season, and trading in the skates for golf togs before taxes were due.  The rationale we were given was, Yes, we’re going to stink for a couple of years, but bear with us, please.  We want to build a team that’s going to contend for a long time, and hopefully win us a Stanley Cup or three before it’s all over.  We’re not going to just rent the Cup: we want to OWN it for a very long time.
Unfortunately, it seems Washington has a few too many fair-weather hockey fans.  All those empty seats from ’05 to April of ’07 are all the evidence I need to say that.  Now, the old bromide is that nothing sells tickets like winning, but consider the Green Bay Packers, if you would.  That stadium is so sold out that you practically have to inherit a Packers season ticket just to get in the door.  I’m aware that 8, and maybe 9 or 10 weekends is a lot less of a commitment than a hockey season.  But fans who really care about their hockey team are going to be there, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, every night, all season long.  It’s not even close to that around here.
I remember how the Sabres, not that long ago, cut off season ticket sales so that they’d have some walk-up tickets available on game night.  Why?  If you can sell your barn out for every game, before the seaon even starts, go for it.  It works for the Packers.  And if season tickets get that scarce in Buffalo, fans who actually get to sit in the building will be that much more passionate about their team, win or lose.  Not that I’m trying to actually help the Sabres here, I’m just saying.  And if the Sabres could pull it off, why wouldn’t it work for the Caps?
“But you’ve got to have success to sell the team!”  No, you DON’T.  I bought my first set of season tickets right after the lockout, and we ALL know how bad a year THAT was.  Market Ovechkin until he’s a household name in the District.  You guys in Game Operations, put on a spectacular show, and ignore the caterwauling from the purists.  If you have to, put definitions of the penalties–or even player demonstrations of them–back up on the scoreboard.  (The MAIN scoreboard, not the lower-level strips: you can’t see those from the cheap seats.)  Have the PA guy announce offsides and icing calls, and maybe throw in a video demonstration of icing on that fancy-shmancy new scoreboard.  Make the live game beginner-friendly.  THAT is how you will turn curious fans into knowledgeable regulars, and those regulars into planholders.  And THAT is how you should eventually, maybe years from now, maybe sooner, be able to sell out Verizon Center before the season even starts–and NOT just by fans of the visiting team.
Now.  Delayed gratification.  Stinking it up now to win later.  Back to my point.  Is that a valid way to think?
People seem to agree with that principle when it comes to their health.  How many studies are there that suggest that doing this or not doing that will make you live longer?  Preventive medicine is now a very popular concept: remember the HPV vaccine flap not long ago?  I’m going to demur on where I stand on this issue: I’m trying to keep this blog apolitical.  My only point here is that, in health matters, there is a belief in delayed gratification.  We don’t like doing X now, in order that we may enjoy doing Y much later in life.  It’s delayed gratification.
Delayed gratification also makes good financial sense.  The best financial advice to give a young person is to start saving EARLY.  Save early, save often.  The more money you save when you’re young, the more interest it builds as you get older.  So don’t go rushing out on your first job out of high school to buy a PlayStation 3.  Save that money.  As much of it as you can.  Again, delayed gratification.
I’m told that delayed gratification also works wonders in the bedroom, too, but this is a family blog.
In Romans 8:18-25, Paul talks about present sufferings and future glory.  Now, granted, he’s writing about a much, MUCH bigger set of sufferings and glory.  Obviously, sufferings of this mortal world and the hope of spiritual glory are a few orders of magnitude above a couple of losing seasons and the hope of winning a Stanley Cup.  Pay attention to verses 24 and 25, though, and I’m going to quote those here:

“For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”–Rom 8:24-25, NRSV

With me so far?  We haven’t won a Stanley Cup here in Washington yet.  Thus, we do not see.   But we still hope.  Now, Paul uses “hope” a little differently than we use it today.  When we say “I hope the Caps win tonight”, we don’t know if they will or not: we just kind of wish they would.  The hope that Paul is talking about expects a successful outcome.  To put it in hockey terms, it would be a little like saying, “I know the Caps are going to win tonight, and it’s going to be fun to watch it unfold.”  Now, some folks with some swagger might say that as braggadocio, but Paul’s hope is totally serious.  That’s why he says what he says in verse 25, that if we hope, we wait with patience.  We expect it to happen.  It’s a done deal.  We just have to get there.

In quantum physics, there’s a theorem called Many Worlds.  It’s very complicated, so let me get right to the fun stuff.  In hockey terms, what Many Worlds suggests is that every game the Caps play, they win in one world, and lose in another.  So there is a world out there, right now, where this year’s Caps are 6-0.  There’s another one where this squad is 0-6 (glad we’re not there.)  Now, if one takes the recent bestseller “The Secret” at face value, it’s just a matter of focusing on your destination, and letting the intervening decisions take care of themselves.  THAT kind of thinking is the hope Paul’s talking about: knowing with certainty exactly where you’ll end up, and letting the way to get there show itself to you, one step at a time.
How does it apply to our great game, and to our Washington Capitals?  Well, I’m obviously a believer in where this team is headed.  And I do believe that we have much, MUCH better days ahead, and will be having better days for a very long time once we arrive.  I’ve got Hope, you could say.  I’d love to be able to say that I firmly believe a new NHL dynasty is rising in Washington, but I can’t go THAT far.  Lord Stanley’s Cup is a mistress that’s meaner than the love child of Chris Pronger and Rosie O’Donnell.  So there’s no way to guarantee a Capitals dynasty.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that were to happen, though, because we’ve been trying to build slowly. 
Look at the Thrashers: they gave away a lot of their future at the deadline to rent Keith Tkachuk, and all that got them was a first-round date with a broom.  Now Tkachuk is back with the Blues, and the Thrashers just fired coach Bob Hartley.  Meanwhile, the Caps took ten draft picks into this year’s draft, parlayed their picks into another ten in ’08, and STILL came home with ten new prospects.  THAT is forward thinking.  Cashing picks for a high-end rental is not the way to win more than once.
Sacrifice now, reap later.  It works in finance and health; it works spiritually; why shouldn’t it work in hockey?




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