A choke label is a heavy burden for any athlete or team. Hey, we all can have a bad day or a terrible season or in some cases a brutal decade or 9. First you have to be a certain level of good to be bad enough to earn the right to be called a choker. The Cleveland Browns don’t choke the Cubs didn’t choke for over 100 years; there’s a difference between inept and choking.
Many Caps fans think their guys qualify, the Caps won the President’s Cup with the NHL’s best regular season record and were favored by many to win this year’s Stanley Cup, but apparently Lord Stanley is allergic to Washington. Wednesday night the Caps and their fans got their annual gut-punch getting shutout on home-ice by the Pittsburgh Penguins in game 7.
This year’s tease had the Caps down to Pittsburgh and apparently out at 3 games to 1, but wait with the heart of a champion Washington rallied to win games 5 and 6 their fans thinking maybe this time it would be different. Enough is enough, this would be the year they’d exorcise the demons. Sorry, not happening the inevitable fall as the Caps failed to get beyond the second round for the seventh time in seven chances in the Alex Ovechkin era.
Choke, gag, call it what you want but the sports landscape is littered with teams and athletes who have had to deal with championships that got away and many recently.
–Golden State was up 3 games to 1 in the 2016 NBA Championship Series before LeBron and the Cavs brought Cleveland a title.
–The Indians were up 3-1 in last year’s World Series before the Cubs turned Chicago upside-down with 3 straight wins.
–Jordan Spieth took a 5-shot lead to the back 9 of the 2016 Masters but watched it slide away when he hit 2 balls into Rae’s Creek and took a 7 on the par 3 twelfth hole.
–Michigan State looked like a Final 4 team in the 2016 NCAA tournament but the 2-seed got bounced in the first-round by Middle Tennessee State 90-81.
–In 2012 Duke was a 2-seed one and done thanks to Lehigh, two years later they were out in the first round with a loss to Mercer.
–The Atlanta Braves were Caps like making the playoffs 14 times in 15 years from 1991-2005 but they did break through with a World Series win in 1995. They blew an 8.5 game September lead in September of 2011 losing the pennant to the Cardinals.
–The 1964 Philadelphia Phils had a 6.5 game lead with 12 to play and then lost 10 straight and the pennant to St. Louis. Ouch!
–Green Bay looked like they were heading to the Super Bowl with a 19-7 lead with 3 minutes left in the 2014 NFC Championship; Seattle won the game in OT.
–The Houston Oilers had a 35-3 lead in the third quarter in a wild-card game in January, 1993 but former Maryland Terp Frank Reich threw 4 TD passes and Buffalo pulled the biggest comeback in NFL history with a 41-38 OT win.
Good enough to build high expectations but not good enough to cross the finish line, living and dying with teams like the Caps can be cruel, but wait till next year!