Among the whispers of reasons why Kevin Durant didn't sign with the Washington Wizards was the idea players were saying the home crowds aren't very supportive. Then there were reports of Nationals players wishing for more spirited home support.
If Washington players want crazy, fanatical fans to make every home game some den of doom then there's one way to do it -- win a championship.
RFK Stadium was an insane home edge in the 1990s. Why? Because the Redskins won three championships in eight years. They earned that kind of following. D.C. United also has a hard-core, though smaller, following at RFK nowadays -- after winning championships.
But a check of the Wizards shows nothing since 1979. And, frankly, barely a postseason ripple since then. The Nationals have only been around since 2005 with a stripped roster that took five years to rebuild. But the Nats are becoming like the Capitals -- big talk during the regular season and zip in the playoffs.
Win and you get unconditional love. Given a generation of nothing, players should be happy to have fans in the stands paying inflated prices to watch so-so teams.
Don't disrespect Washington fans whose loyalty teams mostly haven't earned. Be glad fans are still cheering despite a lack of postseason success.
It's bad enough outsiders say Washington is a bad sports town, which isn't true. But local fans sure don't need to be openly disrespected by Washington players. If you don't like it here, go to some small town where sports are the only thing in their lives. Otherwise, you live in America's greatest city, so enjoy it.
There are two more big reasons why Washington is not the die-hard mania of sports towns.
First, Washington has become not only a cross-section of our country but of the world. One of every five people living in the Washington, D.C., region was born in another country. People come from everywhere to live here. It's not one of those towns where everyone lives and dies. There are plenty of people from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and you name it who all come to games to see their old hometown teams. And that's OK, as long as they don't disrespect the local team. (So Mr. President, don't wear your White Sox hat to Nats games or cheer courtside for the Bulls, please.)
This is not Tuscaloosa, Ala., where everyone roots for the Crimson Tide. This is the melting pot of the world, so if opposing fans are in the stands, don't take it personally.
Second, Washington is a conservative city, so fans are a little quieter by nature. A lack of tormenting opposing players doesn't mean fans don't care. Admittedly, this is a big events town, and fans leave early, but remember sports isn't the only entertainment option, so maybe some fans aren't quite as intense as a Friday night lights crowd.
Durant didn't return to his hometown because of weaker fan support, but a shared belief of many Washingtonians that the Wizards front office is incapable of building a champion. Durant chose to go elsewhere. Local players should be glad fans don't look elsewhere, too.