Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog has asked some of us the 5 most popular athletes in DC. It is kind of hard right now, because well:
Clinton Portis is a cancer. Gilbert Arenas is a criminal. Mike Green is a playoff bust. Ryan Zimmerman is a vanilla pancake. Chris Cooley missed half of last season. Brian Orakpo is barely more than a rookie. Donovan McNabb and Stephen Strasburg have never technically played a game as a DC athlete. Jason Campbell, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Ben Olsen are all gone. And so on.
That being said, here is my list:
1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
He’s been MVP 2 times in a row with a chance for third. He is transcendent superstar that everybody in D.C. knows whether they follow the Caps or not.
2. Donovan McNabb – Washington Redskins
He has not played here yet and for all we know, he could be the Redskins version of Brian Lawrence. Two words for you though: jersey sales
3. Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals
Fans have been wearing “Strasburg” Nats t-shirts since before he got drafted. It is hard for me to even wrap myself around the hype of Strasburg, since it is throughout baseball and he just happens to be one of D.C.’s prospects. Thomas Boswell is struggling to keep sane about Strasburg (The Post).
4. Ryan Zimmerman – Washington Nationals
Last year the “”face of the franchise” had a breakout season, winning the silver slugger and gold glove awards. His Q-rating is now high enough to make ads with weird Caveman baserunning. He is still below a guy who hasn’t pitched in MLB yet though.
5. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
The first line center and Ovi’s partner is one of the NHL’s best offensive threats. The quiet, baby-faced Swede has done it below the radar, but today, THE MAN GOT PAID. His new contract bumped his profile up to first story on WTOP sports this morning.
That two of the players on the list haven’t played a single game here yet speaks volumes, but from the buzz I’m getting its true. 4-12 NFL teams like the Redskins and lottery pick NBA teams like the Wizards (so sad) just don’t have a lot of buzz right now. DC United has fallen off a cliff at a really bad time too. Maybe the Wiz #1 pick will break through by this time next year.
I was very tempted to put in Ted Leonsis, but he just pays guys to play the games. Nats CF Nyjer Morgan could be a local superstar if he starts playing better, closer to the way he did last year. Mike Green has a shot too, but needs to have a strong playoffs next year. I don’t know that anybody else on the Caps can break through. Backstrom isn’t charismatic enough to stay there if the Caps are one and done again.
Of course, if the Redskins start off 4-2 and a couple of players are on the way to the Pro Bowl, the list changes dramatically. Market penetration and 75 years of history has a way of making that happen.