Rise of Robert Griffin III, Stephen Strasburg and Others Solidifying Washington D.C. as Elite Sports City


Robert Griffin IIIRobert Griffin III may be the most exciting player in the NFL. But with the recent string of talent plying its trade inside the Washington D.C. Beltway, is he the most exciting athlete in his own city?

Griffin has elevated the Redskins to must-watch status in the NFL with his rare blend of athleticism and football IQ while also being one of the most marketable athletes in the sport. In Washington, though, Griffin has a few contemporaries who could lay claim to the title of D.C.’s favorite son. Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and the Capitals’ electric Alex Ovechkin are favorites, and Wizards budding star John Wall can also make a case — if he can get on the court.

Griffin is on pace for some pretty impressive numbers in his first season, particularly through the air. His 17-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 67.1 percent completion percentage put him ahead of not only his fellow rookies but also many established quarterbacks in terms of efficiency. His production on the ground, which was expected to be high, will likely top the 1,000-yard mark before season’s end. His versatility makes him a player the Redskins can rely on to build fan support in coming years.

The success of Griffin comes on the heels of an impressive summer for the Nationals, who won their first National League East division title since moving from Montreal. Strasburg has been a catalyst for the turnaround in Washington. Even with the questionable way the franchise handled his innings, his long-term potential has put fans in seats and will have them coming back for more.

Games that featured Strasburg on the mound became appointment viewing for all fans of baseball and brought attention to a team — and city — that had been struggling to make noise nationally for many, many years. Even when Strasburg wasn’t playing down the stretch, the media couldn’t stay away from the team because of what it had built around him with players like Ryan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.

Strasburg is expected to be one of the best pitchers in the game for years to come, and the Nationals appear to be here to stay. That’s good news for fans inside the Beltway.

The not-so-good news for fans, however, is that the NHL lockout is keeping the Capitals and Ovechkin from making another playoff push — at least for the time being. The Capitals’ electric star is back home in Russia playing in the KHL for now. That provides relief for the glass boards along the ice but certainly takes some of the fun out of the winter season for fans. Coming off a momentum-building first-round series win over the Bruins in last year’s playoffs, Ovechkin and the Capitals’ rise through the Eastern Conference is on hold.

As for the other tenants of the Verizon Center, the Wizards have had tough luck with their young star.

Wall was a “can’t-miss” prospect coming out of Kentucky and has looked the part when able to get on the court. Through two seasons, Wall is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists per game. But he has not played a game — or practiced — yet this season due to a stress injury to his left knee.

What is most troubling about the timing of the injury is the state of the Wizards as an organization. Wall and the Wizards were able to rattle off six straight wins at the end of last season, with Wall averaging 14.5 points, 11.2 assists and 2.3 steals. Without Wall, the Wizards are 2-13 to start the 2012-13 season, and they lack an identity.

Still, with so much young, marketable talent being showcased in D.C., postseason success shouldn’t be too far away. Whether it’s a Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup or NBA championship, these young players are leading a sports revival that make Washington one of the best sports cities in the country.

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