‘Washing the house’ drew me to Post
I askedmy 3-year-old son, Miles, whether he understands where we live now. “Seattle,” he replied. No, I told him. That’s our old home. We have moved 2,800 miles away, to Washington, D.C. “Washing the house?” he asked. My wife laughed. No, I said again. Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital. “Washing these!” he exclaimed. Miles will figure it out soon, I’m sure. When he does, I hope he appreciates this new adventure as much as I already do.
I’m the new Post sports columnist, standing in the back of a long line of sportswriting legends who have held this prestigious position. Just a few days ago, I was chatting with Ed Tapscott, a 62year-old Washington native and the Wizards’ vice president of player programs, and he was so enthusiastic about the tradition that he shared brief memories of nearly every Post columnist he has read in his lifetime. Now that’s a legacy. And for me, it’s a great responsibility. I’ll always keep the standard in mind. But I’ll do the job inmy own style; even though I maintain a bald head, there will be no Michael Wilbon imitating.
Here’s an even bigger promise: to be an avid learner. To learn about this region. To learn about you, the D.C. sports fan. To understand, in great detail, the history of your teams and to provide nuanced takes. The process began about two months ago, after I accepted this job, and it will continue for as long as I’m here.
I don’t have a flippant approach to this relationship. I know it’s hard to stomach an outsider parachuting in with strong opinions about your teams. Writing a column as a newbie is like getting invited to meet your significant other’s parents for the first time. Here I am, coming to dinner, and from the moment I enter the house, I’m offering thoughts about your furniture, your decorations, your paint colors, your food. It makes for an awkward first impression. You’ll probably want to kick me out— or just kick me— at first.
But my respect for readers will be evident even when we disagree. You will notice it in the depth of reporting and thought in every column. And I will listen as much as I lecture.
Over the past month, I’ve sought insight into how to make a mark in this city, researching local icons and asking people to tell their success stories. On Friday, I talked to Redskins legend Doug Williams. Twentyseven years have passed since he completed the journey from Zachary, La., to MVP in Super Bowl XXII. He made history, delivering the second of the Redskins’ three Super Bowls and becoming the first black starting quarterback to lead a team to that crown. And then he made D.C. his adopted home.
“The people act like I’m still playing, and it’s been a long time,” Williams said, chuckling. “I’ll tell you what, man: When things are going right and we’re winning, there ain’t a better place. The passion of the fans and how they love their team, the legacy and the culture, it’s incredible to experience.”
Williams was a great quarterback, but more important, he is a classy man and an earnest worker who seeks community wherever he goes.
“The most important thing is to put yourself in a position to come back,” Williams said. “I know people here still relish that championship, but I think they connect an athlete based on how he carries himself. Having been a part of something special, people put their arms around me and welcome me in this area. But I embrace them just the same. It’s a relationship.”
Williams makes you crave some fresh joy, doesn’t he? I’m already familiar with some of the tales of D.C. sporting angst, the so-called curse. I know about the 23-year championship drought among the big four and the cynicism it has created. I can feel the sense of urgency to experience glory in the current era, which features remarkable individual talents such as Alex Ovechkin, Bryce Harper, John Wall and Robert Griffin III.
It’s an exciting and nervous time, with optimism and pessimism trading blows, fighting for D.C.’s future. It’s an ideal time to chronicle the Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, Capitals and United, and there are plenty of stories in college and elsewhere that I’m eager to tell.
How will I approach it? I can tell you this: I never try to be positive or negative. I just watch and wonder, report and react. I have diverse sporting interests. I’m generally an optimist. I can be tough, but in this era of bluster and hot takes, I’mnot afraid to show compassion. I seek the fun in athletics, so I’m not into constantly being the grinch burdening your sports experience. Ultimately, this column will be very human, which means it will inspire a range of emotions.
For more than 20 years, I have dreamed of an opportunity like this. I knew I wanted to be a sports journalist as a 15-year-old growing up in Paducah, Ky. I’m 37 now and arrived here via Philadelphia, Orlando, Louisville and Seattle. I’ve learned something valuable at every stop. I’m excited to put it all together.
This is how badly I wanted to live and work here: My beautiful and understanding wife, Karen, is 20 weeks pregnant with our second child. She’s from the Seattle area, and Miles was thriving as a Northwest toddler. Every day, I feel guilty about making them move. Every day, they up lift me with their unselfishness.
There were dozens of reasons to stay in Seattle. But the allure of “Washing the house” was too great.
There’s a reason so many great sports columnists— so many great journalists, period— make their mark here, at The Post, and in this magnificent, passionate and vibrant city.
I can’t wait to learn why.