‘Wash­ing the house’ drew me to Post

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BREWER FROM D1 JERRYBREWER jerry.brewer@wash­post.com

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.

Jerry Brewer

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