A lot of people who know me know about the Arbogast family curse.
That curse somehow where you just knew whatever I wanted to have happen in a sporting event would not happen. That curse that ensured I would never pick VCU to win the NCAA Tournament because then of course it wouldn’t. That curse that kept me from covering a state championship team for eight long years. That curse that forced me to watch the Washington Capitals lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs over and over and over again as if I were on a horribly bad version of “Groundhog Day.” That curse that made sure I was a Detroit Lions fan no matter how many times they missed the postseason altogether. That curse that even got me the nickname “Black Widow.”
Well, that curse, my friends, has broken.
I’m writing this column June 7, 2019 — exactly one year after one of the happiest days of my life. There have been some pretty happy days in my life for sure: my college graduation, the day my niece was born, my nephew’s birthday, the day my brother got married, both the days my parents got remarried. The list goes on. But most of those days, I expected.
I never, however, expected the Washington Capitals to win the Stanley Cup. But somehow, someway, one year ago today, the Caps did it.
It’s not going to be long now when the Caps are no longer the reigning Stanley Cup champions, but they will always be champions to me. There are so many moments seared into my brain from that Stanley Cup run that’ll probably never fade. When Evgeny Kuznetsov raced down the ice and netted a goal in overtime of Game 6 to finish off the Penguins series, my brother tackled me before I even realized what I was watching was really happening. I vividly remember watching Game 7 of the Tampa Bay series, pacing back and forth in the final moments of the 4-0 victory, thinking, “Oh my God, this is really happening.”
More than everything I’ll never forget the words Caps radio announcer John Walton said at the end of Game 5 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Walton’s typical sendoff is “Good morning, good afternoon and goodnight Vegas” (or whatever team the Caps are playing that night). But when the Caps won the Stanley Cup one year ago, Walton’s sendoff from that night still sends chills down my spine.
“And as the puck drops, the words that DC fans have been waiting to hear since 1974: The Washington Capitals are the 2018 Stanley Cup champions. It’s not a dream. It’s not a desert mirage. It’s Lord Stanley, and he is coming to Washington.”
Phew. It’s hard for me to even type that without getting teary eyed.
But what happened after winning the Stanley Cup was also pretty amazing. The curse we had joked about for years, the curse that felt so real for so long somehow just … lifted.
A few months later, I also sat with tears in my eyes as I got to watch the Central Coosa boys basketball team win a state championship, a goal I’d been working forward to since those same boys were in elementary school. Then just a couple weeks after, the Virginia Cavaliers — a team my whole family has been following for years — won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The curse was somehow gone.
Although there are countless moments and memories I can still recall as clear as if they happened yesterday from that Stanley Cup win a year ago, there’s one thing that run taught me more than anything else. It was something John Walton said midway through last year’s playoffs — when the team was just one win away from finally, finally eliminating the Penguins. It became a mantra for the Caps, and now it’s become a motto for me. It’s something I hold true both in sports and in life.
“It’s OK to believe.”