Local SportsSportsWilliam J. Ford

D.C. Celebrates Mystics Title, Nationals Advance to World Series

It may become a “title town” after the Washington Nationals advanced to the World Series Tuesday, Oct. 15 after winning Game 4 of the National League Championship series and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals. Their win comes days after the Mystics celebrated a WNBA championship following an intense game against the Connecticut Sun at the Entertainment Sports Arena in Southeast.

A recorded crowd of nearly 44,000 dressed in red paraphernalia witnessed how the District will host its first World Series since 1933. Because the Nationals will start on the road, the team will host Games 3, 4 and 5 between Oct. 25-27 against either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees.

“Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places and this is a beautiful place,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said on the field at Nationals Park in Southeast after they won 7-4.

Before the game, the Nationals honored the Mystics at Nationals Park. Mystics forward and WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Zion Foy and Ezra Rich didn’t attend any of the Washington Mystics games this season to hear the raucous crowd, see the red-clan paraphernalia and feel the playoff intensity.

But the two brothers from Southeast stepped inside the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast for the first time Friday, Oct. 11, and joined several hundred fans to attend a community rally less than 24 hours after the Mystics won its first WNBA championship.

The Washington Mystics celebrate with the championship trophy after its 89-78 win in Game 5 of the WNBA finals at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in D.C. on Oct 10. (John E. De Freitas/The Washington Informer)
The Washington Mystics celebrate with the championship trophy after its 89-78 win in Game 5 of the WNBA finals at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in D.C. on Oct 10. (John E. De Freitas/The Washington Informer)

“I really like their story and how the coach came from the Connecticut Sun and came here to try and build a winning team,” said Foy, 13, an eighth-grade student.

Rich, 10, a fifth-grader, followed the team’s entire 34-game regular season and the nine playoff games.

“[Winning] could help people from different states want to come here [to the arena] and get more fans,” he said while holding a Mystics poster. “Other opponents are scared to play in our arena.”

The $65 million, 4,200-seat arena in the Congress Heights neighborhood opened last year to enthusiastic fanfare and sold-out crowds at two concerts featuring Mary J. Blige and Jacob Banks.

The Washington Wizards use a portion of the 118,000 square-foot arena as its practice facility.

The Capital City Go-Go, the Washington Wizards G-League affiliate, will begin its second season at the building known as “ESA” on Nov. 9.

But Thursday, Oct. 10 marked the first time the Mystics celebrated a WNBA championship in an area officials hoped would boost morale, bring jobs and begin to make the District a “title-town.” The Washington Capitals hockey team won the Stanley Cup championship last year.

Events DC, which promotes itself as the city’s convention and sports authority, built the arena along with Ted Leonsis’ company Monumental Sports and Entertainment that owns the Capitals, Wizards, and the majority owner of Capital One Arena in Northwest.

“As the venue operator, we look forward to providing the Mystics and their fans with a world-class home court and memorable experience for years to come at their home arena,” Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC, said in an email Monday, Oct. 14. “This accomplishment is just another reminder that D.C. is no longer just the nation’s capital – but a premier sports capital!”

The Mystics celebration and honors continued this week with an appearance on “Good Morning America” on Monday.

The Washington Nationals honored the team Tuesday, Oct. 15 at Nationals Park in Southeast before its Game 4 National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Mystics forward and WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Minutes after last week’s championship achievement, the players drank, shook, and drank some more sparkling wine in the locker room. Veteran point guard Kristi Toliver held two bottles while sporting a championship t-shirt and red goggles.

The players continued to smile Friday, Oct. 11 during a rally where they tossed small, red basketballs to fans in the stands.

Part of the exuberance comes from not only being swept in the WNBA Finals last year, but several players don’t have the offseason to celebrate like other professional teams because they play professional basketball overseas.

For instance, Natasha Cloud and Aerial Powers are scheduled to play in China, and Myisha Hines-Allen may head out to South Korea.

WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman, a native of Belgium, left two days after the title game.

“I’m used to it. I’ve been doing it for a couple of years,” she said. “We’ve had several championships in Russia, and we just don’t celebrate because everybody goes home. It’s kind of sad, but I’m used to it.”

Toliver will remain in the District working in her second season as a player development coach for the Wizards.

That’s why Mystics president Sheila C. Johnson announced a parade will be scheduled for the team in the spring.

“Thank you to the team for being an inspiration not only to me personally but to this entire city,” she said. “I am getting calls from all over the country. You are an inspiration to this great city.”

Meanwhile, some of the Mystics “Founding Fans” remember those lean years when the team struggled annually.

Those individuals are loyal season ticket holders who supported the team when it was established in 1998. Their names are engrained on a large plaque inside ESA near section 110.

Some fans such as Sandra Robinson of Bethesda weren’t pleased about moving to ESA from the Capital One Arena. The Mystics played last year’s WNBA Finals game at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, because Capital One underwent renovations.

“It initially felt that again, the Mystics were being treated differently,” she said. “But now, we have changed our minds. The players are happy, so we’re happy.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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