RMNB reader and patron Ray B. has proposed the best topic for an essay, so everyone else can take a seat and shut up now.
Ok, so I finally figured out what I want you to write about– Bailamos! I wanna know how this started, why it is important to the Caps, and the importance of Enrique to the Russian Machine.
Tonight we dance. The story of Bailamos is the story of the Capitals’ crisis of confidence, and if you’re wondering if I’m going to take this too seriously, yes, you’re right.
Let me take you back to the year 2012 and the dark days of Hunter Hockey. Now, Dale Hunter wasn’t a bad coach, but I’d argue he was a bad match for the Caps, who didn’t seem to know what was going wrong with their team when they fired Bruce Boudreau.
Hunter brought reliability to a team that had been sputtering (or perhaps merely seemed to have been sputtering because of some flakey goaltending, but I digress). The Caps went 30-23-7 (i.e. a coin toss) and made it to the second round of the playoffs under Hunter, but they did so at the expense of– y’know– fun. The Caps lost somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of their offense when Dale Hunter took over, and I’m not capable of quantifying how much of their fun they lost. It was alot.
The best example of the stultifying boredom of Hunter Hockey was Alex Ovechkin, who seemed miserable to me. That season his ice time dropped under 20 minutes for the first time since ever– partly due to reduced power-play time. In hindsight, it was apparent that Hunter’s style, cautious to a fault, was contrary to Alex Ovechkin’s skill set and disposition.
Hunter was about less. Ovi is about moar.
Over here at RMNB, where we had been accustomed to using ever-escalating hyperbole for the Caps, the change was jarring and distressing. I spent some of my time discussing the changes and their impact, but the rest I spent lamenting the old, fun Capitals.
“Hunter hockey does not soar,” I wrote, blithely unaware of how much worse it was about to get. I was already cranky because the stats looked bad, Nicky was hurt, Ovechkin wasn’t scoring a billion goals, and Semin was clearly on his way out of town. Sad trombone.
But in early March 2012, Alex Ovechkin scored an overtime game-winner over Tampa Bay. That OTGWG was Ovechkin’s 12th, and it decided a miserable game in which the Caps went 17 minutes without a single shot on goal. But the Caps won, even if my recap was too grumpy to adequately celebrate.
Maybe my failure to appreciate the win was what motivated then-RMNB staff writer Ana Hansen to put together a quick story on Ovi’s overtime winner.
(Ana, I am compelled to mention, was the best staff writer we have ever had at RMNB. Read her stuff: everything she did was infused with cheerfulness and cleverness– even when the team stunk.)
So at the bottom of the Ovi OTGWG story, and at the bleeding edge of relevance, Ana embeds the music video for Enrique Iglesias’ Hero. The comments turn to fun with spanglish, and one RMNB commenter asks and answers an innocuous question.
What a wonderful question. In a single word, it posits that success leads to happiness and happiness is manifested in dancing. It further demands that we marker happiness-as-dancing by using Enrique Iglesias’s crossover hit from 1999.
In short: is Ovi dancing? Because if he is, that’s a good thing. Dancing is a good thing.
It was a good thing when Rod Tidwell did it.
And it was a good thing when the Ninth Doctor did it. (Just this once, everybody lives.)
Bailamos became a signifier of the Happy!Caps at a time when happiness was scarce and soon to get scarcer.
It was great idea, and by its own merit and the tenacious repetition of its originator, it caught on. By the time the playoffs rolled around, it was a battlecry.
CRASH THE NET / TONIGHT WE DANCE
— RMNB (@russianmachine) May 13, 2012
It was an invocation.
It was an elegy.
And it was the blade of my hatchet job on Adam Oates.
Within a year, the commenter had moved on– never to be heard from again. So too did Ana, though we wish her the very best wherever she is now. But their cheerfulness and creativity was too precious to ever really leave us.
Now, whenever the Capitals hunger for moar goals (like five plus), that’s a Bailamos night on RMNB. It’s my very favorite part of RMNB culture.
Thank you for the topic, Ray, and thank you for the donation. May Enrique’s mole smile upon you and yours. Here’s a song.
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