From Pr. George's Co. to Constitution Ave: Junkies ride a high that can never be topped

Chris Lingebach
June 15, 2018 - 11:59 am

Chris Lingebach/106.7 The Fan

What if I told you back on April 16 that, in two months, the Capitals would be parading the Stanley Cup down Constitution Avenue?

After they had just gone down 0-2 to Columbus in their opening-round series, would you believe me?

What if I told you four donks from P.G. County would be in the eye of a storm 44 years in the making, being celebrated just as feverishly, as if they had won the Stanley Cup?

The Junkies were hosting weeknights on WJFK when the Caps made their first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Swept away by the Red Wings, 20 years have passed, lives changed, children born and grown, and defined by two decades of coming up just short. Success, but only so much.

It all led them to this shared moment, one they'd always dreamed of but never knew they'd get. Parallel lives, uniting in a championship parade on Constitution Avenue.

Tuesday's trek began at L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station, where the calm settled in before the storm, as Caps fans chirped about who they hoped to see that day, and heads turned to one another still in disbelief of what had occurred, what was about to occur. It proceeded down Independence Ave., past the reflecting pool -- with glimpses of the World War II, Lincoln and Vietnam Veterans Memorials -- as the sun shined and a light breeze set over D.C.

And finally, over to Henry Bacon Drive, to the starting point -- the wrong starting point -- a misstep which led to a chance meeting with Caps legend Rod Langway: "Hi. I'm Rod."

Now it was on to the lip of Lincoln Memorial Circle, where the towering Arts of Peace sculptures greet Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, which today was lined with a caravan of double-decker buses, signaling they had finally found their way. Officers of all varieties -- Park and Metro Police, some on horseback, and plain-clothes units -- stood guard as cheers rang out from bus tops: "EB! Bish! Cakes! JPayyyyyy!" A foreshadowing of the controlled chaos to come in the next hour-plus.

Chris Lingebach/106.7 The Fan

After 12 minutes of handshakes and photographs, and relaying of coordinates, The Junkies paired off -- JP with EB, and Cakes with Bish -- and took their seats, atop the back seats of their designated Mustang convertible. They trailed a bus with Stanley Cup champion headliners, T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana. The wheels set into motion and down the parade route, edging onto Lincoln Memorial Circle before hooking a left onto 23rd Street NW, where it would pick up steam to 12 miles per hour. Staring down 23rd, you could see a thick strip of red arching around Constitution Avenue, only the beginning of a mile-and-a-half-long sea of screaming-red euphoria.

JP Flaim/The Sports Junkies

JP Flaim/The Sports Junkies

It was a straightaway of pure, unadulterated joy, an endless stream of cheers, chants, laughs and tears; 26 years of pent-up frustration for some, 44 for others, all exploding outward, streetward, skyward -- released, finally.

Oshie would grab Vrana by the wrist and hoist his arm high in the air, reminding that stretch of crowd they were in the presence of a champion, springing a brand new "Vrana!" chant. As the wheels on the bus rolled forward, Vrana would reciprocate. And each new chant called for a fresh beer-chug. They upped the stakes for one another by beckoning for beers from the crowd. After all, you couldn't turn down a beer from the fans. Not today.

Chris Lingebach/106.7 The Fan

Chris Lingebach/106.7 The Fan

"Can you believe that?" EB turned to me and said, as the procession made its final turn onto 7th. "By far the sickest thing we've ever done."

Even stacked against a career of defining highlights, The Junkies, after 22 years, now treasure riding in the championship parade above all others. 

It tops taking over morning drive for Howard Stern in Washington, D.C. (they're the only show in the country to do it successfully); Dick Heller putting them on the map in The Washington Times, in March 1996, and Tyler Currie reestablishing them in The Washington Post a decade later; three years of national syndication on Westwood One (1999-2002); JP's boxing match at George Mason University; holding their annual Junkies Poker Open in Las Vegas to commemorate their 20th anniversary; even beating a female professional football team, the D.C. Divas, in Nov. 2004.

Jason Bishop/The Sports Junkies

By Wednesday morning, The Junkies were still struggling to process the moment.

"What an incredible experience," Eric Bickel said on 106.7 The Fan. "Somehow we got hornswoggled into that thing, and we got to really observe it and be a part of it from the inside. I have to say, I said it multiple times yesterday, it was the coolest experience of our professional careers."

"It was a huge honor to be riding in between buses with the Caps players," John Auville said.

"Absolutely," Jason Bishop added. "I kept turning to Cakes going, 'This is insanity.' There was no other word to describe it. Madness. I couldn't believe it. And then, as you got further down Constitution, it got louder, because the groups started getting bigger. Because when you first started, it was like four, five people deep right there at the tip of the Memorial Bridge. Once you got on Constitution, it was 25, 30 deep."

Cakes: It was insane.

JP: And then when you passed the intersections between buildings, that's when you'd truly see a mass of people. Or at the National Archives, where every step was full of people.

Bish: And that was before we got to The Mall. Because we really didn't get a full effect of how many people were on The Mall, because we couldn't see.

EB: Well, and then especially later when the boys were on stage, and everybody that was on Constitution then headed over there to The Mall. It was just an incredible scene and people were so kind, they were so nice.

Bish: I couldn't believe how much Junks love we got.

EB: It was shocking. It was... shocking.

A high that can never be topped.

Chris Lingebach/106.7 The Fan

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