‘Express,’ D.C.’s commuter newspaper, covered sports just right

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One of the gems of the District’s media scene published its final issue Thursday. For 16 years, Express, the free tabloid published by The Washington Post, greeted Metro riders each morning. It was distributed in person by old fashioned newspaper hawkers. And even as it declined in profitability in recent years because of expanded Internet access on the Metro, according to a Washington Post statement, Express remained immensely popular.

Riders picked up 130,000 copies each day, according to company estimates. It sprang up in 2003 among a wave of commuter papers in major cities. Publishers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago — all cities with large public transportation networks — put out similar newspapers to attract captive audiences without much to do on the way to work.

Quickly, Express carved out its own niche and loyal following in the District and embedded itself in the local sports scene. To commemorate its final issue, here are 15 standout covers when sports news took the main billing. (Though Express began publication in 2003, The Post’s online archive dates back to 2012. The following are all covers that have been published since.)

July 8, 2019

The U.S. women’s national team’s World Cup championship was the final major sports triumph to grace Express’s front page. Express displayed it perfectly: a great photo, a killer headline and plenty of coverage inside.

March 1, 2019

Not only did Bryce Harper leave the Nationals, he joined the team’s archrival in Philadelphia. What better way to express it than making sure fans knew exactly what Harper was going to look like in opposing team’s colors, especially since the Nationals and Phillies seemingly play one another every other week.

June 12, 2018

Consider that if the Capitals hadn’t won the 2018 Stanley Cup finals, Express would never have gotten to cover a local major sports championship. Instead, fans on the way downtown for the team’s victory parade got to read up on the Cup coming home to the District.

June 12, 2018

BONUS! Wrapped around the same June 12, edition was this poster celebrating the Capitals’ victory. As the team paraded down Constitution Avenue, these banners lined the route, then quickly became collectors items.

June 1, 2018

What’s with the picture frame around The Save, you ask? The design teams at Express and The Post went all in on Caps fans’ love for camping out at the steps of the National Portrait Gallery to celebrate Washington wins. What else would you do with a save so picturesque beside putting it in a frame?

Oct. 6, 2017

The beard issue was an all-time fan favorite. As the likes of Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper led the Nationals through the postseason, fans could match their playoff beards with this Express cover. Just grab a pair of scissors and get to clipping.

Sept. 8, 2017

As a commuter paper, Express’s front page often struck a whimsical tone. Here’s an example, one of the favorites of former Express sports editor Gabe Hiatt.

April 19, 2017

Another all-time fan favorite: the screaming Caps fan. Express was perfect as keeping its thumb on the pulse of the District sports scene. For the Capitals in the playoffs in the pre-Cup era, sometimes the only thing fans could muster to express their emotions was a surrealist scream.

Nov. 17, 2016

Somehow, Express managed to get baseball on the front page in the middle of November. And when it did, designers had this beautiful illustration of Max Scherzer ready to go.

Aug. 9, 2016

Sometimes Express told a story with pointed illustrations. Other times, editors showed off a keen eye for photography. And always, the publication paired images with a perfect headline.

June 23, 2014

Express was very comfortable letting readers know it was feeling the same emotions they were feeling, especially when it came to sports. So when the U.S. struggled in the World Cup and tied with Portugal on a last-second goal, Express had no problem sharing the disappointment.

May 15, 2014

As a commuter paper, Express specialized in reader service, telling its audience exactly what it needed to know to get through the day. So while the Wizards floundered in the playoffs (again), this survival guide told fans everything they needed to know about the dangers that lay ahead.

May 30, 2014

What’s better than great photography and a great illustration? Putting the two of them together. Here, they demonstrate just how much the Nationals were banking on their starting rotation.

Feb. 14, 2014

There’s no better feeling in the middle of the winter than knowing baseball season isn’t that far away. A cute way to illustrate that: a snowman playing catch.

Jan. 8, 2013

Express, even as it sided frequently with hometown fans, was never afraid to poke fun at local players. That included former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, the subject of Express covers many, many times.

Sept. 26, 2012

The NFL tried to use replacement referees during the regular season after a labor dispute with the league’s normal officials. The results weren’t pretty: The new refs were woefully unqualified. Express had no problem poking fun of the NFL for its comical screw-up.

Read more:

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