November 30, 2015

Happier Times

My beloved Washington Wizards are on a disastrous four game losing streak in one single week, three by blowout and one by heartbreak to the Toronto Raptors on a last second game winning shot this past Saturday. I said it two days ago and I'm saying it again: it wasn't supposed to be like this. Now Marcin Gortat is complaining about locker room negativity and pining for Nenê to spend more time on the court with him. I like Marcin a lot but if there's one thing I don't agree with about him, it's how he airs the team's dirty laundry to the press. I get that he's in some respects Randy Wittman's new whipping boy (with Seraphin leaving) and who wouldn't want to play more with Nenê (I mean he only makes everyone better…) but some stuff needs to stay behind closed doors.

It's times like these that I need some perspective and some reminders of better times. The Wizards started the season two years ago 14-14 before turning things on and making the playoffs, including a second round appearance. And just last year the Wiz were trounced by the Raptors in the regular season only to sweep them 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs at the end of the season. And here's where my self-indulgent basketball card collecting hobby helps me out this year.

Last year, Panini America, the official basketball card partner of the NBA, produced an insert set with their Hoops line of cards tracing the playoff journey of each team all the way to the NBA Finals. I loved it! Issuing an individual card for each game of the playoffs seemed like an awesome idea to me. It created a point in time souvenir for the memories of the last postseason which I could pull out and remember any time I wanted. And after Saturday's loss to the Raptors, I really needed to review these cards.

The 4-0 sweep of Toronto features two John Wall cards, a Paul Pierce card and a Marcin Gortat card, highlighting the contributions those three players made to put a quick four nails in the Raptors' coffin. Just like last year, the first round playoff card set is numbered to the year so each card is sequenced 1 through 2015. These cards take me back to everything from the game one upset, where I sat in the back of a church during a wedding getting text updates on the score from my friend Mike, to the closing 31 point blowout at Verizon Center. I love the back of the fourth card: Wizards win series 4-0!!!!! The exclamation points are mine.

Unfortunately, the Wizards did not win the NBA title last year. Spoiler alert, I know. So just like I own four cards to celebrate the first round series victory by the Wizards, I also own six cards (just like last year numbered to 999) documenting the six game second round loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the second year in a row the Wiz lost to the one seed in the Eastern Conference.

Win. Loss. Win. Looking good!
This set of cards is especially painful. There's a lot of ups and downs in here worth remembering and never forgetting: the joyous game one upset behind Bradley Beal; John Wall breaking his wrist in game two; the Wizards winning without him in game three behind Paul Pierce's game three "I called game!" shot at  the buzzer; game five's winning shot by Al Horford, whom the Wizards failed to account for (and after Paul Pierce erroneously called "series" to the Hawks' bench); and the heartbreak in game six when Pierce's game  tying three point shot was ruled too late, ending our season. That last game was a killer; I actually went to the bathroom as that shot fell so I'd be ready for overtime only to find out when I got back that the season was over.

Despite the bad stuff in there, I hope Panini America continues to issue these kinds of cards each year. I can think of no better way to remember the postseason each year. For your viewing pleasure, I'm including the fronts of all ten postseason Wizards related cards. I hope there will be some cards for the Wiz next year. Cleveland tomorrow. It doesn't get any better, folks.

Loss. Loss. Loss. Season over!

November 28, 2015

Monumental Disappointment

The title of this blog post does not refer to the Wizards up and down 6-7 start, although honestly it could. I can't remember a season where this early in the slate I've left two home games really early (vs. Oklahoma City and Indiana - 24 and 17 point losses respectively) and turned the TV off once before the game was anywhere close to over on the game clock (vs. Boston last night - a 33!!! point loss). There's something seriously wrong with the team over at 601 F Street and for this long time season ticket holder, this hurts badly. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

But I'm not writing about that stuff today. Today, I'm talking about something else. And I'll warn you right off the bat here, there's likely some whining in here. Not my usual form and I feel bad doing it but there's likely some nonetheless.

Two seasons ago, the Washington Wizards parent organization, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, introduced a season ticket holder rewards program called Monumental Rewards. The program, which spanned across Wizards, Capitals and Mystics season ticket holders, instantly became one of the best benefits of being a Wizards subscriber. The site seemed stocked full of great fan experiences and hidden goodies. Yes, there were admittedly some cleaning out the closet type stuff, extra stock of old in-game giveaways, laying around but by and large, it gave the committed (double entendre intended) fan an added perk and some access to some exclusive stuff: autographed memorabilia, pre-game captains' meetings and even an all expenses paid road trip to Philly to see the team play the Sixers.

But by far the best reward on the site for me was the opportunity to have access to the Dewar's Coaches Club and Courtside Club, two floor accessible exclusive access clubs with complimentary food and drink typically only accessible to those fans who have invested an insane amount of money per year in the VIP seating area within the hockey boards. It was the only thing I've ever spent my points on and it really made me feel valuable as a Wizards season ticket holder. Even when the opportunity to enjoy this benefit was cut back to once per month last season, I loved every minute of it. Just walking along the court was enough of a thrill for me, although I've never turned down some free grub.

This year the two clubs were overhauled and renamed the Etihad Airways Lounge. The Monumental Rewards website was also overhauled, oddly enough to a slower version of its former self, and along with the overhaul many of the great rewards have disappeared or are now just plain off limits to the common fan. Of course, the best benefit, access to the VIP experience, is gone entirely. There are still plenty of leftover in-game giveaways on the menu (although it looks like they finally ran out of Bradley Beal bobbleheads from three years ago - I already have two) which I guess if you haven't been a season ticket holder that long you might want but there are definitely slim pickings on there.

The Wizards are still offering some exclusive experiences and autographed items on the site but it appears there are so many people with an unconscionable amount of points out there (likely from VIP ticket purchases - points are awarded largely on dollars spent on tickets) that these are almost totally off limits to the common fan. I think I spend a lot of money on Wizards tickets and I've managed to engage enough with social media (one way to earn some supplemental points) to scrounge together about 108,000 points. That's nowhere near the current high bid of 307,500 points required to grab a pair of John Wall autographed shoes.

On the subject of access to the new Etihad Airways Lounge, I got this statement through a friend out of the Wizards ticket office.
"Due to the VIP season tickets being sold out, unfortunately, we will not be offering VIP bracelets on the rewards program, however, they will have several pairs of Suite Tickets in a catered suite instead."
At least part of the statement above is true. Heck, it might all be true. VIP seating may be sold out and for sure, there have been some suite tickets available on a ONCE PER SEASON basis. Based on my visiting the Monumental Rewards website multiple times per week, these suite tickets seem way more rare than the VIP wristbands the team offered last year. But I'm not sure that availability is the issue. It appears there are no opportunities to visit the Lounge for Capitals games like there were last year (and no way are Caps tickets more sold out than last year) plus there was an auction for some Caps tickets on the site earlier this season that included the seats but no club access. Why on Earth not?

I'm in no way a conspiracy theorist or natural skeptic but there's only one explanation that makes sense to me: now that the building has a brand new VIP area, either the team or the people who have bought their way in no longer want freeloaders like me in there via the Monumental Rewards program. This is total speculation on my part (although I think my logic is sound); I know nothing more than what I've been able to deduce from the website. And it's disappointing. A program that made me feel super valuable has now just had the only benefit (for me) taken away.

Now I get that the Wizards (and Capitals, I guess) have every right to do this. After all, I'm paying just for game tickets; all the other stuff is extra. I also get that folks who spend a lot of money on season tickets wouldn't want someone like me in their area even once a year. They've spent the cash, they should get their benefit. 

But there are for sure some folks who sit around me outside the hockey boards with special access passes who are getting into the VIP area because I see them going in there. If it was just sold out, surely they wouldn't fit in there either. There are also some nights when the VIP seating isn't close to full, so during those games (Tuesday game vs. Milwaukee, anyone?) it would seem to me that there wouldn't be any harm in letting a few loyal season ticket holders into the Lounge. And in case you are wondering, it's fans like me who suffer year after year and pay a little bit each season no matter what the odds or outcome who are the lifeblood of the fan support, not the bandwagonners who buy when the odds of success are high.

But the biggest objection to the change in policy is that the Monumental Rewards program is an advertised benefit of being a season ticket holder. Yes, I know I wrote all my cash gets me is the tickets but that's really not true. If the benefit sucks or isn't available, it's not really a benefit, right? And yes, you could counter that a benefit that sucks is still there and available and I'd concede. It's certainly not like the Summerfest benefit which is still on the Wizards website which happened once in 2013 and never again (to date).

I know that money talks and I know that the between $8,000 and $9,000 I spend annually on my seats is not much compared to someone paying twice or way more than that once a decade for seats with free food and booze. But every year I get a survey from the NBA or the Wizards or both asking me to rate how valued I feel as a season ticket holder so they must care a little about folks like me. Removing this benefit for sure makes me feel less valuable. I sat through two 19-63 seasons as a season ticket holder. That sort of loyalty is worth rewarding and for sure the VIP access did that.

I told you there would be some whining. Maybe I can get some suite tickets at some point this year to make me feel better. Or maybe I'll just keep amassing points until the team sucks again and all the fair-weather fans flee. Toronto up next. Need a better showing than the last three nights. Go Wizards!!!

Halftime of the Pacers game: folks flooding to the Etihad Lounge. Not me though; not this year, it seems.

November 9, 2015

Bobblehead Nation 2015

Last fall I got angry. Like really angry. So angry in fact that I was downright peeved. About the lack of bobblehead giveaways on the Wizards' promotional schedule. Important stuff. So to relieve my pent up aggression I wrote a blog post about all the scheduled bobblehead nights on the NBA schedule as far as I could glean from checking out teams' websites and hunting for the giveaway or promotional or whatever else it was called schedule.

The intent behind that blog post was to embarrass my home team by demonstrating that successful NBA teams hand out free bobbles to their fans as a way of rewarding their support, not just as a means to get people in the door on a slow night. What it ended up being was a one stop checkpoint for serious bobblehead collectors looking to take to the road to enhance their collections. At least I like to think that's what happened. Regardless of whether that happened or not, I haven't been able to find any other nationwide current bobble list (with analysis) centered on my favorite sport so I decided this year I'd do it again. I'm hoping all franchises, not just the Wizards, take note this year.

Just like last year, I'm sure I missed some. There's only so much information I can get off the internet. Some teams just ain't telling. I know I missed the Larry Johnson bobblehead handed out by the New York Knicks last year; that can't be the only one. (And yes, as a side note, the Knicks gave away more bobbleheads than the Wizards last year; the KNICKS! The Knicks don't give away anything.) Also just like last year, if you are really using this as a guide to collect the maximum number of free NBA bobbles possible, you already missed some. What can I say? Some teams are just way ahead of the available information. Anyhow, here goes. Again. Welcome  to the 2015-2016 NBA bobblehead roundup.

5 San Jose Sharks Edition Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
13 MVP Edition Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
15 MVP Edition Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)
Last year the Golden State Warriors proved they are the gold standard on the court and in terms of bobblehead giveaways, holding six bobbehead nights including two in the preseason. The preseason!!! Who does that? This year, they duplicate their outstanding effort last season and offer up another half dozen for what might be the most rabid fan base in the NBA.

And this preseason they are really not fooling around, scheduling three giveaways before the opening tip of any game that really matters. The three they are offering in October include Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala holding the Larry O'Brien and their personal MVP trophies (Steph for the regular season; Iggy for the NBA Finals) plus a Steph Curry bobblehead with a San Jose Sharks jersey on. That's right, the Dubs are so flush with bobblehead nights that they have to dress their star player in another sport's jersey to fill their slate. Impressive! The game WAS in San Jose but still...

4 James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Last year the Rockets gave away a James Harden / Dwight Howard combo bobblehead. This year, they can't seem to stray from that path because they are offering up both of those guys in bobble form again, although this time on two separate nights. Two things about this year's beard bobblehead: first, it's a "Stir-It-Up" bobblehead which I guess refers to the hand motion that Harden employs when he scores a critical basket. Second, there are only 3,000 of them. That's an incredibly small number. I'd have been there when the doors opened last week if I was a Rockets fan.

12 Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Just like the Warriors, the Timberwolves have decided to get serious this year in the bobblehead department, offering up five nights of bobbles. Does this reflect the T-Wolves' optimism for the new season? Or are they hoping there is a direct correlation between bobbleheads distributed and their won-loss record? I'm hoping for Minnesota's sake that it's the former because hoping for the second one is just not smart. First up is Andrew Wiggins, the number one overall pick in the 2014 Draft and the 2015 Rookie of the Year. Not a bad place to start.

24 Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
Draymond Green signed a five year, $82 million contract in the 2015 off-season. This year, the Warriors' second round selection in the 2012 NBA draft is the highest paid player in his draft class. Sometimes it pays to drop out of the first round. It worked for Gilbert Arenas (also selected by the Dubs) in 2003 and it's working for Green this year (next year Anthony Davis will be the highest paid 2012 draftee). As a reward, not like he needs it, Draymond gets his own bobblehead night this year.

27 Bobby Jackson (Sacramento Kings)
The Sacramento Kings have a new owner, new general manager and new coach. Pretty soon they'll have a new arena which is pretty exciting. For this season though, Kings fans will have to settle for six bobblehead nights in the former Arco Arena for one last year. That's correct, you read that right…this year the Kings are giving away six bobbleheads. They finish tied for first in this department. They are not likely to be tied for first in any other positive category again this year.

What makes the Kings bobblehead lineup special is that there's a theme. Each bobble represents a celebration of an important event in franchise history. Some of these are pretty special. I love the DeMarcus Cousins All-Star bobblehead available on December 15; I also like the February 19 date, which has Reggie Theus scoring the first Kings points in California. But the first one's a bit of a dud; it's a Bobby Jackson bobblehead celebrating the time he dove into the crowd during a playoff game and got smooched on the head for his effort. I have no issue with Jackson getting his own bobblehead but I'm not sure we need a story like this concocted to justify its existence.

8 Joe Johnson (Brooklyn Nets)
After trying and failing miserably to buy an NBA Championship with one of the largest payrolls in NBA history and not being able (I'm totally guessing here) to spare some cash for the occasional bobblehead night, the Brooklyn Nets are all in this year, offering up three separate nights where bobbleheads of their remaining halfway decent players are distributed  at the door. First up is Joe Johnson, who's making a cool $25 million this season. Nets fans finally get a piece of Johnson's action. He may be worth about as much as a bobblehead as he is on the court at this stage of his career. Can you say overpaid?

14 Brook Lopez (Brooklyn Nets)
Is Brook Lopez a Star Wars fan? Or actually a Jedi knight? Or just the victim of the latest professional sports' Star Wars night? I have no idea which one but he shows up in a box for Nets fans on December 14 holding a light saber in his Nets warmups. Perfect Christmas gift for the die-hard Brooklyn fan who can't make this one.

15 DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
The second of the Kings' six bobbleheads this season has Cousins in his 2015 All-Star duds (see below). I think this is terrific. What a great way to celebrate DMC's accomplishments last year. Too bad for newly minted Kings fans that this is the only date of six that gives fans a bobblehead featuring someone actually on the team's roster this year.

23 Shaun Livingston (Golden State Warriors)
Livingston was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. In his third season, he suffered one of the most gruesome injuries ever seen in the NBA when he dislocated his left kneecap and pretty much destroyed every part of that joint. By every account, it looked like his career was done. No way does someone recover from this sort of injury. But Livingston did, making his comeback with my own beloved Washington Wizards during the 2009-2010 season. The Wizards lost Livingston after that season and he won his first NBA title last year with the Warriors. If I had unlimited funds, I'd fly out for this one. There's a soft spot in my heart for Shaun. He's the first of two former Wizards this year to receive bobbleheads.

26 Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Minnesota has the 2014 Draft number one overall pick in Andrew Wiggins and the 2015 Draft number one overall pick in Karl-Anthony Towns. As of this writing, it appears Towns is the only 2015-2016 rookie to get his own bobble. I guess being first has its privileges. Overall, this is a strong second of five bobble from the Wolves.

30 Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
Jimmy Butler seems like the least obvious guy to be a star player on a successful NBA team but he is. He's basically Chicago's Kawhi Leonard: their best defender and potential leading scorer for years to come, although right now he's one All-Star appearance ahead of the Spurs' Leonard. He's almost starting to overshadow former league MVP Derrick Rose, who is NOT on the bobblehead schedule this year for a team which is not averse to giving repeat player bobbles out year after year. Well deserved here from Jimmy Butler.

31 Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans)
Last year the Pelicans handed out one bobblehead of their mascot, Pierre T. Pelican. This year, they are also handing out a single bobblehead: of Jrue Holiday. I think Holiday's an interesting choice. He's arguably the fifth most recognizable player on the roster behind Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. But as a fan of a team who I wish would make more role player bobbleheads, I applaud this choice. Holiday was an All-Star a few years ago when he was with the Sixers but that almost seems like it didn't happen. I'd be all over this if I was a Pels fan.

4 Thaddeus Young (Brooklyn Nets)
Brook Lopez gets a bobblehead with a light saber and Jedi robe. Thaddeus Young gets a gladiator bobblehead. What the hell is going on in Brooklyn??? With an 0-7 start, Nets fans may be wondering the same thing. Show up for this one, Nets fans. Three bobbleheads may be the best thing you get out of this season.

14 Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
Last year Splash Brother #1 (Steph Curry) got one bobblehead; this year he gets two. But this year, backcourt mate Klay Thompson is not left out, getting one to complement MVP Steph and San Jose Sharks Steph. Klay seems like an obvious choice for a team desperate to pump out as many bobbleheads as possible each year. Yes, I'm jealous every time I write something about the Warriors' bobble schedule.

20 Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
What's the old saying? If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all? There's a Dwight Howard bobblehead being given out by the Rockets on January 20. Second year in a row for Howard and the Rockets. That's all I have to say here. There…wasn't that nice? Not a Dwight Howard fan.

21 Peja Stojakovic (Sacramento Kings)
Peja Stojakovic is the third of six Kings bobbleheads. Peja is being celebrated by the Kings as the three point king, which he certainly was for this franchise when he played there. He's the second of four members of the early 2000s teams that were so good and so close to the NBA Finals but ultimately never reached the top. More on those teams later.

23 Zach LaVine (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Other than actually winning games, the Timberwolves had some success last year. Andrew Wiggins (as previously noted) took home the ROY hardware and Zach LaVine managed to finish first in the Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend last February. From my perspective sitting in the lower bowl of Barclays Center, I was in total agreement. Well deserved. I'm hoping the Wolves celebrate that accomplishment somehow someway when they hand out miniature likenesses of Zach on January 23.

Not this year's Joakim Noah bobblehead giveaway. Chicago's not averse to multiple issues of the same player.
18 Iman Shumpert (Cleveland Cavaliers)
I hate the Cleveland Cavaliers. I love that they give out bobbleheads of bench players. But I hate the Cleveland Cavaliers.

19 Reggie Theus (Sacramento Kings)
Next up for the Kings in their once a month bobblehead extravaganza is Reggie Theus, who played for and later coached the Kings for half of his three year contract. Theus is let into the almost but not quite Kings team party to celebrate his accomplishment as the first King to every score a basket in Sacramento. It's a good thing I guess that someone less meaningful to the team didn't hit that first bucket. I'd be less than thrilled with a Theus bobblehead, but then maybe I lack historical perspective for this team. I shouldn't talk smack here I guess since I've never even set foot in Sacramento. I promise I will when they move into their new digs.

20 Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Andrew Wiggins on November 12, Karl-Anthony Towns on Boxing Day and Zach LaVine in late January. Who the heck is going to pass to these bobbleheads? Well, on February 20, Minnesota fans will have bobblehead point guard Ricky Rubio to do just that. This seems like a totally logical fourth bobble giveaway from the Wolves.

21 Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)
For the second year in a row, the Bulls have a Joakim Noah bobblehead night. Can I just re-write what I wrote in last year's post about Noah? Since that seems like a bit of a cop out, I'll just paraphrase, which I realize is about the same thing. Noah is still my favorite non-Wizard, non-former Wizard player in the league. Need any proof? Just watch what he said about Cleveland in a post-game press conference. I've already done this like 50 times. There would always be room for a Noah bobblehead on my shelves at home, if I allowed non-Wizards / non-Bullets bobbleheads to be displayed in my home, that is.

11 Vlade Divac (Sacramento Kings)
Vlade Divac night in Sacramento adds more love for the team that almost won a conference championship. Why so much fuss about this team at this time? Well, maybe, just maybe, it's because Vlade's now running the show this year in Sactown. What better way to celebrate your new job than to have a bobblehead made of you and all your friends (well, not Chris Webber apparently) to be distributed to the local fans. It would work on me, for sure. I guess I can't wait for Antawn Jamison to start running things for the Wiz. I'm not picking on Vlade here. He's one of my favorite ex-players who never donned a Wizards uniform. I loved watching Vlade play ball. If there's a list of bobbles I'd travel for this year if I had all the money and more that I wanted, this one would be first on the list, even ahead of Shaun Livingston. Will Vlade be wearing his GM uniform (a suit) or his playing uni?

19 Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls)
Pau Gasol night is the third of three bobblehead nights in Chicago this season. How did the Lakers ever let Pau get away. This guy just puts up numbers. Well deserved addition to any Bulls fan's bobblehead shelf.

23 J.R.Smith (Cleveland Cavaliers)
I still hate the Cleveland Cavaliers. I'm also no J.R. Smith fan. Having said that, I'm lining up for this one if I'm a Cavs fan.

5 Mike Bibby (Sacramento)
The party in Sacramento wraps up on April 5 with the release of the Mike Bibby bobblehead. Bibby's bobble celebrates his buzzer beating shot vs. the Lakers in game five of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. The Kings wouldn't win another game that season unfortunately. Bibby is the second ex-Wizard to have a bobblehead night this year, although he almost wasn't here, playing just two games in Washington during the 2010-2011 season before agreeing to a buyout and joining the Miami Heat, where he did not win a title. Yes, I'm smug about that.

10 TBD / Rumored to be John Wall (Washington Wizards)
I pleaded and begged and did everything I could to get the Wizards to make a series of bobbleheads this year, even going so far as to create some marketing materials and plan four bobbleheads for our sponsors. I guess I should feel glad that I got one in the second to last home game of the season. As of the publish date of this post, the Wizards website still identifies this giveaway as "bobblehead." The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg seems to have somehow found out this is John Wall. Again. Now I know beggars can't be choosers but I already have three team issued John Wall bobbleheads. I was really hoping for something different. Obviously. I'm hoping this will be something different than Wall in his uni. Maybe an All-Star Wall to match former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins?

13 Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves)
The last free bobblehead of the season (at least right now) is up in Minnesota. It's also the most obscure. If most NBA fans were asked to identify Gorgui Dieng, I'll bet they couldn't. Hell, I couldn't even recognize him and I watch probably more than my fair share of pro hoops. I'm not even sure I really know how to pronounce Gorgui's name. This one's a bit of a head scratcher. By the same token, I love it. The deeper into rosters teams start to go to get bobbleheads to their fans, the better off we all are! Bravo, 'Sota!

So that's it. For now. I'm sure there are some others that will be snuck out there that I've missed. If you are a more serious NBA bobblehead collector than me, you can start booking your flights now. December looks like it's going to be a busy month.

I am missing some teams' schedules for the year. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Indiana, Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Dallas, San Antonio, Denver and Oklahoma City fall into that category. I'm also missing the Clippers' post-November schedule. For some strange reason, the Clips are releasing their schedule month by month. I guess that gives the team an opportunity to change their direction based on pesky blog posts whining about the lack of bobbleheads league wide.

Of the teams that have published their schedules, Detroit, Milwaukee, Memphis, Portland, Utah and Phoenix are bobblehead-less so far, although I guess they could always change that now they have been called out in this blog post. Take notice teams: bobbleheads are no joking matter. Get your sponsors to commit early and often to bobblehead nights. More bobbleheads are a good thing. I'll keep an eye out through the season. Maybe I can add a few here and there.

November 4, 2015

1961 Or 1963?

I know it's early in the 2015-2016 NBA season but tonight's win over the San Antonio Spurs (second in a row by the way) while being surrounded at Verizon Center by Spurs "fans" was incredible. I'm optimistic that when the Wizards and Randy Wittman figure out this whole pace and space offense that some good things might happen. But first, on to different things...

The Washington Wizards began life 54 years ago as the Chicago Packers. After their inaugural 1961-1962 season, the Packers changed their name to the Zephyrs. A year later, they were gone from Chicago and bound for Baltimore re-named the Bullets who began play in Maryland during the 1963-1964 season.

The Bullets were named after an extinct Basketball Association of America franchise which used to be located in Baltimore and the name actually stuck for a while (longer than one season anyway) before the team moved to the brand new Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Figuring they couldn't very well keep the Baltimore name and not wanting (I'm guessing here) to alienate their Charm City faithful, they renamed the team the Capital Bullets. Just one season later, they realized the futility of that name and changed the Capital to Washington, even though they still didn't play in the District.

The team's journey to the current Wizards nickname began in 1995 when owner Abe Pollin, upset about the rise of gun violence in the United States and possibly the assassination of his friend and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, declared the Bullets' days were numbered. Two years later after a public name-the-team contest that almost landed the city with the Washington Sea Dogs, the Wizards began play in the 1997-1998 season.

If all that seems like a lot of drama, it is. No NBA team has had more name changes than the Wizards franchise, not even the Sacramento Kings, who before landing in California stopped in Rochester (New York), Cincinnati, Kansas City and Omaha.

Not only is the start date wrong, but I object to the un-retiring of Gus Johnson's 25 in the graphic on the left.
So the Wizards have had a lot of names. So what? Who cares? Well, of course, I do. Being a guy who likes to understand the history of his sports teams, when I first became a Wizards fan I got up to speed immediately on the franchise's history, including all the stops and name changes, and noted something odd: there seemed to be a lot of merchandise both in the stores at MCI Center (now Verizon Center) and in the online NBA store (shown above) that advertised the franchise founding date at 1963. The team didn't seem to acknowledge those first two years in Chicago.

Then popped up an exception. In 2008, the Wizards announced the team would be wearing Zephyrs throwback uniforms for selected games during the 2008-2009 season. In the team's press release for this announcement, the Wizards noted the uniforms would be worn to celebrate the franchise's 45th anniversary, which ironically (doing math here) would put the team's founding one season AFTER the Zephyrs name was discontinued. How can you celebrate team history if you claim the team was founded after the jerseys you are wearing were originally worn?

So, fine, the team's confused. So am I. But at least it was just once. 

But now they've done it again. As I noted in a recent post, the Wizards installed a Franchise History display on the north side of the street level concourse that tracks the team's history, all the way back to their founding in Chicago in 1961, which is totally correct, even though the team has not acknowledged this date in the past. Finally it seemed that the Abe Pollin era refusal to admit to two years in the Windy City had been erased by Ted Leonsis' new deal.

Not so fast. Then I noticed the team's warmups for the current season (shown at the top of this post). The NBA has rolled out new pre-game warmup jackets this season (as they do every year to sell more stuff) that show the team's founding date in a basketball logo near the top of the left arm. The Wizards establishment date is shown as 1963. What gives? Why can't the Wizards agree with themselves or the NBA about when we want to recognize the first season played by this franchise? It seems pretty clear that it's 1961 to me. So this whole crazy ride started in Chicago. Who cares? I think it's time we started acknowledging 1961, not 1963. What's the problem, Wizards? You've got a problem. Just pick one at least. Please.

1961 seems to be the start of things on the Franchise History display. That sounds right to me.