So I attended yesterday's Abe Pollin memorial service at the Verizon Center yesterday. It was certainly a very interesting and moving ceremony, and it certainly wasn't what I expected.
The lights were dimmed, half the building was warded off and there were far more speakers than I expected. The entire team was in attendance all wearing suits. Some, like Mike Miller and DeShawn Stevenson, were wearing bow ties. There was a ton of media there - TV guys, newspaper columnists like Mike Wise and Michael Wilbon, TV executives, writers, non-sports writers, etc.
And the speakers were incredibly diverse as well. You name it, there was someone there from every aspect of Pollin's life. There were community representatives from the Food Bank and Chinatown. There was a law student who was a member of an elementary school class of a DC inner-city school who said Pollin promised to pay for the college tuition of every person of that class that made it into college (she said 55 of the 80 did - that's a lot of college tuition). There were employees, former players, DC politicians such as Mayor Adrian Fenty, former executives and, of course, David Stern. Finally, Pollin's son Robert gave a truly moving 20-minute speech in which he relayed some incredible Pollin stories.
It was definitely an interesting experience. Some personal highlights:
- Hearing the law student speak (forgot her name, sorry guys).
- One of Pollin's long-time employees, Gary Handleman, said in his speech that Pollin arranged for the entire staff (down to the ushers, etc.) to be flown out to San Francisco in 1975 and Seattle in 1978 so that they could all watch the Bullets in the finals together. Could you imagine any owner doing something like that today?
- Listening to the tinge of regret in Earl Monroe's voice during his speech. Remember, Monroe kind of forced his way out of Washington, though he said he has long since reconciled with Pollin. However, Monroe said he was in town two weeks ago and hadn't talked to Pollin recently. He thought about calling him, but didn't because he wasn't sure how to reach him these days. He then ran into a Pollin friend on the plane ride back to New York and talked to him about Abe instead. He said he regretted not trying harder to get in touch with Abe. It was a very sincere admission.
- Hearing Wes Unseld say he let Pollin win those shooting contests they used to have at the beginning of training camp. "Corporate advancement," he says.
- DC City Council Chairman Vincent Gray decreeing that the DC public high school boys championship trophy would be renamed the "Abe Pollin Memorial Championship Trophy."
- David Stern's speech in general, which I really enjoyed
- Robert Pollin saying that Abe couldn't read or write in his final days, and could barely move or open his eyes. I knew Abe was suffering, but I didn't realize it was that bad.
Audio of some key speeches below the jump. Apologies if some are tough to hear. I wasn't as close to the speakers as I could have been.
The inside program for the ceremony. Via my IPhone (explains the quality)