Last night was one of the best moments I have had as a fan of the Washington Wizards. This is not hyperbole, I enjoyed that game so much, I ordered a Nene jersey and bobblehead. Those two thunderous plays over the self-proclaimed King cemented Nene as my favorite player for the time being. At least until he gets hurt in a couple of weeks (knock on wood). But last night was also representative of the thing I hate most in sports. The crowd that should have been shaking the rafters, barely registered during the big run to open the game up. Martell Webster hit threes all game long and received barely a golf clap. Nene, he of the thunderous proclamations to the "King" received a polite applause, I think I heard a yawn when John Wall and Bradley Beal combined to make 8 of their first 9 shots. But when Lebron was making plays, the crowd was on its feet cheering and whooping. I realize it is borderline disrespectful for me to lump all of The Phone Booth into that most despicable of fandom categories, but empirical and anecdotal evidence support my claim. The United Center has begun a promotion where they find fans in the seats with Heat jerseys and broadcast them across the arena on the "Bandwagon Cam". All 29 other franchises should adopt this, only by public humiliation will these cretins return from whence they came.
I realize that I am being harsh, and if I am honest with myself my disdain for this type of scum comes from two distinct incidents in my mind. First allow me to take you back to 2011. It was a simpler time. I was happily ignorant of the mess this front office would become. I was happy with John Wall as the anointed savior, and I was truly, optimistic about Jan Vesely. This was my first chance to see him live, I thought he was going to be some mythical combination of Dirk Nowitzki and Blake Griffin, who could play defense. Full disclosure: I have an active imagination. On this trip to the Phone Booth my beloved Wizards were welcoming the New York Knicks to town. I normally get pretty good seats at the games and this night was no exception as my brother nudged me and pointed at something several rows away. Confused I followed his finger and saw, Spike Lee. Cool, I thought, this is going to be a night to remember. It was a night I remember, though not fondly. The Wiz got off to an early lead, despite Wall struggling from the field and despite a no-show from Ves. Eventually the game turned and to my fury the building began to rock as Amare single-handedly willed the Knicks back into the game. I was fuming, but then: the dance cam. My favorite part of the live experience. I worked on my moves for weeks, and after a gulp of my amber drink, I performed the World's best dougie which I then morphed into the John Wall dance. It was a performance for the ages, but who won? Some assclown a few seats away in a Amare jersey. It stings that he was so close to me, because I know the camera saw how incredible my moves were that night. The game was pretty much in hand for the visitors until John Wall got it going. A layup, a steal, an assist. The Wizards were back in it and the building was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Not that quiet obviously, because I was going cheese and crackers. My brother might have made some noise, but I think he was embarrassed. in a crucial sequence John Wall grabbed a steal and took off. STAT got his layup attempt from behind and that was it. As Amare went to the free throw line, there was a deafening MVP chant. I got into a few altercations and had several cups of beer on me as I drove home that night.
The second incident isn't as infuriating, but it is still a little sad. I work with troubled youth around the DMV, and this summer I was very excited to chat with some of my youngsters about RG3 and the skins. This could be the year, we thought. Playoffs at least, probably a superbowl appearance. Every kid I was with who liked football were Redskins fans. There were about 12 die-hard skins fans in our group, not including myself. As the season began to change, I got pretty geeked about the NBA season. This could be the year, I thought. Playoffs at least, then let's beat the Heat in the second round and see what happens. To my dismay not one kid was a Wizards fan. Some have said it has to do with the name, if we were still called the Bullets, surely there would be more fans.
Some on BF have said the lack of fan support is directly related to the lack of success, a few more playoff appearances and surely there would be more fans. But the Redskins name has been called racist and offensive, and they have more fans. Wizards isn't harming anyone. The Skins have also struggled recently to make noise in the playoffs and they have more fans.
So I pose to you, BF community: What will it take? Can this team ever have a following like Golden State? Is an All-Star appearance and a deep playoff run enough to turn this around? Or will I have to endure more MVP chants for visiting stars? I am very curious to hear what all of you guys have to say, but would really like to hear from fans who have been following this team longer than I have. Was the Arenas era like this in terms of lack of support? What about the Jordan era? Or the last halcyon days of the Bullets?