We are the children of Susan O’ Malley.
When it came to the NBA and the nearest sports town we were raised by her. There are those who had a guardian to help guide our fandom and there are others who just catch it naturally whether at school, playground, TV, etc.
"Catch the Washington Wizards take on MICHAEL JORDAN, KOBE BRYANT, and TIM DUNCAN. Get your Season Tickets today!" or something like that. That’s how those commercials were. As an adult now I completely understand why she did that. She needed immediate results to fill an empty arena, but those immediate results also turned into long term effects.
Those same kids that begged their parents to go to the MCI Center to catch the NBA’s best take on the Washington Wizards became fans of the NBA’s best. Those fans that see RAY ALLEN in Washington Wizards commercials begin to like him, watch him play, and take on that respective team.
Instead of the Bullets/Wizards organization gaining new fans we gained many (paying 1-2 times a year when their team comes to town) enemy customers. They became fans of DAVID ROBINSON, SHAQUILLE O’ NEAL, and ALLEN IVERSON. As those kids became fans of those players more than likely became fans of those teams.
As those kids have grown to paying, adult customers, they pay for NBA League Pass and buy Wizards tickets 1-2 times a year to watch their favorite team play. Now they have kids as well. As a parent you (try to) pass your fandom onto your kids. Now you have two generations wearing Kobe Bryant jerseys.
Think about it for a second. My son thinks John Wall is the best player in the world. Is it true? No, but my kid is 7 years old and to him he is. When he grows up he’ll probably be buying me and my future grandchild a ticket to the game as well.
We have been trained to believe that the real NBA superstars are outside of DC. No one trained us to like Chris Webber and Juwan Howard as much as RAY ALLEN and VINCE CARTER in the 90's and early 2000's.
If the ping balls dropped differently in the 2010 NBA Draft, we would not have John Wall on the team. Just imagine if he were on the Brooklyn Nets or the Philadelphia 76ers. He would be seen as the King of New York City or the next Rocky Balboa in Philly. Assuming he has a similar trajectory, Washington DC fans would see him as a "real" NBA superstar. Wall is just not seen like that here because we were not trained to.
Those commercials are powerful. When a company creates something that cost a million dollars more than likely another million will go to marketing (something of that nature). It’s the reason why a person may choose Pepsi over Coke always or an Apple device instead of Samsung all the time. Has anyone noticed why I capitalized NBA players in this post? My caps lock isn’t broken. It’s just that those commercials were just that loud when it came to those players. It has an effect.
I could be reaching heavily here. And I am not ignoring the Washington Wizards being a losing franchise for many years. The one reason I sometimes see is the city being transient. There is more than just DC as there is the whole DMV. Those fans outside of D.C. have been raised to like other players not wearing a Wizards uniform.
I’m sure winning will cure everything but outside of a championship I don’t see it fixing this fan base. We have had winning teams before. We had a Game 6 against the Pacers, yet the arena was quiet and a lot of seats empty. I understand why Susan O’ Malley did what she did. But in the process, we lost a generation of Wizards fans. It haunts us as we hear the children of Susan O’ Malley boo John Wall at the free throw line while chanting KOBE BRYANT on the next play.