One of the constant, day-to-day goals in my life is to avoid pain, which makes my ongoing Golden State Warriors fandom quite a curious decision. The Warriors have certainly caused me more pain than joy, yet year-after-year, game-after-game, I keep crawling, no running, back. There is a spousal abuse parallel here that is apt as it is trivializing. But this isn’t about me, or the Golden State Warriors.
After spending my entire life living within ten miles of Oracle Arena, at the end of summer I moved to Washington D.C. It became immediately clear to me that this was a Washington Redskins town. In the middle of the summer, with the season still weeks away, I saw more RGIII jerseys than all Nationals gear combined, and this was the team with the best record in baseball. The depressing reality of D.C. fandom becomes clear when you realize that the Redskins have only made the playoffs 3 times in the last 20 years, and are currently sitting at 4-6.
D.C. sports fans are accustomed to the Redskins general ineptitude, however, and so they have developed a coping mechanism: the Washington Capitals. As the Redskins slog to another 6-10 season, at least one can look forward to the Capitals making the playoffs, as they have done for the last five seasons. Visions of the Redskins secondary giving up another touchdown will soon fade away, replaced by Alexander Ovechkin’s all around brilliance. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. But not this year.
This year hockey is engaged in a protracted lockout that shows no signs of resolving any time soon. But Ovechkin suiting up for Dynamo Moscow doesn’t change the fact that the Redskins are awful, or that D.C. sports fans need a palate cleanser. Instead of Ovechkin, they now get to turn to…Jordan Crawford? Trevor Booker? Cartier Martin? Oh my.
Before the NBA season started I bought a five game ticket package to the Wizards, and was very excited to find out that it gave me the right to playoff tickets before the general public. It’s not like I thought the Wizards would be world beaters or anything, but I thought a lineup of Wall/Beal/Ariza/Okafor/Nene would be enough to make the playoffs. The Wizards do play in the East after all. In a feeling I know all too well however, the Wizards have massively underachieved, and are probably the team in basketball.
All of the familiar cues are there. The injury that lingers with no timetable for return. An owner who overpromises and under delivers. A retread coach. An unimaginative front office. A collection of unenthused players. If it weren’t for the fact that I can walk outside my house and see the Washington Monument looming over the city, I could swear I was back home in Oakland.
But the last week has shown me that, while the Wizards/Warriors parallel seems to be there, the comparison isn’t apt. No, in twenty years of Warriors fandom I have never been as soul-crushingly low as Wizards fans are right now.
Last week I watched the Wizards v. Celtics game with a friend whose job involves attending or watching every single Wizards game. He also has the great (mis)fortune of having grown up in the greater DC area, and therefore has been a lifelong fan, before they became the Wizards. And let me tell you, it is killing him.
Let’s face it: there is all sorts of irrationality involved with allocating space in your heart to some billionaire’s play thing, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of millions of people around the world from doing it. But even if you catch every game, there are more important, and time-consuming, things in your life: your family, your career, your other hobbies etc. My lowest moment as a Warriors fan was during the first half of the 2006-07 season. Don Nelson looked like he was only coaching for a paycheck, and I’m somewhat ashamed to say that my loathing for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy had morphed into pure hatred. Never had I wanted to punch Mike Dunleavy’s smarmy face more. Blake Griffin has nothing on Mike Dunleavy.
Fortunately, 2006-07 was my first year of college, so I just stopped watching the games. I was in fucking Minnesota, so it was pretty easy to get away from it all. I didn’t see any jerseys, nobody came up to talk to me about another lopsided loss, and I didn’t have to try hard to avoid the TV that the Dubs weren’t even on anyways. I washed my hands of them (until the trade for SJax and Al Harrington, but that story has been told a million times on this blog).
This friend of mine, however, has to consume, pay attention to, and analyze every single minutes of the 2012-13 Washington Wizards, by far the most unwatchable team in the NBA. He can’t turn it off because it is critical to his job. And this is following a year in which he had to watch every single minute of the most boneheaded NBA team of all time. And this is following years of watching a terribly managed franchise play terribly.
For buying a 5-game ticket package, at the first Wizards game of the year I got a free Wizards long-sleeve shirt (it’s actually pretty nice). I messed up and got too small of a shirt, so I gave it to my girlfriend. She knows next to nothing about basketball (she once made a joke about how our roof had a flat top like Chris Mullin and it was honestly one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life) basketball, and the other day told me “I was wearing the Wizards shirt, and some guy started talking to me about them. I had no idea what he was talking about.” My immediate response was “oh, I’ll bet he was saying they need to get a win” and she responded “yep, that was it!”
Because, with this Wizards team, what else is there to talk about?