POLL: Are You Even Excited That The Wizards Are In The Playoffs?
Today I had to honor of participating in a roundtable discussion (in blog form) regarding why people don’t seem very excited that the Wizards are headed to the playoffs. This roundtable can be found on the Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog and includes ardent Wizards followers such as Ben Standig of CSN Washington, Mike Prada of Bullets Forever/SB Nation, Scott Jackson of ESPN 980, Mike Wise of the Washington Post, and myself.
Of course, it’s not totally true that people don’t care (or are not particularly excited). It’s partially completely false. I care, for one. I know people who read about the Wizards care. I know that even those fans who are somehow ‘OK’ with the Wizards losing, even perhaps hoping for such with the assumption that it would lead to a more extensively cleaned house inhabited by front office personnel, care. They do. Of course, all these people who care encapsulate a small niche, and not necessarily the generalist fan that Ted Leonsis needs to make a profit (and presumably use those profits to make the organization even better … presumably).
As inherently disenchanted (perhaps disenfranchised) that some Wizards fans have been conditioned toward being, deep down they all desire to see victory reflected by the scoreboard. ‘Tis a small penance for the time invested—even if the agony of defeat is sometimes a more emotionally jarring (and thus satisfactory event) than an inkling of a win en route to more uncertainty. People seem to like the horror movie genre, you know, and that certainly can translate to sports and its wizardry.
Indeed. Some people care. Some people don’t. You take the good, you take the bad … the facts of life. But what is palpable is the lack of buzz. For what it’s worth, the Wizards averaged 17,196 fans per game as they approached the playoffs in 2005 (14th in the NBA) but 16,942 this season (18th in the NBA)—not exactly a drastic difference. Plus, the realm of possibility exists that the buzz and excitement will reach a tipping point once reality sets in; for some, a Wizards playoff appearance is still a mirage until it can be tangibly quenched.
But the Sports Bog’s Dan Steinberg has previously relayed (via Twitter) that Wizards-related Web traffic on the Washington Post’s website has been less than stellar considering the environment. And I can tell you that in TAI’s piece of the pixel pie, traffic via the arrival of and first season with John Wall significantly dwarfs traffic from the current season (and certainly hijinks and blog-worthy pixels of Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, and Gilbert Arenas played a role in such). So there’s that.
What. Is. The. Deal?
My portion of the D.C. Sports Bog roundtable is pasted below; I encourage you to go read the full slate of thoughts. Also, to gauge the temperature of TAI readers, please vote in the poll below on the most predominant reason for the lacking buzz about the Wizards heading into the 2013-14 postseason.
Your 2014 playoff-bound Wizards keep an eclectic company of bummers contributing to the perceived malaise of fans this time around.
Yes, there’s the adage about transience in a federal city, the increasingly enhanced home game-watching experience, and more and more fans focusing their efforts on individual talent instead of team loyalty. But in Washington there still remains a deep distrust from years as Les Boulez that four straight playoffs appearances from ’05 to ’08 did little to sway.
The Wiz only got to the second round once during that run, and injuries rendered the last two appearances mere tokens that would only work in a claw crane prize machine sitting somewhere along a dilapidated Fun Street. The dysfunction that came with the end of the Abe Pollin era, the Big 3′s run that never was, and the Gilbert Arenas grab-bag treating the Verizon Center as his own personal shark tank further polluted the water.
New ownership has stumbled through the unenviable task of rebuilding with the same company president who drowned them in debt and disenchanted stock holders. And ultimately, the stigma surrounding the name ‘Wizards’ and what it’s meant for so many years hangs over just the sixth over-.500 campaign since 1987, a year which marked the end of 19 playoff appearances in the team’s first 24 seasons as the Bullets and the beginning of a long, dark period that only Cézanne’s palette knife could appreciate.
People realize that John Wall is an All-Star and that there’s tons of artistry in Bradley Beal, but that’s not enough to make them believe. The simple joys of a first-round playoff win, and the national attention that comes with it, would be a good start. –K. Weidie