Confessions of a Blogger on the Brink of Wizards-Celtics Game 7 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Confessions of a Blogger on the Brink of Wizards-Celtics Game 7

By
Updated: May 15, 2017

During and after John Wall’s spectacular 3-point shot which propelled the Washington Wizards to a Game 6 victory, I got a big kick out of the reactions from members of the media. In case you did not know, members of the media — whether they are from Comcast SportsNet, The Washington Post, The Ringer, or even Truth About It — are allegedly supposed to be impartial so that their writing/reporting of the story remains clear and not muddled by those irrational opinions and feelings that fans involuntarily bring to the table.

But a few seconds after Wall’s game-winning 3-point shot, I saw members of the media who demonstrably cheered, fist-pumped, and/or exclaimed in reaction to the big win. Fifteen minutes after the game, The Undefeated’s Mike Wise was asked by a Verizon Center staffer if he was excited about the outcome of the game. Initially he gave the staffer the company line about how being an impartial member of the media precluded him from having an real opinion on the Wizards or the Celtics, but then he smiled and said, “F**k yeah I’m excited!”

Right after the game, as I headed to the podium to hear Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, I saw SB Nation editor (and Bullets Forever founder) Mike Prada, and he looked equally as geeked as a lifelong Wizards/Bullets fan. He asked me how I felt about being a fan of and covering a team that was about to enter unchartered territory — at least in our lifetime. I couldn’t answer the question, and Prada looked just as shellshocked as I felt. He rebounded from that initial emotion and ended up writing a terrific piece which accurately captured what Wizards-Bullets fans must be feeling as Game 7 looms.

I have no problems admitting how refreshing it was to hear colleagues whom I respected — I’ve covered the Wizards with Prada for eight years, and I have followed Wise’s columns at both The Washington Post and The New York Times — allow their fandom to show a bit. I may not have outwardly displayed my emotions after watching Wall’s shot and the final outcome, but internally I was cheering, screaming, Tiger Woods fist-pumping, and yelling ‘Dagger!’ like Steve Buckhantz. But like Prada, Wise, and the rest of the media members, I do my very best to follow the unofficial media creed which says that I should remain impartial and professional.

That being said, and as the title of this article may have already suggested to you, I have no desire to keep up the impartial facade as Game 7 of this Celtics-Wizards series draws to a close. I have a lot riding on this game both personally and professionally.

The professional side — or what’s left of it after I pour out my soul in this article — is craving the tension and overall surreal atmosphere that a series-deciding Game 7 will surely bring. The closest I’ve come to matching that is when I covered three elimination games in person. Friday night’s game against the Celtics, Washington’s Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in 2015, and their Game 6 loss to the Indiana Pacers in 2014.

The 2015 playoff loss to the Pacers was the most devastating of the three to watch. As loud as the Verizon Center was after Wall nailed his shot on Friday night, it was twice as loud in 2015 when Paul Pierce seemingly tied the game at the end of regulation.

The shot was waved off, fans slowly walked out of the arena, and the players seemed to be more shocked than saddened that their season had come to an end. That game also marked the end of brief, yet exciting Paul Pierce era.

I woke up at 7:30 a.m. the next morning and wrote my post-mortem about Game 6. The fan in me was disappointed that the Wizards were unable to extend the series one more game, but the writer in me was energized by the amount of material that was at my disposal. The contest was competitive, and although Pierce was most likely leaving D.C., it seemed like the Wizards were on the cusp of more playoff trips.

The loss to the Indiana Pacers had a much different feel to it. The Pacers were far and away the better team and the feisty Wizards had overachieved by pushing them to six games. David West led the Pacers on a game-ending 20-6 run, and it was a virtual blowout the last eight minutes. The crowd applauded the Wizards, and Beal and Wall cried as they checked out of the game — and they were both teary-eyed as they sat at the podium for the last time.

Wall and Beal were young, and the feeling was that the Wizards had overachieved that season, but they would definitely be back. The fan in me felt the same way, but the writer in me was jealous that writers like then-Pacers beat writer Candace Buckner, would live to write about another series — a series featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the big, bad Miami Heat no less. I was relegated to attending workouts for college players, assessing the draft, and trying to figure out whether I could attend Summer League in Las Vegas. Interesting stuff of course, but not nearly as interesting as possibly covering the Eastern Conference Finals.

Monday night’s Game 7 is unchartered territory for me. Yes, the Wizards run the risk of seeing their season end on the road, but the Celtics are under some, if not more, pressure than the Wizards. They are the number one seed, and they will be on their home floor, where they are 3-0 against the Wizards in this series. Both teams will be playing with copious amounts of pressure and urgency, which is a dream for fans and writers alike.

Both the writer and the fan in me want the Wizards to win and advance to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. For starters, I’ve already written the our-season-has-ended-prematurely-in-the-second-round article twice in the last three years, and I would do it again to fulfill my professional obligations but I’d dread it. Hell, I may even procrastinate a bit and write it two or three days after the fact.

But most importantly, the writer and fan in me has witnessed (see what I did there?) how well the Wizards have played against the Cleveland Cavaliers — particularly in the last two head-to-head matchups.

On March 26th, the Wizards blitzed the Cavaliers from the opening quarter with a 40-26 lead, and they ended up defeating them in Cleveland, 127-115. A month and a half prior to that, the Wizards lost to the Cavaliers at the Verizon Center in overtime thanks to an amazing, falling-out-of-bounds shot by LeBron James — a shot NBA TV now uses as part of their marketing ploy, by the way. That game was full of back-and-forth plays by Wall, Beal, James, Love, Irving, Oubre, and others, and although they lost, the Wizards were a play or two away from stealing a victory. The Cavaliers probably feel like that was merely the regular season, and as evidenced by their 8-0 record in the postseason, they know how to kick their game up to that proverbial next level. But they cannot deny the matchup challenges the Wizards present to them on both ends of the floor.

I would love to delve into the matchups of a Cavaliers-Wizards series as a writer, and as a fan, I would love to see John Wall’s national approval rating continue to ascend higher and higher. The Western Conference matchup between the Spurs and the Warriors, which after one game (the Warriors lead 1-0), looks like it could be an entertaining series–despite the uncertainty of Kawhi Leonard’s ankle, but the overall consensus from the experts is that the Warriors are going to win.

There are varying opinions about the journalistic integrity of Stephen A. Smith and Charles Barkley, but since the Wizards narrowly lost in overtime to the Cavaliers, they both have found seats on the Washington bandwagon. If the Wizards defeat the Celtics and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, there will surely be more national media members falling in line. There have not been many media members clamoring for a Celtics-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Final, because the feeling — rightly or wrongly — is that this Washington team is more a matchup problem for the Cavaliers, than the one-man gang Celtics. I tend to agree, but again, I am biased.

And speaking of bias, Bob Ryan — formerly of the Boston Globe, ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, and frequent contributor to ESPN’s Around the Horn — had this to say in an interview with The Big Lead regarding writers attempting to suppress their fandom:

“I don’t see why anybody would ever have a problem with it. If you’re not a sports fan, why are you in the business? To me, I don’t quite understand people who aren’t true sports fans who are involved in this business.

“It’s not that hard. You internally root. You don’t sit there and externally root — you internally care. And you do your job. It’s just not that hard. You see a game, the team wins or loses, you go talk to people, and if somebody stinks you say so. If it’s a good story, you’re positive. I just don’t understand what the inherent conflict is.”

So when Game 7 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal begins, and the Wizards and Celtics are in throes of what promises to be yet another emotionally taxing game, I will internally root, I will outwardly do my job, and I will accurately write about the Wizards whether they stink and lose or win in stellar fashion. In fact, when that article (or articles) is completed, I will make no mention of this article when I let my guard down and let you the reader know the depths of fandom (and professionalism).

But make no mistake about it, if the Wizards do not win, the fan in me will be crestfallen and will cause the professional writer in me to write well, but with a heavy heart and angry fingers (not as angry as Arenas or Jennings).

Go Wizards!?!?

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.