It seems that D.C. can’t get enough good sports news these days. Weird.
Yesterday the Washington Nationals took Bryce Harper in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft with the first overall pick … I hear that guy’s supposed to be pretty awesome. Also, SB Nation had their official launch party for SB Nation DC, where I’ll be contributing as a weekly columnist on sports and the media. Big kudos to senior editor Mike Prada for the SB Nation DC launch by the way.
Speaking of … my first piece is up. Of course it’s about Stephen Strasburg, which brings us to Strasmas. I’ll be one of the lucky few going to Strasburg’s debut this evening. And I didn’t have to stand in line or pay scalper’s prices for tickets … just got hooked up by some cool bros who will undoubtedly be receiving some beverages of appreciation from me.
And that brings us to latest bit of good D.C. sports news … today the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale of the Wizards to Ted Leonsis. Sure, it was a mere formality, but Washington will take all the positive formalities it can get. So a big congrats goes to Mr. Leonsis for becoming officially official and congrats to Wizards fans as well.
If you eat and breathe the Washington Wizards as much as I do, you’ve considered the slim chance of crazy scenarios like the Wizards getting John Wall (via winning the draft lottery) followed by LeBron coming to play with his boy Wall in front of President Obama in D.C., along with Gil, ‘Dray, ‘Vale, Quinton, Nick and Al, and also joined by some veteran free-agents willing to sign for cheap within the remaining cap space*.
After all, LeBron is boys with Caps/Wizards owner Ted Leonsis (well, at least LBJ offered a testimonial on the back of Leonsis’ book, The Business of Happiness) and he just might realize the potential benefits of playing in an international city and forming a basketball/hockey MVP conglomerate with Alex Ovechkin. It’s not like these three parties have met or anything like that though … oh wait, the picture above.
Okay, so Ted Leonsis already has one quality that’s in high demand from sports fans … transparency. How many other professional sports team owners have a personal blog where they actually share candid opinion and not boring, patronizing fluff?
Now, more and more, Leonsis is expressing interest in other areas of concern for educated sports fans, especially Wizards fans … advanced statistics.
With the impending takeover of Ted Leonsis as sole owner of the Washington Wizards, I’ve been doing some reading/research on his ownership history lately. As a newbie in sports ownership, Leonsis was all about anxiously making a marketing splash with pizazz and glitter — hence, he signed Jaromir Jagr for $77 million and arranged Michael Jordan’s foray as a basketball executive.
Today, Leonsis refreshingly admits lessons were learned. “What I’ve come to realize is there is no substitute for planned strategy and systems, the casting of the team, the development of the team, there is no magic wand. There is no one person, one player that will change everything,” he recently told The Washington Post.
Owners, presidents and general managers rarely ‘fess up to making mistakes. Usually they tip-toe around the issue with all the deflection of an experienced politician — I believe they call it the Potomac two-step. The fact that Leonsis, like Jack Ryan in Clear and Present Danger, doesn’t dance is just one reason why Wizards fans are so excited about his reign. Transparency. In this age of rapid information dissemination, it’s the way to go. Read more »
Remember when Ted Leonsis gave Gilbert Arenas a fist pound and called him a panther?
Me neither, I wasn’t there. But Ted blogged about it … the chance encounter between him and Arenas last October when they crossed paths in the Verizon Center parking lot the day after the Wizards won their season opener in Dallas.
The interaction probably took place near where an unnamed Wizard would one day unsuccessfully attempt to return Arenas’ bag of guns to his ride, opting instead to leave them somewhere in the parking garage when he couldn’t find the car.
The interaction from Ted’s Take:
I said, “Hi Gil. You lost some weight? Tell me your secret ’cause you look great.”
Two weeks ago Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin passed away prior to a Wizards game against the returning Eddie Jordan (on the anniversary of his firing no less) and the Philadelphia 76ers at the Verizon Center. Tonight, Pollin will be memorialized at the arena he helped build in the Chinatown area of Washington, DC where he championed a resurgence.
Covering that Wizards-Sixers game was a whirlwind with no concern for how time flies. I knew being around for the return of Eddie Jordan to D.C. would be tough enough. The passing of Abe Pollin changed everything. It was going to be a hard night at the Verizon Center, hard to focus on the reason why everyone from Abe Pollin to kind gentlemen checking bags at the press entrance was around, the game of basketball.
Being at the game became a privilege, an honor to experience an impromptu celebration of a man’s life through the sadness of his death. The man who owned the team I love. The man who was responsible for revitalizing part of the city I love. It was a sad day for all who have been involved with the franchise, but I couldn’t feel luckier to be apart of it in the way that I was.
To see the fresh look of shock on Caron Butler’s face as if a close relative just died. To see Antawn Jamison having a moment where it wasn’t known if a tear was going to flow down his cheek or not (he held on). To see Phil Chenier up close talking about Mr. Pollin with a smile on his face. To see the faces of the emotionally stricken employees of the Washington Sports & Entertainment empire. And to be there as Wes Unseld said the words which moved me the most, two feet away and almost encapsulated by the media scrum, sweat beading on his brow from the camera lights, but looking as comfortable in his gray adidas jump suit as a grandpa telling stories to whomever would listen while sipping ice tea on a broken-in porch on a hot summer day.
Mr. Pollin was a good owner. Not particularly adept at guiding a franchise toward winning (at least in my lifetime), but a good owner. He was a loyal man, a trait which countless will stand in line to attest. Perhaps, at times, that loyalty got in the way of winning. But that wasn’t the path Abe wanted to take. It didn’t mean he wanted to win any less than the next fan for life. This team, this city was damn lucky to have Abe Pollin on their side. So cheers to the captain of the vessel, here’s to hoping your successor steers the ship at least as good as you did, and to the best of your championship aspirations. (Ted Leonsis, is that you stepping forward?)
Post-game reactions to Mr. Pollin’s passing from Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Wes Unseld.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Abe Pollin, Chairman of Washington Sports & Entertainment, passed away today at the age of 85.
It’s truly a sad day for the Wizards franchise, fans, and the entire Washington metropolitan area … something which I cannot really express in this hastily put together post.
Pollin, just shy of his 86th birthday (December 3rd, which also is ‘Abe Pollin Day’ in Washington, D.C.) is survived by his wife, and co-owner of WSE, Irene. He was involved in ownership of the team for over 45 years.
Are you inundated with Michael Jordan posts/readings/articles yet? Sorry. If you’ve found yourself here, you’re at the point of no return. But dude is the G.O.A.T., and unfortunately, we won’t have another chance to reflect upon his career this much until his death.
Being a Wizards blogger, I’m obliged to write about Jordan’s time in Washington … sort of. You see, when MJ was playing for the Wizards, I was finishing my last four semesters of college. During those years away from DC, I lost touch with the team I’d grown to love unconditionally. And since the MJ experiment occurred way back at the beginning of the millennium, I didn’t have the advantage of blogs, streaming online video, NBA league pass, and the what-not to adequately keep tabs.
Thus, I’m apathetic toward memories of Jordan in Wizards blue. At the time, I thought his front office presence, and his subsequent comeback to the hardwood, could be nothing but good for a perpetually floundering franchise.