Ok, this isn’t really a D.C. sports-related media feud. Nor is it an argument. Or even a quarrel. A minor bicker, perhaps. Though even that is stretching it.
Ok, a slightly passive-aggressive Internet-based exchange of barbs performed for the benefit of a blogger in need for a quick item not about RGIII. That’s what it is.
Anyhow, the case of Ted Leonsis vs. Grantland vs. Ted Leonsis.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe ranks the 30 NBA teams based on the efficacy of their nicknames. He calls it “entirely a subjective exercise,” and admits he’s using “variables I weighed in whatever way I felt like.”
He places the Wizards at No. 19, far above where I would have guessed, arguing that “The Wizards name has some agency. It’s not an unthreatening nickname, either, despite the soft associations critics might draw — the flowing robes, thin stature, and meager physical strength. Wizards are dangerous, and they can strike from anywhere, at any time. If any Washington player actually knew the Imperius curse, their opponents would never score a basket.”
Again, considering “Wizards” has no connection to D.C., and has no real tradition, and the Wizards have mostly been stinky, and their fans have often objected to the name, I think No. 19 is better than anyone would have expected.
Still. Ted Leonsis, who sees all, sees the piece, and responds on his blog, under the headline “AND ‘GRANTLAND’ IS BETTER?” The full text:
This is called deflection. The fact that a person who founded a Web site who hired a respected NBA writer who created a fanciful list may have a silly, rarely used nickname himself does not really say much about the ‘Wizards’ name one way or the other, unless you’re of the opinion that the Grantland banner precludes all its employees from ever ranking or discussing or even mentioning any other names in the universe. Just saying.
Plus, you know, the Wizards actually did better than expected.
Still, other writers, caught in August’s sweaty and dull embrace, mention this story.
SI: “Get your Orville Redenbacher’s ready — we may have an old-fashioned Internet slapfight on our hands.”
106.7 The Fan: “Leonsis Calls Out Grantland for Middle-of-the-Road Team Name Ranking.”
(Note that we nobly resisted, for as long as we could.)
But then Lowe and Simmons revisit the episode on this Grantland podcast, and my will disappears. Dialog:
Simmons: Where do you stand on Baltimore Bullets?
Lowe: Well look, it’s 100 times better than Washington Wizards. Did you see Ted Leonsis took a shot at us?
Simmons: Yeah, and why did it seem like he thought I wrote the piece?
Lowe: Yeah, he was confused about the mechanics of Grantland in a few different ways. But the funny thing about that is I had Wizards at 19, and the most common bit of feedback that I got on Twitter – and there was an avalanche of it – was Washington fans being like Oh, that’s way too good for our nickname, it’s the worst, it should be 30. That was the most common bit of feedback, and it was from Wizards fans being like No, we have the worst nickname.
Simmons: If you had done a good job with placing the Wizards nickname, Leonsis would have given you a $22 million contract like he gave Martell Webster. Really, that’s all it takes for him: you do one good thing, and $22 million bucks….
Lowe: Does anyone but Dan Snyder – and I don’t know even what Dan Snyder thinks – but does anyone not agree anymore that Redskins is horribly offensive, and the Cleveland Indians logo is so offensive I almost can’t look at it anymore? It’s, like, laughably offensive.
Whoa whoa WHOA whoa whoa, sir. That’s a different name change debate. That’s the one based on a Washington Post conspiracy to alienate its most loyal readers. We only address that one on Wednesdays and Thursdays around here.