Martell Webster wants more Wizards fans in the stands

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


There’s a long, dreary tradition of D.C. pro sports teams occasionally feeling like visitors at home, from the Nats (against the Phillies) to the Redskins (against the Steelers) to the Caps (against the Sabres and Red Wings and others).

As we’ve seen, winning is often the best solution to this problem. For example, I received just about zero complaints over obnoxious Phillies fans in Nats Park during the season’s final series.

The Wizards, though, aren’t winning. They haven’t been winning for several years now. The NBA is a particularly star-driven enterprise. And Verizon Center has typically been at its most electric when the Celtics or Lakers or Heat come to town. Which led to this very sad lede from Michael Lee on Wednesday:

Roughly four minutes into their game against the defending champion Miami Heat, the Washington Wizards had to feel as if they were second-class — or lower — residents in their own building.

Two people who don’t play for the team received the loudest recognition from the Verizon Center crowd — Heat forward LeBron James and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III — and the Wizards were something like an afterthought in their presence.

Sadder still were the post-game remarks from forward Martell Webster, when asked about the mountain the Wizards had faced on Tuesday night. (Listen to the audio here.)

I mean, did you guys not hear the announcements?” Webster asked. “It’s like, Chris Singleton, yay. They call LeBron’s name, and it’s like, jeez. Tonight was an away game, and we won. We won on the road at home. How crazy is that? It’s one of those things where, in this locker room, we have to believe in each other. You can’t really be distracted by what’s going on outside of this bubble, and we stayed together.”

A reporter asked Webster what the crowd reaction felt like. “I mean, it’s horrible. It’s a horrible feeling,” he said.

“You want your fans to be loyal, you want to see more red, white and blue jerseys out in the stands than you do of the away team,” he continued. “But like I said, we have each other; this is all we have. And if we believe in each other, we can come out on top. Playing through adversity, it’s one of the things that we kind of strive [for], and we did it tonight.”

Webster went on to talk more about keeping distractions out of the locker room, about players retaining faith in each other and their coaches.

“And I think, more times than that, we’re gonna end up on top if we do that,” he concluded.

 And is that how they’ll attract more actual Wizards fans?

“Of course,” he said. “Of course. But it’s not gonna happen [overnight]. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have to continue to win. Next time Boston comes in here, there’s gonna be green jerseys up there. Chicago comes in here, there’s gonna be red jerseys up there. We have to take advantage of those games, and that builds loyalty with the fans. And when we do that more times than not, then they’ll be roaring when our names are called instead of theirs.”

And we shall call it Wizzitude. Ok, maybe not.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.



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Dan Steinberg · December 5, 2012