Lady Gaga fans unhappy that Washington concert could take back seat to NBA playoff


Lady Gaga performs at the Roseland Ballroom on April 7 in New York. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

The Little Monsters found themselves pitted against the Washington Wizards on Monday, and the results were as surreal as you would imagine.

“I swear y’all better not postpone or cancel the lady gaga concert for a basketball game or you will have riots,” tweeted one Little Monster, as Lady Gaga fans are known, when a possible conflict emerged between a National Basketball Association playoff game and a Gaga show at Verizon Center on May 15.

“I don’t care who you are do not reschedule the Lady Gaga concert it will ruin your reputation trust me,” another fan wrote on Twitter.

“Fans are freaking out about it, cussing about it, screaming about it,” said Mark James, 19, when contacted by telephone. James was scheduled to fly from North Carolina to Washington the day before the concert. “It’s ridiculous.”

The NBA announced Saturday that if the Wizards and Indiana Pacers haven’t settled their best-of-seven second-round series before May 15, Game 6 would be played that night at Verizon Center. This isn’t a regular Washington concern in May; the long-suffering Wizards are in the second round of the NBA playoffs for just the second time since 1982.

“We are aware of the potential conflict and are working with the promoter in the event Game 6 is necessary,” the Wizards said in a statement over the weekend. “More information will be released when it becomes available.”

The scheduling conflict is even more complicated because the arena is already booked the following night, when the Washington Mystics are scheduled to play their season opener. And so Lady Gaga fans — many of whom had tickets to her previous Washington show last February, which was canceled because of a health issue — reacted with horror and outrage.

“I was like, ‘This is not happening. This is not happening to me again,’ ” said Hunter Nguyen, 18, from Silver Spring. “I have a lot of friends who are going, a lot of friends who booked hotels from different cities that are coming to D.C. to see the show. We’re all pretty devastated right now, actually.”

Postseason conflicts in multipurpose arenas are nothing new for the NBA and National Hockey League. Last spring, a Rihanna show in Brooklyn was postponed for three days to accommodate Game 7 of a first-round Nets-Chicago Bulls series. A 2008 Rush concert in New Orleans was pushed back a day because of a first-round Hornets playoff game. Just last month, Miley Cyrus moved a Philadelphia show up a day to clear room for a Flyers-New York Rangers first-round playoff game.

Washington teams have been affected, too. In 2009, the Capitals and Penguins played playoff games on back-to-back nights, thanks in part to a Yanni show in Pittsburgh. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis expressed his unhappiness then; now the owner of the Wizards — and Verizon Center — Leonsis made it clear Monday that the NBA game was a priority.

“I think playing basketball is what we’ve contracted to do, and it’ll all work out,” Leonsis said on ESPN 980. “The NBA playoffs are very, very important to all of us.”

Lady Gaga fans would say the same about their idol. Her current artRave: The ARTPOP Ball Tour began Sunday in South Florida; she was scheduled to visit several East Coast cities before hitting New York on May 13, D.C. on May 15 and Detroit on May 17.

Fans with tickets to the Washington date heard about the potential conflict on Twitter, from friends and on MTV. One said he called Verizon Center four times in 24 hours to ask for updates. Others said they were praying for the concert to go on as scheduled. Many expressed shock that such a conflict was even possible.

“It’s kind of a tough call, but I feel like if Verizon Center knew that there was even the smallest possibility that they would need the arena for a sporting event, then they should have taken that into consideration before booking any acts,” said Ashley Kowalski, a 24-year-old Gaga fan from Baltimore who had hoped to buy tickets for the show this week.

“The only thing I’m worried about is Gaga,” said Cheyenne Gorton, 18, from Frederick. With a schedule change, “she would be doing multiple shows in a row, which wouldn’t be very good for her health.”

“I want Gaga to go on as scheduled, that’s all,” Nguyen said. “I’ve been waiting for this tour since forever.”

Wizards fans know the feeling. Verizon Center has only hosted two second-round NBA games since it opened in 1997. The Wizards have won just a single second-round game since advancing to the NBA Finals in 1979. But after the Wizards surprised the Chicago Bulls in a first-round series, their schedule pushed into the heart of May.

While many Gaga fans reacted with indifference or even hostility toward the Wizards, others said they would be rooting hard for the team to make Game 6 unnecessary. And in fact, this experience might bring at least a few members of these disparate fan bases together. That’s right, Little Monsters and Wizards, living in harmony.

“I think the Wizards should win in four games. That’s what I think they should do,” said Ava Ataee, a 24-year-old government employee from Northern Virginia. “I’m rooting for them, yes. . . . [But] my heart is more with Gaga than the Wizards.”

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