This seems to be bottom-line for Abe Pollin. Having given so much of himself, heart and mind, to his basketball team, his hockey team and their home for more than seven years, he undoubtedly has been wondering of late: is it still worth it?
Why keep a basketball team that Washington never warmed to even when it won the NBA championship and which needs another major money transfusion?
Why continue to subsidize a hockey team that has lost millions and might invent a way to avoid the playoffs even if all 21 teams were allowed in?
Since Capital Centre needs hockey and basketball franchises to exist, why not break completely away, in one emotional sales bringe, as Jack Kent Cooke did in Los Angeles?
By saying nothing, Pollin, 57, may be telling us he is willing, if not anxious, to part with some or all of his athletic empire. Or he might be mulling over some monumental maneuver that will stop his Bullets and Caps from shooting blanks, spring it on us one day with the unstated message:
"I've always been a gambler; I'll give it one more roll."
We've always sensed a quite daredevil inside Pollin. If there were not, he would have opted for a business other than construction. Otherwise, he would not have undertaken Captial Centre without more public guarantees. Otherwise, he would have rid himself of the Bullets when the NBA-ABA salary wars threatened financial chaos for everyone but the players.
"As always, he's being thoughful and deliberate," said a business associate and friend, which in Pollin's case may be a redundancy. "He examining all the alteratives."
"I hope he sells," said another longtime friend. "The whole thing, including the arena. If I were in Abe's shoes, in his health, I'd sell em."
If there is a great deal of uncertainty within Capital Centre, there is no sense of panic, of an imminent sale, one worker with experience in similar situations in other businesses going so far as the speculate: "I think we've read him wrong. I think he'll go it another year."
Here's why he might, or might have to.
Contrary to public belief, Capital Centre apparently is making money instead of losing it. The building is the most attractive of Pollin's packages. And the loan an it is secured, in part, by his two teams.
This means that Pollin's options are limited. He cannot, say, sell the Caps to somebody interested in moving them. Whoever might buy either team, or both, must maintain ties with the Centre.
Washington is a potential hockey gold mine and the Caps are close to flashing from fool's gold to genuine ore. They have missed the playoffs for their entire seven-year life, finishing again this season in 17th place. With their usual run of uncommonly severe injuries, though, they still were just eight points away from 10th place.
They beat the Flyers and Bruins on the road late in the season, when victory was important to both teams. They have a spreading nucleus of gifted young players and a goaltender (Mike Palmasteer) with so many more good games than bad during his NHL career to suggest his Capital crimes should be forgiven.
There is no overwhelming reason to fire General Manager Max McNab or Coach Gary Green. It might be time to switch player-acquisition priorities just this once. Having wisely built a foundation of youth, this might be the year to trade that valuable first-round draft choice for an equally coveted veteran.
The Caps are so close to being as good as more than half the NHL teams; one George Allen-like move, for a veteran leader with ability, could be the ideal catalyst. St. Louis went from next to last in the NHL two years ago to second this season. And when the Caps become slightly betther than ordinary. Washington becomes a hockey town. Few arenas are located more suitably for sport.
On the other hand, somebody with a few million in petty cash and a passion for hockey might balk at the fact that the Caps need to sell nearly three out of every four seats for each home game to break even. And that there is not national television contract. Future expansion money might seem enticing, except that many previous expansion teams, among them the Caps, paid about half of what they promised.
Also, the contracts of several of the best players, including Mike Gartner and Dennis Maruk, will expire soon.
At first glance, the Bullets would seem a sounder investment. Anyone willing to open his wallet can improve a team in a hurry in the NBA, what with the new arrangement that gives a free agent's club the right to match any offer and keep him instead of compensation if he jumps.
The Bullets will lose at least one giant salary. Wes Unseld's, and possibly more if Bobby Dandridge leaves and Elvin Hayes is allowed to end his career as he wishes by being traded to Houston.
But does anyone want to leap into the NBA at such a time of instability? With a team whose home court is at least 20 minutes from being near the core of its follower? And without a seasoned center?
In truth, investment in sports has been less and less attractive since the tax laws were tightened several years ago. Once a man could make a depreciation killing, when he bought a team and when he sold it. Now the rules are fair, which is to say discouraging for luring new money.
Unually, men do not invest in sports only to make money. They do it to let the world in on how rich they already are, how bright and energetic they have been to become so successful. Many do it to overcome the final hurdle of their lives, anonymity.
Because his is contrary to that profile, Pollin is an immensely apprealing owner. Because they also are his fortune, the Bullets and Caps get his individed attention. A less emotional man, a George Steinbrenner, surely would have broken up the Bullets when every player was at his peak value, immediately after the '78 NBA championship. Pollin stayed out.
Whether he stays pat with the stakes much higher might be unknown even to Pollin at the moment. That might be because the very reasons that would move someone to buy one or all of his properties are the ones that compel Pollin not to sell