It costs in the neighborhood of $10,000 to buy a full-page advertisement in our Sunday paper. Because this is more money than most of us spend in one chunk, I have broken it down into everyday terms. It would buy more than 3,000 six-packs of beer. You could see "E.T." 2,500 times. If you're a foot soldier in the Save the Caps From Themselves crusade, you could buy 33 season tickets.
Abe Pollin took out a full-page ad in the sports section Sunday, right there between the tire ads, to take issue with me and my colleague, Ken Denlinger. The owner of the Capitals found us guilty of trying to destroy his reputation as a man of honesty and fair play. "You called me a liar," Pollin wrote.
I did not. I have pointed out inconsistencies, improbabilities, lapses in ordered logic and just plain foolishness. If Pollin wants to interpret these columnist's opinions as having labeled him a liar, that is his problem, not mine.
A lot of my problems begin with Pollin's refusal to answer what I consider legitimate questions. How, for instance, does he reconcile his promise of last November -- the Capitals will be here "until at least the end of the century" -- with his declaration last month that the team might be sold and moved?
Circumstances change. We all know that. If they've changed with the Capitals, maybe Pollin should explain those changes. But if he feels he can get a fair shake only by buying space, then that is his right. He should do whatever he needs to do to let his customers know what he thinks.
"After having read your articles (Pollin's letter also says), I was so incensed I was tempted to throw in the towel and say, 'to hell with it.' All this fighting to save the team was just not worth the drain on my health. But, you were accurate in one statement you made -- I am a fighter. I decided that I would not allow two people -- members of the press to be sure -- to decide the fate of the Washington Capitals. That would be grossly unfair to thousands who do care and want to keep the Capitals here in Washington. No, the future of the Capitals is in the hands of all the people of the Washington Metropolitan area -- where it belongs."
Here in Pollin's sweet missive it is clear that if the Save the Caps From Themselves campaign fails, such failure can be laid at the feet of the miscreants in the press -- or in the hands of every Washingtonian.
The press failed, not the Capitals.
The city failed, not Abe Pollin.
Well, I don't know about the city, but I'm not taking the rap for the Capitals' failure. They did it without me. I never hired one general manager or one coach. I never approved a trade. I can't even skate.
If the Save the Caps From Themselves campaign fails, incidentally, it won't be because this newspaper ignored it. We have carried 540 column inches on the crusade over the last 30 days, which with headlines and photographs probably amounts to eight full pages of space for a hockey team with the second-worst record in the NHL the last five years. Eight pages of advertising would cost about $80,000.
Pollin's calculating brand of emotional hardball -- gimme help or I'm taking hockey out of your life -- has touched the hearts of our editorial writers, who twice in the last two weeks have pleaded with city businessmen to buy Capitals' season tickets. The Washington Post is one of the businesses that has guaranteed sellouts of the Capitals' first 10 home games this season.
I don't agree with our editorialists, who believe hockey is vital to the dynamics of life in this city, and I don't think the newspaper ought to help bail out a business whose activities it reports on year-round. Anyway, if it comes time to assess blame for the Capitals' death, don't look at me.
It will be no one's fault but Abe Pollin's.
That's because he had an offer to sell the team six weeks ago to a New York group that wanted to keep the Capitals in Washington.
Art Kaminsky, a New York attorney who works as an agent for many hockey players and coaches, told me the other day that his group made Pollin an offer that Pollin turned down. Pollin told a reporter at the time that Kaminsky's offer didn't warrant comment.
Did that group intend to keep the team here?
"That's correct," Kaminsky said, adding "I can give you one fact and one fact only. Our group made an offer. I think I know a smidgen about hockey, and other people in hockey told me it was a fair offer."
From this little interview with Kaminsky, a miscreant columnist can conclude two things.
* Even while whining about his self-proclaimed $20 million in hockey losses over eight seasons, Pollin doesn't look desperate to sell.
* We are not saving the Capitals from immediate extinction or even banishment from Washington. Kaminsky would have done that. No, we are saving the Capitals for Abe Pollin.