The Wizards, who won their fifth straight game Tuesday, are now 13-2 at home and one win shy of matching their best overall start in franchise history. They boast one of the most exciting players in the NBA in strawberry milk-fueled Eastern Conference player of the week John Wall and they deserve more attention from fans and media members, according to ESPN’s Michael Wilbon.
The “Pardon The Interruption” co-host and former Post columnist exhorted D.C. sports fans to jump on the Wizards bandwagon and railed against D.C.’s obsession with the Redskins at the expense of everything else during an appearance on ESPN 980’s “The Tony Kornheiser Show” on Monday.
“Most of us are from a place where the pro football team is the dominant team, in terms of sports, entertainment, culture and discussion,” Wilbon said. “Most of us are from a place like that. But, are the Redskins all that Washington can follow? They can’t follow two things, sports fans here? Because the Wizards are on to something, Tony. And I don’t mean they’re on to something because they’re not 9-20. First of all, even if they had a more mediocre record, they’re really, I think, one of the four or five most appealing teams in the entire league, in terms of the way they play, the chemistry they have on the court, the personalities. They seem to be just the nicest people. And I have now been around them for a couple of weeks over a period of time to just sort of observe, and listen and have discussion, and they are a delight the Wizards are, as opposed to the fright that is the other team.”
Wilbon was at the Verizon Center for the Wizards’ 104-96 win over the Clippers on Friday. The announced crowd was 17,437, about 3,000 shy of capacity.
“And so you mean to tell me that on a Friday night, people don’t have enough interest in the Wizards to go see them play a team that has won nine in a row — the Clippers — at the time?” Wilbon continued. “I was so angry Friday night when I saw the 4,000 empty seats or whatever it is. … I was just annoyed. The Wizards are really a terrific team. They can win the Eastern Conference. I’m not betting on that. I know they’ve lost to Toronto, they’ve lost to Cleveland. Okay, fine. This is a long season. They’re right in the mix. There are four teams, I think any one of those teams could win the East and the Wizards are one of them. And people here don’t even want to go see them because…they’re cheating on the Redskins? What is it? They can’t follow more than one thing? This is a rich area. I don’t want to hear that tickets are too much. They’re too much in every city. I was so agitated.
“I love watching the Wizards and I think they’re a great story, and this is a media story, too. Don’t tell me that the only thing worth discussing is a 3-11 team, unless you’re going to start with the firing of the incompetent head coach, who can’t design a rollout play for a quarterback even though he’s supposed to be an offensive guru. It just roiled me over the weekend. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.”
The Wizards’ average attendance through 15 home games is slightly down from last year’s final numbers, while TV ratings on Comcast SportsNet are up. General excitement about the team appears to be growing. If the Wizards remain in the hunt for a top playoff spot, one has to believe the fans will come, just as they did after the Capitals’ thrilling playoff push in 2008.
That would make Wilbon happy.
“It’s just a really cool thing to watch,” Wilbon concluded. “And somebody, dammit, ought to watch it, and not spend 24-7 in anxiety over the dog football team.”
Of course, this is hardly anything new. Three months after the Bullets brought an NBA championship to Washington in 1978, Abe Pollin told the Post’s Paul Attner that he envisioned becoming equals of the Redskins both in fan support and media coverage. That never happened.
“A lot of our fans became fans on June 7, when we won the title,” one player said. “They got on the bandwagon and they will get off it the first chance they have. This is still a Redskin town.”
(Thanks to @RFCapsMoustache)