Alternatively, you could become a Wizards fan.
This season ceased to be fun several eons ago, but last night offered a spiritual touchstone with the official news that the Wizards would not reach 50 wins. For, yes, that’s right, the 40th straight season. Every other NBA franchise has won 50 games at least once since then, according to The Post’s Jake Russell. More than half the teams have won 50 games at least nine times since then. The Spurs have done it 26 times. That means the Wizards could win 50 games every single season for the next 25 years — taking them into the final year of President Trump’s seventh term — and the Spurs could lose every single game between now and then, and San Antonio would still have more 50-win seasons than Washington over a 65-year stretch.
That, friends, is pain, of the poisoned-Sriracha-in-an-envelope-paper-cut variety.
“I got into basketball to distract myself from the mundane cruelty of the human condition,” someone responded after last night’s 33rd loss went into the books. “The Wizards force me to confront it and find my own peace every single day.”
Look, some of this is overwrought for dramatic purposes. It’s not like the Wizards have had three consecutive transcendent franchise point guards brought low at the peak of their careers by repeated leg injuries. (It’s only happened two consecutive times.) It’s not like they have the NBA’s worst overall record over those 40 seasons. (With a cumulative winning percentage of .429, they’re actually 26th of 30 NBA franchises in that span.) And it’s not like this has been one unchanging stagnant slog; the franchise has switched names, colors (twice), uniforms (more than twice), arenas, owners and municipalities.
(They’ve even switched GMs, if you can believe that. I wasn’t sure that was technically allowed. They must have gotten a one-time exemption.)
But 50 wins has remained out of reach, even as the team annually anoints that number as a worthy goal, a sign of progress, a nice round mark of hope.
“The last three years, if everybody’s healthy, we would have been near 50 wins each season,” GM Bob Ferry said in 1987.
“I think we should be out front that we want to win 50 games this season,” Chris Webber said in 1997.
“At the beginning of the season I said, ‘This is a 50-win team,’ ” Harvey Grant said in 1998.
“To me, anything less than 50 wins would be a disappointment,” Antawn Jamison said in 2006.
“I really do believe we can win 50 games with this team,” Marcin Gortat said in 2013.
“Fifty wins is an audacious goal,” Ted Leonsis said in 2014.
“Our ultimate goal is to try to get 50,” John Wall said in 2015.
The last time this franchise won 50 games, the next day’s Post advertised an increase in the cost of daily delivery to $1.55 a week! Now one day’s paper will cost you $2 and the Sunday paper $3.50, although you also get like $316 worth of coupons, assuming you use every last shred of paper, including the ones advertising $4 off at Boston Market, and oh no don’t remind me. Oh, right: The Wizards only became the Wizards via a naming poll conducted at a chicken restaurant almost exactly midway through this streak. (Be glad I chose the chicken restaurant over the antifungal coupons. Although those seemed like a really good deal.)
People complain about the Redskins not winning 11 games since 1991, and justifiably so. But a 10-6 NFL season actually represents a better winning percentage than 49-33, the best the Wizards have managed in 40 years. And the Redskins have been 10-6 three times under Dan Snyder alone! Should Wizards fans actually be jealous of the Redskins? The very idea seems impossible, like being jealous of MoviePass investors, but the numbers are right there.
(By the way, it’s come to my attention that my forever-hero Tony Kornheiser recently accused me of “slurping” John Wall “like nobody ever slurped an athlete in history.” Here’s my response: In his prime there was indeed something thrilling about Wall, some captivating combination of the unexpected and the brilliant, a master thoroughly in charge of his craft. As he’s aged, though, his attitude has only increased while the creativity faded; he doesn’t always seem like he cares, and so both the effort and the product sometimes feel like an afterthought to his riches and his reputation. To an admirer, it’s kind of sad. There’s probably a metaphor there. But it eludes me.)
“There are many types of pain in rooting for a team, but the Wizards’ is that they peak at a little above average,” someone wrote in Thomas Boswell’s chat this week. “Their peak season was worse than every other franchise’s peak season for the past 40 years.”
“Here’s what’s really sad. Who says that tanking would even help the Wiz?” Boz responded. “In effect, they have been tanking for most of the last 40 years!”
There have been good times over the last five years, fun moments, playoff near-misses. If the Wizards won 50 games and then lost in the first or second round of the playoffs, their critics wouldn't actually feel that much better. That 50-game mark is ceremonial, like a 15-year college reunion: an excuse to feel good, to pat some backs, to rediscover the joys of Natural Light, but not terribly different from 49 wins (or 14 years).
But the team keeps talking about it. And the team keeps falling short, often disturbingly so.
“After that [first win],” Randy Foye said in 2010, “we looked at each other and said, ‘Yeah, what everybody is predicting about us might be right.’ Fifty-win season and things like that.”
The Wizards won 26 games that season. They’re already at 24 this season. So I guess things could be worse.
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