Wow. I won’t lie. Just writing that headline made me a bit emotional. However, I think the writing was on the wall for an event like this. The fact that it happened is an immense step toward equality and progress in our great land.
While in women’s professional sports this is technically not as big of a deal, in the men’s sporting world, it is a different story. The four major leagues all are generally known for rampant homophobia, masculinity, and a fairly hostile environment for men who don’t fit the norm.
Retired male professional athletes have come and told the world they are gay — but this is the first time an active player has done so.
When you live in a place like Borderstan where gay and straight people live openly and easily together, it is easy to forget that we live in a bubble. A very nice bubble, of course, but a bubble. Collins made more than sports history yesterday. He made history for all of us.
Jason Collins is no All Star, but he is considered a “pros’ pro,” which means a team player, the guy who works hard and someone who everyone respects. Many great players have battled along side Jason. With his story out there, I am hoping a lot of his old teammates rethink their own views and perhaps take a stand for LGBT rights — especially in men’s professional sports.
There has been no immediate fallout except praise and understanding. Fellow athletes (including Kobe Bryant) have come out in support. Others have not. I know that in my younger days a team locker room would have been a rough place for Jason’s courage. It is my wish that my children won’t grow up in the same world, thanks to heroes like Collins.
This is a story of immense courage and risk, and hopefully it inspires others to not make a leap of faith, but to feel comfortable in knowing the world will love you equally for scoring a touchdown or loving who you choose to love.
It is quite an honor for Washington to be one of the dozen U.S. cities to host a team from all four major professional sports leagues. (Yes, it’s five if you count fútbol.) One might think that it would make the District a non-stop flow of great games, huge personalities and quality contests. However, as I have mentioned before in previous posts, this is not the case — and actually, in some instances, the professional team situation is downright ugly.
Last week I saw the face of this backward trend and its name is the Washington Wizards. But even though the team has yet to win a game, there are reasons to head down to the Verizon Center — bear with me, I’ll lead you there.
The Wizards of Chinatown
The Wizards of Chinatown (they play in the Verizon Center, along with the Capitals) are currently winless in this lockout-shortened season — and their prospects of winning aren’t great. It’s really a shame, too, because back in the day, the Washington Bullets were a respectable team that competed hard and didn’t fly with the trends.
Then a massive crime wave hit DC in the ’80s and ’90s — coupled with some losing seasons — and the Bullets hit the restart button by having a fan contest to rename the team. Due to the increasing wizard population in Chinatown, it was an obvious choice. The last decade saw some decent teams and some quality scandals — but not much overall progress in winning games.
Because I am just a coach’s son and not the general manager of an NBA team, I will keep my player/personal thoughts to myself. (But, frankly, any team that did this deserves a kick in the pants).
Last Friday my girlfriend and I went to see for ourselves (Thanks Levines!). The Wizards played the high-scoring New York Knicks and, frankly, just gave the W away. Here is what I saw.
Basketball is about players, not cheerleaders. It is common for pro, and even college teams, to have elaborate lineup introductions that are sometimes accompanied by a video of the team’s and franchise’s highlights. It is meant to pump up the home crowd and get everyone in a frenzy.
The Wizards are young and don’t exactly have many highlights or big name superstars (except last year’s No. 1 draft pick, John Wall) so they look for motivation elsewhere. By elsewhere I mean that their intro video consists of mostly clips of practice footage, offseason free agent signings and their cheerleaders. I was chuckling more than I was excited for Wizards hoops.
Stand until we score. The Wizards encourage this of their fans when the game starts. I love fan interaction, especially in college hoops when stadiums are buzzing before tipoff — but this was just annoying. I sat and fans in front of me blocked my view. I just don’t see the point here.
Halftime, finally. Hands down, the most entertaining halftime show I have ever seen. Why? Well, her name is Krystal Liu and she is part of the Red Panda Arcrobats and until I see another woman on a unicycle flip bowls onto her head from her foot, this act will have the title. I only wish they performed at every Wizards game.
So, Why Go?
Besides Red Panda, why should you spend money to see a Wizards game? First, it’s easy to get there: the arena is right on the Metro Red, Green and Yellow Lines. Second, teams with better players come often. Third, the fans who show up are are obviously well aware of the team’s mediocrity, so the atmosphere is laid back.
Unless the Wizards are playing the Heat, Mavs, Lakers, Thunder or Celtics, it may not be worth the hefty price for an upper deck seat. But basketball is basketball. Who knows? Maybe this short season will bring me back to the NBA fold. Until then, we are just three short months from college hoops’ March Madness.
Thought of the Day
Where does the money go that DC saved for snow removal this year if we don’t use it?
Links! Links! Ice Cold Links!
Hello, Borderstan! How ya been? Sorry I’ve been gone for a bit, but in the last month my travels have taken me to New York City, Kiev, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Newark and St. Louis for a wedding, business and plenty of fun along the way. I can only imagine you have been lost in the sports world (as there has been plenty of nonsense) but I am back and ready to get back in District activities.
Lets just do a very quick run down of where we are in mid-November in the never-ending cycle of pro and college athletics. Forget the NBA, it ain’t happening. College football got upended by the neglect of human decency in Pennsylvania and still won’t have playoffs, so forget that.
College hoops started on an aircraft carrier and will get competitive post-Thanksgiving (articles to come on local teams). NFL at midseason and yes, as I predicted, the ‘Skins are just plain bad. For the hardcore, tennis is at the end with its Top 8, but Novak has #1 locked up so nothing much brewing there. So where does that leave us? Yes you guessed it… hockey!
As it turns out, DC happens to have a well-established and pretty good professional hockey team, the Washington Capitals. Not a grand history of winning — in the last decade or so the Caps have had some great seasons, but fallen short in the playoffs. The team is loaded with talent including one of the best personalities in sports, Alex Ovechkin.
The Caps play at the Verizon Center in Chinatown and last weekend my girlfriend took me to see the Caps play my home town team NJ Devils (I happen to be a NY Rangers fan) and we had a great time. So here are a few of my thoughts on the game and why we all need to become hockey fans soon, if we are going to make it without NBA this winter.
Let’s Go Caps! Now I only have 3/4 teams to judge (never been to Redskins game) but this is easily the most passionate fan base in D.C. I have seen. Not only did around 60 to 70% of attending fans have on hockey jerseys (not cheap), but they all they knew the cheers and as they say “Rock the Red.” Wizards fan are happy when their players don’t bring firearms to the arena and don’t even get me started on Nats fans (the ones that at least stay for the whole game). Caps fans were in every play from start to finish. Impressive.
The View. The nice part of basketball/hockey arenas is that if you are in the upper deck, you can still clearly see the action. I was about 5 rows from the ceiling but I saw every shot and lots of great hits. Sadly no fights.
Game Soundtrack. Say what you want about the links between the nationality and backgrounds of pro athletes, but hockey games are all about heavy rock music. Sure there are some Top 40 thrown in there, but these games revolve around rock and heavy doses of guitar. In my book, this leads to excitement and head bobbing.
Overall, I had a pretty great Saturday night watching the Caps lose a tight one in a shootout. The food was pricey, as was the beer ($8) but what pro stadium isn’t. The NHL missed a whole season a few years back and the sport is much stronger for it. Let’s hope the NBA gets the picture, but until then, we should be like our neighbors to the north and wish we could ride a Zamboni around (I know I do).
Also, just want to welcome the many new and great new writers added to Borderstan in the last few weeks. This is a step in the right direction and will mean better coverage of this small slice of DC we call NW.
Thought of the Week
I have an iPhone now. My life is only sorta better…
Links! Links! Ice Cold Links!
From Scott Leibowitz. Find Scott on Twitter @Lebodome.
Of course the economy isn’t fixed yet; if it were, the NBA and NFL wouldn’t be in lockouts.
After watching President Obama‘s latest press conference on the budget negotiations, I had a thought that hit me like a linebacker sacking a blind-sided quaterback (one of my favorite hits in the game):
the current NBA and NFL lockouts are linked to our federal economy. All of these lockouts and struggles are no coincidence… America needs its football (and hoops) for our economy’s sake.
What is exactly going on? I am not an expert or lawyer so my next two paragraphs are loaded with links explaining both…