Ahhh…the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. One of the best days of the basketball year. There's nothing like leaving all my co-workers at work and going out for a beer with lunch followed by a matinee Wizards game knowing that the rest of the non-federal government world is at work. Sounds like something wonderful to me.
I think my first MLK Day matinee at Verizon Center (then MCI Center) was probably in January 2001, the first year I bought season tickets. I had known about the NBA's MLK Day tradition because I was home sick on the holiday one year when I worked in upstate New York. I was happy to find some live NBA hoops on TV (a Knicks game, no less) while I was snuggled on my couch nursing whatever had ailed me on that day. And I was sick, seriously, even if some of my co-workers weren't so convinced.
But it was a few years into my Wizards season ticket holder tenure that I first started to understand the possibilities of what this day could offer and since then it has become one of the best traditions in my life that I share with my friend Mike, who has held season tickets in some way with me since the 2002-2003 season. We always do the same thing year after year and this has been going on for the better part of a decade. I believe people are creatures of habit and there's no doubt on this day that I am. Yesterday was no exception to the tradition. Here's my day in pictures for MLK Day 2014.
11:49 a.m.: Free At Last
Done with work for the day after a mere four hours. Hallelejuh! I rode down in the elevator with three coworkers and made a beeline for the Clarendon Metro. Headed downtown, not to return until after a game and a few beers. My coworkers, I assume, went back for the afternoon session. Ha!!!
12:18 p.m.: Lunch at the Black Rooster, 1919 L Street NW
Grilled cheese with bacon and tomato with an Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. How can it get better than this? If you are thinking by looking at this picture that the Rooster's business was suffering due to the federal holiday yesterday, you are absolutely correct. At one point halfway through my meal there was a two to one staff to customer ratio (we were the only two customers with four staff there). We haven't always come to the Rooster for lunch before the MLK Day but we've recently been making more of an effort to get over there since our office moved out of D.C.
1:48 p.m.: Arrival at Verizon Center
The Wizards are on the court as we arrived. It looks like there is a two to one staff to customer ratio at VC just like there was at the Rooster but believe me, it filled in nicely for a 2 p.m. holiday start. The Wizards were looking to get back to a .500 record for the third time this season. Philly looked like some easy prey on a day when the Wizards have been unusually successful.
4:28 p.m.: Wizards Win!! Wizards Win!!
Just as I predicted, the Wizards stomp the Philadelphia 76ers to get back to an even record. OK, so "stomp" may be an exaggeration. We were up by 21 early in the fourth quarter and looked like we would cruise to victory. But then coach emptied the bench and the Sixers' reserves smelled blood, clawing back to an eight point margin before our starters, who had been re-inserted when the lead was cut to 12, polished off the visitors. Not a pretty win, but it counts. The Wizards are now 8-1 in their last nine MLK Day games. Boston's up next Wednesday night with a chance to finish the first half of the season with a winning record.
5:18 p.m.: Car Pool, Arlington
Before I moved to Arlington, I used to hang out at Car Pool and shoot some stick almost every Friday night. But since I moved a few blocks away, my visits are way less frequent. Over the years, Car Pool has gradually reduced the number of pool tables to what now has to be a bare minimum. I guess Skee-Ball (what adults play Skee-Ball??) and more tables for drunk patrons to rest their drinks on make more money than a pool table. I think there are fewer than eight tables here now. It had been about a year since I last played pool so I didn't feel too bad losing to Mike (who is way better than me) 3-2 this year, even if he did have a broken finger. Car Pool's one of those places that sticks in my memory as way better than the actual experience. It's just not the same now.
6:48 p.m.: Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, Ballston Mall
Nothing like a beer and some tacos in northern Virginia's crappiest mall to end MLK Day. Rock Bottom's food is not as good as it once was but it's also not as bad as it once was and besides, it's tradition by now so we had to finish the night here. I think Rock Bottom got instantly worse when they got purchased by Gordon Biersch and ditched the local beer names but they have definitely gotten a little better since they hit, well, rock bottom with their food quality about two or three years ago. And yes, the words finish the night do apply to a place we arrived at just before 7 p.m. After beer with lunch, at the game and at Car Pool, there's only so much longer I can last and Rock Bottom did me in after one beer yesterday. I was home an hour and a half later. Or maybe sooner. A little fuzzy on the details.
So that's it. MLK Day 2014 is in the books. I'm already looking forward to next year.