Last year, the Washington Wizards won a second round playoff game for the first time since 1982. Public confidence in the team was sky high. They had just beaten the Chicago Bulls 4-1 in round one and had taken game one in Indiana from the top seeded Indiana Pacers. Fans I didn't even know were Wizards fans were seemingly everywhere. I had requests from people to buy in to the presales for season ticket holders where upper deck tickets against the Pacers were selling for over $100 as a discounted price. The secondary market was exploding. Everyone wanted in. And I'm sure the team sold a ton of season tickets. Finally, the Wizards were popular. Surely this would carry over into this season and beyond, right?
Wrong. The Wizards managed only 63 points in game three at Verizon Center against the Pacers and the whole thing came tumbling down. The secondary market dried up. My friends who were so eager to pay more than $100 for those upper deck seats could have bought better seats for way less than they paid. Game six, which turned out to be the Wizards' elimination game, didn't even sell out. Are you kidding me? A major professional sports franchise in a city where playoff games are few and far between can't sell out a game? Wow!
This season I attended 41 Wizards games during the regular season: 39 at Verizon Center and two on the road in Toronto and Miami. I've attended all three home playoff games so far and I'm going tonight. I structure significant parts of my life around this team and I love that after 15 years of doing this year in year out, my team is finally in the second round of the playoffs in consecutive years. This is significant. In watching the playoff contests in the Eastern Conference, I can't believe the Wizards don't stand as good a chance as any team of coming out of the East, even without John Wall if he can't make it back this postseason. I'm serious. Who looks really scary on our half of the bracket?
So given all that enthusiasm from this long time fan and considering how crazy things got during the playoffs last year when the team was ahead, Wizards fever must be at an all time high, right?
Cheapest ticket on Stubhub to Braves-Nats regular season game today-$36-cheapest to Wizards second round playoff game-$39— Nick Bilka (@nbilka) May 9, 2015
Wrong again. I get that the Atlanta Hawks are not the most glamorous opponent but the secondary market for Wizards tickets is really flat, like totally down. If you wanted to make a last minute decision and head to tonight's game, you could have bought pretty decent upper deck tickets for less than $50 this morning. That's cheaper than the season ticket holder additional tickets discount price, even with all the Ticketmaster taxes and fees added to the price. I know this by the way because I bought some additional tickets for game three and ended up selling them at a loss.
I understand how deflating John Wall's injury is but come on, people, let's go out there and support our team. In round one, the support from the Verizon Center crowd was absolutely pathetic. There were times you could hear chants of "Let's go Raptors!" quite clearly in the building. Let's go Raptors?? Are you kidding me? This is not a popular franchise from north of the border, folks. We had them outnumbered at least 20-1 in my estimate and the only thing we could do is boo loudly while our guys were bringing the ball up court to drown out the opposition's chants. Not much of a home court advantage there.
I don't expect Hawks fans to be at tonight's game in any sort of numbers. I guess it's sad for the Hawks that their fans travel poorer than a franchise (Toronto) that has won only one postseason series in its history. And to be a little fair to our crowd on Saturday night, there was a lot of noise being made and I didn't hear any boos when the Hawks closed a 21 point gap to zero with about 14 seconds remaining. But tonight the Wizards are giving tickets away for people who will permit their head to be shaved before the game. This is a playoff game! Tickets aren't supposed to be free!
Now I get that this lack of popular support is as much the Wizards' doing as anything else. The team hasn't won anything in 36 years so it's understandable that about two generations of Washingtonians have grown up not caring about the Bullets / Wizards. If we actually make it through this round, we'll end up playing either the Chicago Bulls or the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. I guarantee those games will be sold out because both those teams have significant fan bases. We'll end up with "Let's go Bulls" or "Let's go Cavs" chants at Verizon Center during that series for sure.
This year's Wizards are exciting to watch and they win. Maybe not enough for some folks (especially all the Randy Wittman critics out there) in the regular season but the playoffs are what matter aren't they? Look I know I'm preaching to the handful of die hard Wizards fans out there when I say that the entire city should be behind this team. We shouldn't be in a spot where the playoff tickets for this team are about the same price as tickets to see the Washington Nationals play the Atlanta Braves. Not in May. No way. If the city of Washington can't turn out to see this team play this week and hopefully beyond, then maybe the city just doesn't deserve this team. Either that or long time season ticket holders like me really do deserve this and so much more. Go Wizards! Let's make it 3-1 tonight.