November 30, 2015

Happier Times

My beloved Washington Wizards are on a disastrous four game losing streak in one single week, three by blowout and one by heartbreak to the Toronto Raptors on a last second game winning shot this past Saturday. I said it two days ago and I'm saying it again: it wasn't supposed to be like this. Now Marcin Gortat is complaining about locker room negativity and pining for Nenê to spend more time on the court with him. I like Marcin a lot but if there's one thing I don't agree with about him, it's how he airs the team's dirty laundry to the press. I get that he's in some respects Randy Wittman's new whipping boy (with Seraphin leaving) and who wouldn't want to play more with Nenê (I mean he only makes everyone better…) but some stuff needs to stay behind closed doors.

It's times like these that I need some perspective and some reminders of better times. The Wizards started the season two years ago 14-14 before turning things on and making the playoffs, including a second round appearance. And just last year the Wiz were trounced by the Raptors in the regular season only to sweep them 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs at the end of the season. And here's where my self-indulgent basketball card collecting hobby helps me out this year.

Last year, Panini America, the official basketball card partner of the NBA, produced an insert set with their Hoops line of cards tracing the playoff journey of each team all the way to the NBA Finals. I loved it! Issuing an individual card for each game of the playoffs seemed like an awesome idea to me. It created a point in time souvenir for the memories of the last postseason which I could pull out and remember any time I wanted. And after Saturday's loss to the Raptors, I really needed to review these cards.

The 4-0 sweep of Toronto features two John Wall cards, a Paul Pierce card and a Marcin Gortat card, highlighting the contributions those three players made to put a quick four nails in the Raptors' coffin. Just like last year, the first round playoff card set is numbered to the year so each card is sequenced 1 through 2015. These cards take me back to everything from the game one upset, where I sat in the back of a church during a wedding getting text updates on the score from my friend Mike, to the closing 31 point blowout at Verizon Center. I love the back of the fourth card: Wizards win series 4-0!!!!! The exclamation points are mine.

Unfortunately, the Wizards did not win the NBA title last year. Spoiler alert, I know. So just like I own four cards to celebrate the first round series victory by the Wizards, I also own six cards (just like last year numbered to 999) documenting the six game second round loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the second year in a row the Wiz lost to the one seed in the Eastern Conference.

Win. Loss. Win. Looking good!
This set of cards is especially painful. There's a lot of ups and downs in here worth remembering and never forgetting: the joyous game one upset behind Bradley Beal; John Wall breaking his wrist in game two; the Wizards winning without him in game three behind Paul Pierce's game three "I called game!" shot at  the buzzer; game five's winning shot by Al Horford, whom the Wizards failed to account for (and after Paul Pierce erroneously called "series" to the Hawks' bench); and the heartbreak in game six when Pierce's game  tying three point shot was ruled too late, ending our season. That last game was a killer; I actually went to the bathroom as that shot fell so I'd be ready for overtime only to find out when I got back that the season was over.

Despite the bad stuff in there, I hope Panini America continues to issue these kinds of cards each year. I can think of no better way to remember the postseason each year. For your viewing pleasure, I'm including the fronts of all ten postseason Wizards related cards. I hope there will be some cards for the Wiz next year. Cleveland tomorrow. It doesn't get any better, folks.

Loss. Loss. Loss. Season over!

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