One of the saddest parts to the end of the 2016-2017 Washington Wizards season was the announcement that Phil Chenier would not be returning as the on air television analyst for the team along side play-by-play man Steve Buckhantz. The move was stunning. I can't name one Wizards fan out there who was in favor of this change. Even Phil didn't seem to be in favor of the move when I talked to him after his last broadcast in the second round series against Boston. I told him I wished he could stay on and he responded with a "So do I."
So what gives? Phil wants to stay. The fans want Phil to stay. I'm assuming Steve Buckhantz wants Phil to stay given the smooch on the head he laid on Phil during one of their last broadcasts together. Who the heck wants to get rid of Phil?
Well, turns out the brass at the Wizards do. Maybe they've got some ringer in mind to replace ol' 45. If they have, they are not saying right now and it (along with what ugly advertising patch is going to adorn the Wizards' unis this coming campaign) is becoming one of the great mysteries of the offseason for me.
Right after the announcement, there were some nice statements from Monumental Sports and Entertainment about Phil staying with the Monumental family and providing expertise in the studio and things like that but in my mind, we've never really received a good explanation for this move. And it's still stinging in early July even after the NBA Draft and into Summer League. It just feels like Ted Leonsis and company are putting one of the best things about the Wizards out to pasture, so to speak.
Look, I've been a Washington Wizards season ticket holder since the 2000-2001 season and these last 17 seasons as a fan for me have been tough. Very little regular season and playoff success with just a single division title (this past season) and nothing beyond the second round in the postseason. I think I've suffered for this team but I got nothing on Phil Chenier. Phil's been calling games for the Wiz since any station started broadcasting a full season on television. This was way back in 1984. That's 33 seasons!!! I can't imagine the pain he's endured watching his old team try and fail year after year and sticking with it anyway. If anyone deserves to say when enough is enough, I think it's Phil Chenier.
So it's about a month and half after the end of the Wizards second round series with the Boston Celtics and I'm at my first Mystics game of the year wandering around the 100 level concourse and lo and behold I find a brand spanking new display on the north side of Verizon Center dedicated to Phil Chenier. And I got to say something about this.
First of all, what is the story here? Was this planned for months and months or was it some sort of compensation move after Phil's departure didn't sit well with fans? I'd love to think it was the former but the initial news was broken so quietly and with so little tribute that I'm thinking there's some serious guilt trip stuff happening over at 601 F Street NW. It's probably too late to change course now (especially now they've rolled out this new piece at VC) but I'd love it if they did and I could get Phil back on the air for a few more seasons. Let him enjoy some team success for a change please.
Who knows, maybe Phil's OK with all this. I'm clearly having difficulty adjusting. In my 17 years in the D.C. area, I've never heard anyone call Wizards games on a regular basis other than Buck and Phil. I love Dave Johnson as much as the next guy and I listen to Dave during the preseason when CSN is broadcasting another team's feed but during the regular season (and to avoid the annoying time delay between radio and television) I'm a Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier guy. Always have been but now I'm forced to make a change. And I'm not particularly happy about it. I'll get over it, but I don't have to like it.
When the Wizards tip off again this fall, stop by the concourse outside Section 112 and check out the tribute to Phil Chenier. I assume it will stick and is not some sort of rotating display through various Wizards alumni or something like that. If there's a guy that deserves this sort of a tribute, it's Phil. And it's nice. It's well done. It's professional. It's polished. There are Chenier model Nikes in there (who knew there was such a thing?). And above all, it's well deserved. If anyone has earned a tribute like this it's Phil. I'd just rather have the real thing.