November 5, 2017

Schedule Magnets

Last week the Wizards finished their first west coast road trip and somehow came back with sky high confidence despite going 2-2 on that trip and losing to the Los Angeles Lakers, who had no business beating the Wizards at this point in this season. That confidence was followed up by a home loss to the even-more-pathetic-than-the-Lakers Phoenix Suns; a declaration by Bradley Beal that he thinks the Wizards are the best team in the Eastern Conference; and then a another home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers who were on a four game losing streak at the hands of the Nets, Pelicans, Knicks and Pacers. Not exactly NBA royalty. I'm not happy.

Let's move on to something far less important, shall we?

An annual rite of passage every fall for me is passing through the gates of Capital One Arena (and Verizon Center before that and MCI Center before that) and being handed a schedule magnet by a Washington Wizards staffer. This year was no exception.

Once in my hands, I make sure that it's protected and doesn't get bent or broken in any way (note: this usually just means it sits on the floor under my seat during the game) all the way home when I can finally slap it on my refrigerator and use it to schedule my life for the next six months or so. Over the basketball season, it becomes a touchstone so I can remind myself when the next Wizards game is. I know that description is all very dramatic but honestly, it's totally true. This is an essential fall ritual.

By my reckoning over the 18 years I've been a Wizards season ticket holder, I have been handed exactly 16 of these things which I've used to track my beloved team's schedule throughout the season. How do I know that it's been exactly 16? Simple: I still have all of them. Call this post my tribute to one of the silliest and most useful stadium giveaways I get year after year after year after...well, you get the point. Here are all 16 with commentary from yours truly. This season's is at the top of this post and will receive no commentary other than this sentence. And the groupings on the photos have no special significance; just want them all to be semi-legible is all. Here goes.

2002-2003 / 2003-2004
I'm not exactly sure what happened in 2001 but somehow the one schedule magnet I've missed over the last 18 seasons was that year (the team didn't distribute them in 2000, or at least I don't think they did). 

The 2002-2003 season was the last year the team was caught up in what they called at that time "The Jordan Effect". If they only knew the real Jordan Effect was to put the team's development on hold for a couple of years so MJ could get in two last 37-45 runs at glory, I have to believe the whole thing would have been stopped before it started. Although, I guess it sold a lot of tickets. The schedule magnet from this year is festooned with mini-likenesses of what passed for stars back then: Michael Jordan, Doug Collins, Jerry Stackhouse, Kwame Brown, Juan Dixon, Jared Jeffries, and Brendan Haywood. I love the promotional schedule on this one. And note, TWO bobbleheads. Ahh the good old days for the promo schedules.

In contrast to the 2002-2003 season, the next year's schedule just features one player: hometown hero Juan Dixon. Yep, after Abe booted MJ out of the building at the end of the prior season, the team was all in on Juan as a ticket seller. This was the first year Gilbert Arenas was on the team. If anyone actually understood how good Gil was going to be, you can bet he'd have been on the schedule magnet instead.  These first two seasons were back in the day when the team seemed to think they needed a slogan for each season. 2002-2003 was Pride Courage Commitment Passion; 2003-2004 was Pure Energy. They would get sillier before they went away.

Well, it didn't take long for Arenas to make his way onto the magnetic schedule. Just one year after his signing, Gil is the only player on the 2004-2005 schedule. That schedule renewed the "Pure Energy" tagline with the added "Fasten Your Seatbelts" slogan. Cool stuff, right? But it was right this season. This was the first year the Wizards made it to the playoffs since they changed their name from the Bullets, the first of four in a row. The promotional schedule is also back and holy crap, there's a lot of stuff on there. Note the three bobbleheads (!!!) in addition to the three nesting dolls. Sigh...

2005-2006 / 2006-2007
After at least three years in a row with vertically formatted schedule magnets, the Wizards decided to change things up a little and go horizontal, although the overall size was exactly the same. For year two of the mid-aughts Wizards playoffs run, the team selected a brand new slogan: One Team. One Goal. They then proceeded to load the schedule up with a top strip of headshot of Jared Jeffries, Gilbert Arenas, newly acquired Caron Butler (bye, Kwame!), Brendan Haywood, Jarvis Hayes, Antonio Daniels and Antawn Jamison. They then doubled down on Gilbert Arenas and added an action shot of Agent Zero at the bottom. No promotional schedule on this one. At this point the Wizards can't seem to figure out whether then should do that or not, having one on every other year's magnetic schedule.

They followed up the next year by going back to Gilbert only, sticking with the horizontal format and bringing back the promotional schedule. Yep, it looks like there's a ton of stuff on the list that year but in a bit of foreshadowing, some of the dates have no actual giveaways or they are completely useless. They also abandoned the One Team. One Goal. slogan and switched it to Go All In. The slogan was appropriate. And it almost worked. The Wizards actually owned the best record in the East at the cutoff for determining the All-Star Game coaching staff (meaning Eddie Jordan was the East's coach) but in typical Wizards fashion the whole thing fell apart with injuries to Butler and Jamison before Arenas wrecked his knee in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats and the Wizards got swept out of the first round of the playoffs 4-0 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Arenas would never be the same again.

2007-2008 / 2008-2009
Three straight years of playoff losses, including two straight to the Cleveland Cavaliers, had the Wizards thinking they had a shot at it all in 2007-2008. The slogan that year? Ready To Rule! We've got AJ on the schedule screaming in celebration, Gil making a layup (I assume it went in) and Tough Juice looking pretty darned serious. The problem? Gil's knee wasn't right. He ended up playing 13 games that season in what was probably the grittiest team the Wiz have fielded in my 18 years of being a season ticket holder. Antawn and Caron willed the team to a playoff berth but succumbed to the Cavaliers (again) in six games in the first round of the playoffs. They were not, as it turned out, ready to rule at all. This would be as silly as the team-adopted slogans got. Yes, a few years later, Flip Saunders rolled out "Our Time" but ownership never put that one swag handed out to fans. Flip was wrong by the way. 2007-2008 was the last time (to date) the Wizards put the promotional schedule on this giveaway.

During the 2008 offseason, the team re-signed both Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas and got rid of Ready To Rule in exchange for Character Commitment Connection. They also decided no more Gil on the schedule magnet (smart...Gil played 2 games that year) and opted for AJ only. The slogan seemed really to be all about Jamison, whom Abe Pollin loved and respected second only to Wes Unseld it seems. Character, commitment and connection seemed to be all the Wiz had that year. They lost Brendan Haywood in training camp and the team floundered, going 19-63 to match their franchise worst record since moving out of Chicago in 1963.

2009-2010 / 2010-2011
To this point in my Wizards fan career, the team had been handing out schedules in a uniform size - about 8-1/2" by 5-1/2". Sometime they had square corners. Sometimes they had radiused corners. But they were always about the same size. In 2009, the team decided to go a little smaller. They cut the schedule in half and (if my memory is correct) used the other half of the standard size magnet for a Wizards logo, which you could use in conjunction or separate from the schedule part. I think mine ended up at work.

For the 2009-2010 season, the team continued it's Character Commitment Connection tagline and irony ensued. Two things notable that year happened: (1) Gilbert Arenas initiated bring your gun to work day which got him a felony charge from the District of Columbia and a rest of year suspension from the NBA and (2) the team cut bait on our players in the wake of another disappointing season.  Say goodbye to Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood. Say goodbye to character. Say goodbye to Commitment.

The next year Andray Blatche was the sole Wizard on the schedule. No slogan. Just Blatche. No further comment here. Won't give Andray Blatche any more time on this blog.

New Traditions. New team. New outlook. New logos. New uniforms. Welcome to the John Wall and Jordan Crawford years, folks. Yep, the schedules a bit shorter this season because of that (ahem!) lockout thing. Jordan Crawford did actually make it the whole season with the Wizards but didn't make it through the 2012-2013 season. The Wizards at this point have traded everyone that they put on their schedule magnets for the last six years except John Wall, who (thankfully) is still around. This schedule was the last time the Wizards issued what to this point is a standard size schedule magnet. It's a free for all size wise after this.

2012-2013 / 2013-2014
Can I just say that I love Nenê? This guy was the first piece the Wizards put in place towards getting this franchise back to respectability. And all it cost us was JaVale McGee at the 2012 trade deadline. Nenê earned his way onto these two consecutive schedule magnets along with John Wall. The first full year with Nenê got the Wizards just 29 wins. The next two after that got us into the second round of the playoffs both years. No slogan these years and so far they have not reappeared, meaning the last tagline the Wizards have used to date is "New Traditions." OK then. Still working on it, I guess unless making the second round of the playoffs is what that means. Better than what it used to be; just not exciting long term.

2014-2015 / 2015-2016
2014 was apparently the year the Wizards discovered that magnets could be produced in non-rectangular shapes. In 2014, they handed out jersey shaped schedules; the next year they went with logo-shapes or basketball-shaped schedules. Or if you are more cynical, circular, I guess. I'm all for innovation in schedule shapes and sizes but let me just say I've been keeping my stack of schedules in my 2000-2001 season tickets box that resembles a locker and the ball-shaped one doesn't fit in it which really rocked my world. The jersey is fine. I just don't like the size on the circular one. Still haven't solved this by the way a couple of years later. All these old schedules are housed in the box but the 2015-2016 one sits on top, as if I'm waiting for someone else to solve my problem for me. Don't even get me started on this year's design. There's no way that thing is fitting in the box. I have six and a half months to figure that out. Or not.

After a one year absence from the playoffs and two years messing around with non-rectangular shape schedule magnets, the Wizards made it back to the postseason and restored some normalcy to the schedule magnet geometry (yes, I know a circle is pretty normal). Nothing too exciting about this one. Simple, easy to read and devoid of players for the third straight year. 

That last part all changed this year in a big way as the team added all five starters to the magnet in hopes of a great year and maybe just maybe an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. So far there's been a lot of talk about doing that and not much effort on the court to stop the first eight opponents from scoring except in the Kings game but let's be honest, that was likely more the Kings than Wizards. Toronto is up tonight on the road; at 6 p.m. I know that because I looked on my magnetic schedule. Now I can put all these things back in their box. Go Wizards! Play defense and move the ball!

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