January 30, 2014


For the first time since 2008, the Washington Wizards have a player playing in the All-Star game. Not the skills challenge or the three point contest or the dunk contest. The All-Star game. The main event on Sunday. The starters, selected by fan voting (which explains Kyrie Irving starting for the Eastern Conference), were announced last Thursday. Today the reserves, selected by the coaches, were announced and John Wall was among the additional seven in the East selected to participate. John is the first Wizards player to appear in the game since Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison in 2008. 2008 was the fourth consecutive game to feature at least one player from our local five.

I hesitate to call John's selection a sure thing, because I don't think any success for the Wizards is a sure thing, but every writer's list I saw prior to today's announcement had John representing the East on February 16. It is surely well deserved. Not only is the team playing better, but John is showing the ability to make his teammates better. Maybe it's just in its infancy (he would, after all, be a rookie if he had stayed in school four years) but he's finally showing this year the ability to be a perennial All-Star in this league. He's clearly the most important player on a squad that is much improved this season. The numbers speak for themselves.
  • Points Per Game: 19.8 (18th in NBA / 7th in Eastern Conference / Career High)
  • Assists Per Game: 8.5 (4th in NBA / 1st in Eastern Conference / Career High)
  • Steals Per Game: 1.93 (5th in NBA / 3rd in Eastern Conference / Career High)
  • Three Point FG Made: 102 (More then first three years in league combined)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: 32.5% (Career High)
  • Free Throw Attempts: 245 (17th in NBA / 6th in Eastern Conference)
  • Free Throw Percentage: 84.1% (26th in NBA / 8th in Eastern Conference / Career High)
  • Team Record: 22-23 (6th in Eastern Conference)
To be in the top 10 in five significant statistical categories is really pretty outstanding I think, even if the Eastern Conference this year is not stocked with ringers (the numbers above reflect the disparity between the two conferences). To do all that while also having the Wizards in playoff position is also pretty important. Yes, even this year in the Eastern Conference and John is clearly the guy who makes this team go. And for those of you scoffing at the 32.5% three point percentage, consider that John shot 7.1% two years ago. That's a fourfold improvement.

I typically do not watch the All-Star game. In fact I usually take care to NOT watch it. Even when Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison made their multiple appearances in the mid-season showcase, I didn't tune in for the whole thing. Our guys just didn't get much floor time. The last time I watched anything associated with All-Star weekend was JaVale McGee getting robbed in the dunk contest by Blake Griffin in 2011 (actually he got robbed by fan votes - see my note about Kyrie Irving above). But this year, I'll be reserving a little time on Sunday and hoping John shows the entire country what kind of a spectacular player he is since he never gets any national TV exposure. Congratulations, John!

And, yes, I did vote for John to be a starter.

January 22, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

Flying over the snow covered fields somewhere over Minnesota.
During the 2008-2009 NBA season, I managed to make it to every home game the Wizards played. It was the first and only time I have been at Verizon Center for all 41 home games and at the end of the season that year I felt like I had done my part as a fan to do right by the team. It would have been nice if the team had reciprocated and did its part to win more than they lost but that didn’t happen. For my dedicated fan efforts that year, I was rewarded with a team that finished with only 19 wins against 63 losses, tying the fewest wins in a season the team has had since I have been a season ticket holder in 2000.

Every year since then (and some before then), I have made perfect attendance a goal for the season and each year I have every intention of following through on that promise. I usually come awfully close. Last year I missed two games: one so I could spend the Christmas holiday with my family and one at end of the year against the Miami Heat when the allure of selling our tickets to make a couple of bucks overwhelmed the need to see part of what ended up being a season ending six game Wizards losing streak. I came super close two years ago, making it to the first 40 before skipping the final game for something that I deemed more important at the time. Stupid life…always getting in the way.

This year looked to be a slam dunk (pun intended). The Wizards were essentially on vacation courtesy of the NBA’s schedule makers around the Christmas holiday, which is the one true annual threat to me making it to every game. All I had to seemingly do was avoid getting deathly ill on the day of a home game and I’d fulfill my goal. I’m generally a pretty healthy guy plus I’d go downtown if I were a little under the weather in a second to watch hoops. The only real risk I saw came on December 14 when I squeezed in a quick trip to Iceland between home games that month. Eight hours before tipoff against the Clippers, I was sitting in the Reykjavik airport but I did manage to make it to Verizon Center for the end of the third quarter to watch the final stanza of the thumping the Clips gave us that night.

Target Center, home of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But despite my best efforts and the sure thing it seemed, I am not going to make it to every home game this year. I managed to let my employer send me to Minneapolis yesterday and so I missed tonight’s Wizards-Celtics game that saw the Wizards fail to crack the .500 barrier for the fourth time this year at home against a Celtics team without their two starting guards and their top backcourt reserve. Pathetic. This was the Wizards’ fourth try at a winning record this season and they still couldn't get over the hump; the previous three tries ended in home losses to Milwaukee (not a typo), Dallas and Detroit. The next seven games feature contests against five of the top six teams in the Western Conference. I have a feeling we’re not going to get over .500 anytime soon.
I don’t mind traveling to Minnesota once in a while, although I’d rather not do it January (the temperature was minus 11 when I landed yesterday morning) and if I can manage to get sent here during a Timberwolves homestand, I’d love to take in another game at the Target Center. My company and the Wolves’ road schedule did me no favors this time.
But despite being far from home, I thought I had found a silver lining in the "this week only" free trial of NBA League Pass which allowed me to hunker down against the cold in my hotel room and watch the Wizards’ game tonight on my laptop. If only the Wizards could have taken this game seriously from the start instead of spotting the Cs an 18 point lead in the first half. I love technology, but maybe not tonight when the Wizards are losing to a clearly inferior team. Back in D.C. Thursday. Too bad the Wiz are on the road.

Doubletree Hotel Room 506, Minneapolis, MN

January 21, 2014

My MLK Day Tradition

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.

January 20, 2014

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Three out of every four years on this day, I take a half day off work to watch the Washington Wizards play basketball on a Monday afternoon at the Verizon Center. It has become one of my favorite days of the year ever since I realized there was a home game almost yearly on the holiday. I love leaving work early; grabbing a beer with lunch while everyone around me drinks soda or water or whatever else it is that doesn't have alcohol in it; and spending time watching the Wizards play a matinee. I can't wait until noon.

The Wizards have been remarkably successful on MLK day. They have actually won seven of their last eight home games on the third Monday in January dating back to 2003. The only loss in that span was against the Houston Rockets in 2012. That's one of only two home losses on this day since I have been a season ticket holder. If only every game day were that successful. And if you are wondering about the three out of every four years thing, the fourth year is the presidential inauguration, so the Wizards get sent out of town that day.

The NBA schedules matinee games on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday deliberately to remind us of Dr. King's importance to the history of our country. It was Dr. King who was the most visible face of the Civil Rights Movement that sought to end racial segregation and discrimination against black Americans. The NBA makes an effort to make sure that the games today are most always scheduled in cities which have some significance on this day: Washington, New York, Oakland, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Memphis. Memphis of course is the most poignant, being home to the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

Of course, this day is not really about the NBA at all; it just happens to have a bunch of ballgames played on it and the league and the players do their part to remind us of the importance of this day. It is truly astonishing to think that a little more than 50 years ago black citizens of this country were not allowed to ride the same buses, sit at the same lunch counters or drink from the same water fountains as white Americans. It boggles the mind. If Dr. King and his contemporaries hadn't changed the way the United States thinks about racial equality, our country might be substantially similar to the way it was before 1955, which is generally acknowledged as the start of the Civil Rights Movement. Chilling.

2014 is the first year that NBA basketball will be played on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday since I started this blog and I think it's appropriate to spend some time on a post that has something to do with Dr. King. So last weekend, I made my first trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall to spend a few minutes remembering what Dr. King contributed to change the face of our nation.

Geographically, the Memorial is in West Potomac Park along Independence Avenue, situated about halfway between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials on the Tidal Basin facing the Jefferson. In relation to other memorials that dot the National Mall, it sits a bit north of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and immediately south of the D.C. War Memorial. It's not exactly in a part of the Mall which gets a ton of foot traffic and since it was a bit chilly last Sunday morning, I chose to drive, finding parking just across from the Memorial's south entrance.

The concept of the Memorial is based on one of Dr. King's quotes from 1963, which reads:
"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the south with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope."
The Memorial is a very literal manifestation of that quote, with a white granite Stone of Hope removed some forty feet or so southeast of a Mountain of Despair. The two shapes I suppose could fit together if you picked the Stone of Hope and dropped it between the two halves of the Mountain of Despair. Dr. King's stoic and resolute likeness emerges from the front side of the Stone of Hope looking east toward the Jefferson Memorial, arms folded with a scroll of paper in his left hand. Arrayed to either side of the Mountain of Despair are curved buffed grey granite walls which taper to the ground as they leave the center of the Memorial. The walls each feature inscriptions of Dr. King's quotes with the year and location of the quote, if applicable.

Overall, I think the Memorial provides an appropriate remembrance for someone who led a movement to eradicate the stain of racial segregation from the American consciousness. It's in an important spot on the mall and while perhaps not the most imaginative of memorials (we seem to be stuck in a bit of a rut in D.C. when it comes to memorial design), it is well executed and goes a long way to memorializing something we should not soon forget. I am not suggesting by writing this that we are all the way to racial harmony or even tolerance in this country, but we are a heck of a lot closer than we were 50 years ago.

The Memorial is filled with sometimes obvious symbolism beyond the quote on which it is based. According to the National Park Service's website, the detachment of the Stone of Hope from the Mountain of Despair symbolizes victory borne from disappointment. The Stone of Hope also represents the steadfast resolve of an entire generation to achieve a fair and honest society. This last point may be a bit of stretch. If an entire generation believed in the Civil Rights Movement from the beginning, change might have come more quickly.

One of the intents of the siting and design of the Memorial was to allow the Jefferson Memorial to be seen from behind the Mountain of Despair to establish a connection with Jefferson to reflect the principles of freedom and liberty which founded the nation. No doubt Thomas Jefferson did something extraordinary through his participation in establishing the principles behind our government but I do find it ironic that Jefferson himself was a slave owner and he wasn't really considering ALL of mankind when he wrote "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence. I do like to hope that Jefferson would have supported the Civil Rights Movement in what was undoubtedly a more enlightened time than the 1770s.

At 2 p.m. today, I'll be sitting in my lower level seats in Verizon Center waiting for the Wizards to pound the Philadelphia 76ers into submission. I have never in my life been a victim of racial discrimination. Why would I have, really? I have been in the racial majority in both countries that I have lived in. As such I really have no concept of what life in a segregated society is like, especially being part of the minority that is forcibly segregated. But for my part, I hope I try every day to understand the work that has been done and the work that is still left to be done to break down racial barriers. If nothing else, the issue is front and center in my thoughts on this day. Go Wizards!

January 12, 2014


Last night the Washington Wizards dropped their fourth consecutive home game of 2014, this time to the Houston Rockets 114-107. Last night's game was perhaps the most thrilling game I have seen at Verizon Center this NBA season, but I left the building embarrassed for our team and our organization on what was perhaps one of Kevin Seraphin's best nights as a Wizard and for sure one of Marcin Gortat's worst.

The first period last night was played to a draw at 29-29 so there were early indications this might be a high scoring affair as opposed to Friday night's game in Indiana which was also tied after one but at 18-18. But after the first, the Wizards came out empty in the second and the first half of the third periods, getting down by 25 at one point after the halftime break. There's honestly no excuse for this team coming out after a competitive opening period and taking 18 minutes off, especially since that's the exact reason why they lost against Dallas, Toronto and Golden State in our prior three 2014 home games. Each of those games was competitive for three quarters but the difference in each game was the quarter that the home team just didn't show up.

Of all our players on the court last night, it looked like Marcin Gortat was the most lost, scoring five points, snagging three rebounds and committing four personal fouls in just less than 20 minutes. It looked like he had no ability to stop Rockets' center Dwight Howard, who just backed Gortat down to the basket each possession. He ended the game with a minus 21 plus/minus rating, meaning the Rockets outscored the Wizards by 21 when he was on the court and didn't play a minute in the last quarter. Bradley Beal actually had a worse plus/minus rating last night, but at least he managed 13 points and is likely not 100% healthy.

After digging themselves a huge hole, I guess the team felt it was better to make some effort than completely roll over and so in the last half of the third quarter and the first half of the fourth, we witnessed one of the greatest Wizards comebacks I can ever remember, launching a 34-7 run to change a 90-68 Rockets lead into a 102-97 Wizards one. For a team that was utterly defeated to do this speaks volumes about this team's ability and inclination to play this way (one is good; the other isn't). I've called for the Wizards to play 48 minutes each and every game several times in this blog this season. I just don't understand why they don't get it and come prepared every night to not take a minute off. 

Kevin Seraphin played just less than 23 minutes last night but went 8-13 from the field en route to scoring 18 points and bothering Houston's big men, including Howard, with his defense effectively enough to swing the game back our way. Only four Wizards finished with a positive plus/minus last night: Seraphin (+14), Martell Webster (+19), John Wall (+1) and Nenê (+11). Seraphin's performance stood out more than anyone else's, although it certainly wasn't a solo effort.

Unfortunately, the euphoria of getting up by five, which had me high fiving every Wizards fan I could find within reach two rows behind me, wore off fast as the Rockets scored the next 10 and killed our rally and our hopes for a home W in the new year. Still searching and Miami's up next. Not looking good.

The Wizards second quarter effort, immediate post-halftime effort and their failure to put the Rockets away was extremely disappointing. One day this team has to get that effort is required every minute. Too many games are getting away from them due to poor execution. There is nobody on this team good enough yet to make up for 12 minute collective lapses in concentration. 

But as disappointed as I was with the team's effort last night, that's not what had me leaving the building embarrassed. I left my seat in Section 415 last night for good at 10:28 p.m. with less than 15 seconds of game time remaining. I know what you are thinking: 10:28 is pretty late, right? Right! Must have been an 8 p.m. start, right? Wrong! Double overtime game, that would have done it, right? Well that's true, but this game ended in regulation. No extra periods last night.

The game last night let out about 75 minutes later than it should for one reason and one reason alone: the roof was leaking. With nine seconds gone in the second quarter, one of the officials noted water on the court near the scorer's table and pointed upwards, as if to indicate that water was dripping from above. All this is pretty difficult to see from the upper deck but people pointing up at the underside of the roof and then bringing out towels followed by buckets is a pretty sure indicator that the roof is leaking. While that explanation was never offered to the crowd, sure enough that's what happened. 

Somehow, someway 35 minutes later, after teams of people were scrambling about on the catwalks above the court, the leaking stopped and play resumed. Well, it stopped until just after halftime, when there was another 22 minute delay for more leaking. Now admittedly it was raining yesterday but roofs in NBA arenas just can't leak. They just can't. No matter what. That sort of thing just isn't going to sit well with anyone in the league all the way up to the commissioner including, I am sure, Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis.

This is not the first time there has been water dripping from above this NBA season at Verizon Center. Earlier this season, I believe it was a December 6 game against Milwaukee, water was dripping on the center court side of the aisle that divides Sections 109 and 110 so much that the staff actually relocated a number of patrons who were being dripped on. It had been raining that day if my memory is correct in a similar fashion to the weather yesterday.

Now, as an architect, I realize that water dripping from above does not always mean a roof leak. I also realize that if it is a roof leak, the actual location where water is entering the building may be a lot different than where the roof membrane is compromised. But clearly there's a problem. Having to stop a game not once but twice due to water dripping on the court means something is seriously wrong and needs some immediate attention. And who knows, maybe after the game earlier this season, the staff at Verizon Center has been all over this issue.

But if they haven't, they need to get on it. Fast. The Wizards have enough public relations issues due to the history of wins and losses over the past 35 or so years. We can't have water dripping in our building causing more negative perceptions. We need to get this fixed immediately because it's embarrassing. I've sat through some pretty horrendous Wizards losses the last 14 years but I've never been more embarrassed for the team and the organization than I was last night.

January 8, 2014


The new year is here and the Washington Wizards 2014 campaign is off to a miserable start.  A three game home losing streak to start the year brought our home record this season down to an unimpressive 7-8 total. Admittedly, all three losses were to teams whose records are not only above .500 but are also good enough to make the playoffs in each of their respective conferences. But we shouldn't be losing this much at home and the way we lost each game just stung too much.

New Year's morning I woke up with my Wizards as a 14-14 squad, a non-losing record on January 1 for the first time since 2008 and the second realistic chance to have a winning record this season other than opening day (the last time, we ended up losing at home to Milwaukee, owners of the worst record in the league). The first three quarters looked pretty good as the Wizards clung to a 61-59 lead over the Dallas Mavericks. One more quarter slightly ahead of the opposition would have sent us to a winning record. But then we stopped scoring and got blown out by 11 in the fourth en route to our 15th loss of the season. Another blown chance.

In the next two games, against the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors, the Wizards also started strong, trailing by just three at the half to the Raptors and salvaging a tie at the midpoint of the game with the Warriors who came into Verizon Center winners of eight straight. But in the third quarter in both games we just quit, getting outscored by 20 vs. Toronto and by 19 against Golden State and we ended up losing both games badly. In those first three games, we outscored our opponents by two, seven and three in three of the four quarters of each game. Unfortunately, the games are 48 minutes long so the remaining quarter of these three games, where we lost by 50, means we ended our mini-home stand 0-3.

If I'm searching for a bright spot in the home schedule so far in 2014 (and as a Wizards fan, I do a lot of bright spot searching), at least I've drank and eaten well at the last two games for free. In fact, I've done that a number of times in the first half of this season. Let me explain. After all, there's nothing like free beer to drown your sorrows in the midst of a scoring drought that's dooming the team you love to another L.

Entrance to the Dewars Coaches Club at the east end of the arena.
If you have ever sat in the lower level of Verizon Center during a Wizards game, especially on the north side of the building, you may have noticed people walking into and out of the two tunnels at either end of the arena opposite the tunnels that the players use to get to the locker rooms. And if you have watched closely, you would surely have seen those same people exiting those tunnels with plates of food or cups of wine or beer. That's because at either end of the arena there are exclusive VIP clubs (the Dewars Coaches Club at the east end of the building and the Courtside Club at the west end of the building) where they serve food and drinks for free, providing you can get in.

Access to the two clubs is typically purchased with your season tickets. Pretty much everyone inside the hockey boards has access to the complimentary grub and booze nightly. In the past few years, we've been able to take advantage of these clubs about once a year courtesy of our Wizards account representative who has been able to get us in either all game or before the game as a gesture of goodwill or as an opportunity to try to sell us on some higher priced seats. And while our seats don't come with VIP access, the location of our seats is perfect for accessing the Dewars Coaches Club, only five rows back on the first aisle; we can get from our seats to the club in about two minutes.

But this year access to the VIP areas has improved immeasurably and it's become one of the best, if not the best, benefits we have ever had as Wizards season ticket holders (other than a winning team that is). This year, Monumental Sports, which owns the Wizards along with the WNBA's Mystics and the NHL's Capitals, started a program called Monumental Rewards, a points based rewards system which allows you as a season ticket holder to customize the benefits of your account by redeeming points for the rewards of your choice. Points are earned in a variety of ways, including paying invoices for tickets, watching road games on TV, checking in on Facebook at Verizon Center during games and an assortment of other methods in which the team tries to engage fans.

The Courtside Club: not as polished, but bigger.
I generally like to think I am pretty on top of the benefits which are conferred upon Wizards season ticket holders (read: no life other than the Wizards) and so naturally, I explored this program immediately upon its announcement. Lo and behold if one of the choices for points redemption wasn't access to the VIP areas. And knowing how much I loved the once a year opportunity I'd had in the last few years, I immediately investigated this benefit and then cashed in 750 points of my 28,000 points a number of times before the team raised the price to 1,500 and then cashed in a whole bunch more games before the price went up again to 2,500 and then 3,000. All told, I ended up with a pretty good slate of games to enjoy this benefit, including the last two at home.

The words "all you can eat and drink" definitely go with my personality. It's difficult to hold back sometimes, although getting these games more than once a year has definitely curbed my eating. Still working on the drinking part. And the dessert part, I guess. Those carrot cake squares and Rice Krispie treats are difficult to resist.

The food in the VIP areas is not stadium food. Sure they have hot dogs and nachos every game but they also have fresh pasta, meat carving stations and antipasti like olives, artichokes and Brussels sprouts that are typically really amazing. They need to bring back the pico de gallo mac and cheese we had at the season opener vs. the 76ers. That stuff was tasty, even for me as a mac and cheese snob. The beer selection last year in the VIP areas was pedestrian but this year we've been treated to Redhook Gamechanger, Molson Canadian and Kirin Ichiban rather than the Miller Lite and Coors Light they had last year. Good moves there.

More than anything else though, hanging out before the game and at halftime in these areas makes me feel like I'm part of some sort of select club, which I guess is exactly what the Wizards want you to feel like, even if I bought my way in on a game by game basis. When I bought my first season tickets in 2000 for $10 a game, I didn't know about these areas but if I had, there is no way I would have imagined I'd be standing down there every other game in any one season. Here's hoping Monumental Rewards sticks around and we can get lucky enough next year to participate again. I'll be watching closely. Next game with access is the 18th against Detroit.

It's all free!!!