Put this post in the "better late than never" category. This one is way overdue. I should have thanked the Wizards for this months ago.
The 2014-2015 NBA season was my 15th as a Washington Wizards season ticket holder. If you had told me back in the fall of 2000 (when I bought into my first year as a STH) that I would still have season tickets now, I can't say that I'd be surprised. But if you told me then that being a Wizards fan would permeate almost every month, week and day of my year, I think I might have been shocked. Back then, I couldn't contemplate attending even half the home games in a season. Now, I not only shoot for all 41 regular season home games each year, but I also want to make it to Summer League, a couple of Wizards road games and maybe a D-League game or two. How times have changed me.
A few years into my season ticket holder journey, the Wizards instituted a longevity rewards program to thank fans for their continued support over the years. The plan works on a five year milestone anniversary basis and happened to get implemented right before my fifth season as a full season ticket holder. The five year anniversary gift was (and still is) a private (meaning not open to the public) reception with Wizards management and special guests. The special guest at our reception was supposed to be Gilbert Arenas but he ended up a no show due to an (alleged) flat tire so all we really got was some food in the Acela Club that day plus an autographed basketball and the apology note at the top of this post. Oh well.
Five years later, I passed the ten year milestone which got me (yawn!) my name on the Wizards Wall of Fame, a backlit plexiglass sign on the 100 Level of Verizon Center. The display was originally a little more deluxe in (as I remember it) the form of a series of plastic circles in a display case with whatever writing I chose to put on there. There was a character limit so I chose to abbreviate my name and my friend Mike's name and they ended up getting it wrong since they didn't understand I was abbreviating. The mistake was made that much worse by the Wizards mailing me a glass paperweight engraved with the same mistake. I threw that away. Oh well.
So after a couple of swings and misses in the anniversary milestone rewards program, I finally got to the 15 year mark and hoped the Wizards would pay off in spades. The 15 year gift is a Lexus Level suite for a game all to ourselves. That's right, an entire suite for me and whomever I choose to bring (well, up to 18 people total anyway) for a whole game. I'd been looking forward to this gift for years and the experience did not disappoint. There's no doubt this was totally worth the wait.
Now I've never been much of a suite guy. I'd attended one game in a suite once before way back in 2005. In fact, it was the playoff game vs. Chicago when the Wizards clinched the franchise's first playoff series win since 1979 and the then Bullets team was the proud owner of a brand new championship trophy. I hated it. The suite, not the 1978 championship. It was me, my friend Mike and one other guy from work on a freebee to see if our company might be interested in investing in some Wizards suite tickets (we declined) along with some other folks doing the exact same thing. It was a hugely important game and we were totally disconnected from the suffering fan base we had been sitting with game after game for the first five years of my season ticket holding tenure. It sucked! I wish I had been in my seats in Section 402, Row G for that game instead of sitting in that suite.
But having a suite to myself? And being able to choose who I brought along? Now this had to be a can't miss experience. And it was.
|Inside the suite.|
|Our view of the court during pre-game introductions. This is about as good as it got.|
Early last season I received an email notification from the Wizards that the choice of suites for the anniversary gift was posted online and available for selection. I had set myself up for a Tuesday night game against Milwaukee or a Wednesday contest vs. Toronto so my expectations were pretty low here but hey, it's free, right? Right. Only the choice was not limited a series of unsellable games on weekdays early in the week. We actually selected and were granted a Friday night game in January against Brooklyn, who despite their below expectations record at the time were still somehow a popular team (go figure; two years in Brooklyn and wildly popular). Now I was a little more excited. Friday night games are actually desirable and the chances folks might beg off because of having work the next morning went way down.
This experience all around was truly fantastic. Not only did it include 18 free tickets, there were also two guest passes (which get you in the suite but not the building) and two parking passes. I have never parked at Verizon Center in my life. I mean I generally try not to drive anywhere I don't have to and living pretty much right on top of a Metro line means I don't have to like ever. But doing it once for this event was just awesome. We got there about an hour and 15 minutes before scheduled tip time and were allowed after a quick wanding by security to take the elevator straight up to the suite level. If I had enough money to be driven around all the time, I suppose I'd want to do this for every home game.
When we got to the suite, the place was outfitted with food (way more than I expected), beer (about what I expected and not enough for the crowd I was bringing), congratulatory decorations, and a swag bag for each person with a Bradley Beal bobblehead as the main attraction. So not only am I essentially hosting my own party in a space that I don't have to clean up, but there's live hoops at basically the world's highest level (OK, maybe not that night; the Wiz managed to lose by 22 behind 26 each from Jarrett Jack and Brook Lopez for the Nets) on the floor below us. I could get used to this sort of treatment, although honestly, I'd still rather spend time surrounded by other fans in my regular seats for the other 40 games in the year.
The Wizards are by no means obligated to do this for fans (although they actually sort of are now since they put it in writing on their website) and it goes a long way to making me as a season ticket holder feel appreciated. I can't imagine there are too many other teams who hand out suites to their season ticket holders after 15 years. I mean this experience is worth some serious bucks. Likely way more than the 20 year reward (trip to an Eastern Conference away game; I'm guessing bus trip to Philly here) and certainly more than the 25 year reward (participate in the pre-game captains' meeting) which is essentially worth very little, unless I'm missing something major about the experience. If I had an option, I would way rather do this again than get my scheduled 20 or 25 year reward.
Other than the on court performance, there was nothing about this night that was not just incredible. And honestly that didn't matter that much because I spent most of the time that night celebrating the fact that I had reached this milestone with good friends and family, including my friend Mike who has been on this journey with me for the last 13 of the 15 years. I think most of them honestly saw this as an effort in perseverance and refusal to give up on my part and were glad to see me get something back.
I'd love to do this every year, although honestly it's probably not worth springing for a suite every year. I guess I have to wait another 20 years to get another one of these based on the schedule published on the Wizards' website. That's a long time. I may just have to spring for one of these things before then. I'm not sure I can wait that long to have a suite to myself again. Maybe at 20 years?
Thank you, Washington Wizards, for making my 15th year truly memorable on and off the court. It's not often you get a reward like this plus the best record for the franchise in three and a half decades. I'm never going to stop being a fan of this team.
|Two of my favorite people in the world.|
|15 years!!! We made it!!!|