How The Wizards Discovered Their Identity as the Most Unlikable Team in the NBA

How The Wizards Discovered Their Identity as the Most Unlikable Team in the NBA

Tracking the NBA off-season as a Wizards fan is a horrible way to waste the summer. While fans of rival teams get to debate whether they won the big trade and brag about their marquee signings, the high points of our summer are borderline satirical press conferences introducing players that haven’t moved the needle for three-plus years.

Considering the low benchmark set over summers past, most Wizards fans weren’t too surprised by this off-season’s underwhelming moves – we’ve come to grips with the fact that Ernie will only ever acquire a key piece if a no-brainer draft pick falls in his lap. What was curious, however, was that our personnel moves seemingly failed to add one thing that’s been glaringly missing from this squad: an identity.

G-wiz1

Every team with title aspirations plays with an understanding of what they do well and what their approach to winning will be. The Rockets fire up either a layup or a three in 7 seconds or less, the Celtics are stocked with lengthy wing defenders, and the Warriors start five All-NBA players. The Wizards, on the other hand, slogged through last season unsure of who they were and how they wanted to attack. Are they a bad good team or a good bad team? Great question. Are they three-point shooters? No. A fast-break team? Not really. Hard-nosed defenders? F*** no!

The Road to Self-Discovery

So, while on paper the team should improve by replacing Gortat with the center he used to come off the bench for, and substituting Jodie Meeks with literally anybody, it was disappointing that those additions didn’t readily clarify the team’s strategy going forward. What transformational skill-sets do Austin Rivers and Dwight Howard provide other than making fans feel icky about rooting for the players on their team? What new dimension was added aside from the looming possibility that these fiery personalities will combust an already-volatile locker room? The short and obvious answer is … nothing.

Aside from some new window dressing, the Wizards executives are running it back with more or less the same team that underperformed all last year – at least at first glance. When you take a step back, however, you’ll see that these personnel decisions add up to more than a simple cosmetic cover-up. Instead, they fit a well-established pattern, one that has become so entrenched in how this organization does business that it’s time to admit it’s become a core element of how this franchise operates. The Wizards didn’t find their next great superstar this summer, but they did discover their one true identity: the most unlikable team in the NBA.

Soul Searching – How Did We Get This Way?

Culture is established at the upper echelons of an organization, from where it filters down through the ranks. Where the head goes, the body follows. Near the top of the Wizards organization is Ernie Grunfeld, the most irredeemable and unapologetically incompetent figure in Washington sports. The only man above him on the executive ladder is Ted Leonsis, whose NBA resume includes entire sections dedicated to trolling bloggers, endlessly raising ticket prices, and refusing to fire Ernie Grunfeld. Together, this tandem has frustrated their fans for years. If you were required to describe the pair in a single word, you’d be hard pressed to find a better adjective than “unlikeable.” Is it any surprise, then, that after a decade-plus under Ted and Ernie’s stewardship, that this franchise has been exactly that?

The evidence suggests that if the players have established a collective reputation as being loathsome, it’s because they’re taking cues from their leaders. The owner and GM trumpet their own mediocrity, the team does the same. The owner and GM rebuff accountability, the players do the same. The owner and GM lose focus over the course of the season, – you get it by now. And now, with the addition of a couple fan least-favorites, the team is doubling down on being the NBA grouches.

If the Roster Fits.. 

Perhaps it’s a bit harsh to our players to label them as the most undesirable collection of talent in the league. It’s pretty incredible though, once you start to think about the team in this context, how well this roster lends itself to such a scheme. Suddenly, everybody’s role makes sense in a way that it never quite has before. Don’t believe it? Take a look for yourself:

KellyFight

John Wall – John is the preeminent disgruntled All-Star. Who else grumbles as much about what other guys are getting paid, or the fact that he doesn’t get billboards, or that his 2K rating doesn’t meet his expectations? This mean-mugging, gang-sign throwing, spoon-feeding Point God is the anti-Kyrie; the star that hasn’t received his due and isn’t afraid to let everyone know it.

Bradley Beal – With the divisive Wall taking so much flack by himself, you’d think Beal would be universally revered. Instead, he’s taken his fair share of heat for bold comments, poor leadership, and selfish late game play. Then, with John out, he showed he could take the lead on starting drama by starting the “Everybody eats” controversy.

Markieff Morris – Kief, already one of the most T-ed up players in the league, says he needs to add even more “bully ball” to his game. What more needs to be said here?

Otto Porter – Otto is somehow simultaneously the quietest person on team and the most unliked by the team’s stars. With his huge contract, he also creates more disagreement among fans than anyone else on the squad.

Dwight Howard – Dwight is, without doubt, the most hated player in the NBA. Playing on his sixth team in eight years, is there anyone in the league – players, coaches, media, refs – with something good to say about this locker room cancer? Not to mention, Dwight led the league in technical fouls by a wide margin. This addition is the one that pushes the Wizards to the extreme on the unlikability scale.

Austin Rivers – First Rivers incited the entire Houston Rockets to hunt him down in the underbelly of the Staples Center. Then, his own father gave up on him and shipped him out of town. Ouch, this guy must suck to be around.

Kelly Oubre Jr. – Kelly went up against the notoriously dirty Kelly Olynyk in the 2017 playoffs and somehow managed to come out as the less-likable Kelly O.

Tomas Santoransky – It was hard to find much to fault Tomas for last season. He made key contributions and always had a great attitude. In fact, he might’ve been the most likable guy on the team. Maybe that explains why he dropped out of the rotation come playoff time.

Ian Mahinmi – Mahinmi actually seems like a really nice guy – he’s always flashing his big smile, he gives back to the community, he dresses well. Regardless of all this, he’ll always be hated by Wizards fans for suckering Ernie into giving him the worst contract in Wizards history.

Jason Smith – Jason is constantly heralded as one of the best teammates in the NBA. Obviously, he therefore never plays.

Be Who You Are and Be It Well

Having established that Wizards are ready to be the most unlikable team in the NBA, is this transformation something we as fans should actually be rooting for? If the alternative is to continue slogging on as a faceless and toothless underachiever, then yes, absolutely.

The Wizards had a maddeningly uneven year last season – overperforming when they should’ve been overmatched, but then dropping countless games to inferior opponents. A big portion of that inconsistency can be attributed to the team’s identity crisis. The squad’s approach and source of motivation changed from game to game and consequently their intensity level and production fluctuated as well. A commitment to being unlikable may not be the tactic that yields the most feel-good storylines or aesthetically-pleasing basketball, but at least it is a defined tactic.

The Wizards’ record should be markedly better this year simply by virtue of eliminating the emotional instability and role confusion that sprouted from a lack of self-awareness and led to many of last season’s worst losses. From there, it’s not too hard to envision how this newfound identity will translate to a team mentality and style of play that generates more wins:

  1. The Wizards won’t be the most prolific offensive team nor the stingiest defensive one, but they will surely be one of the most physical teams. We’ll see a lot of hard fouls, a good deal of technical fouls, and a fair number of scuffles as this team looks to get in peoples’ faces and under their skin. While that strategy may make for some ugly basketball, it will also keep our team engaged and focused – a consistent problem in years past – for four quarters a game and 82 games a season.
  2. The Wizards are going to talk a lot of trash (per usual) and will hopefully finally back it up for the first time (this would be new).
  3. Like last year, they’re going to be gunning for all the teams anointed as better (i.e. Celtics, Sixers, Warriors) than them and will show up to those high-profile games ready to play.
  4. Unlike last year, they’ll have extra motivation to fuel them to play angry against typical trap opponents (Hawks, Hornets, Suns). Almost a quarter of the schedule will be revenge games for Dwight against his former teams.

In all likelihood, there was nothing strategic or deliberate about the front office assembling the repugnant cast of characters into a team. Still, they appear to recognize what they’ve stumbled upon and are excited about how it will play out for the upcoming season.

On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether the fan base will get behind this new-attitude team. There’s a very real chance that this experiment goes south quickly. That being said, if the Wizards fully embody this identity of being the most unlikable team in the league, they’ll surely give the fans something to like.

Are 2018-2019 Wizards Season Tickets Worth the Money?

Are 2018-2019 Wizards Season Tickets Worth the Money?

I am a 2-year Wizards season-ticket holder. No, I don’t currently have season tickets, which might compel you to describe me instead as an ex-season-ticket holder. I, however, subscribe to the theory that season-ticket holder status – sometimes used as a badge of one’s fandom – is more akin to martial arts belts, which are progressively earned through cumulating experience, than to Costco membership, which you either pay annually to retain or you don’t. I contend that you can’t lose your season-ticket holder status, you can only develop it, moving up to higher ranks through additional years of patronage.

All this is to say that while I’ve remained stagnant as a Level 2 Wizards STH, I still harbor ambitions of someday returning to the DC12 Club and graduating to the higher ranks of its membership. Alas, Ted Leonsis’s seemingly annual price hikes, combined with the financial responsibilities of new fatherhood, are pushing that goal farther and farther into the realm of distant pipe dreams. Nevertheless, I’ve persisted in the practice I’ve maintained over the past few seasons of documenting the individual game ticket prices for the purpose of evaluating whether Wizards season tickets are or are not a good deal. Here’s the analysis for this upcoming season:

dc12club

Methodology: Each year, including this one, my approach to collecting and analyzing ticket data has grown more sophisticated. In the past, I did my best to monitor ticket prices to find the best deal possible for each home game for two tickets in one of the Lower End sections – since this is where I used to have tickets (Section 117 Row S represent!!). This year, I managed to cobble together an application that pulls statistics of the ticket inventory available on StubHub, letting me see the cheapest available tickets for every section in Capital One Arena for each upcoming game. Not only does this give me more accurate and comprehensive data for this year’s analysis, I’m also now able to evaluate the STH-decision for every section in the arena.

For this analysis, I’m only focusing on the sections in the lower bowl of the arena because, let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much critical thinking to see that upper level season-tickets are a god-awful proposition. Why anybody would pay over $1,500 – much less the $3,200 some upper sections cost (WTF??) – for a worst experience than you can get from the comfort of your couch at home, is beyond me. For that money you can get good to great seats to a bunch of good games, so why opt instead to lock yourself into paying full price for the shittiest nosebleeds to all the crappiest games? Seriously why?

Regular-Season Numbers: The essential question when evaluating the value of season tickets is this: does buying a season ticket package get me cheaper tickets over the year than buying tickets individually?

Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to each purchasing strategy, such as the flexibility of buying tickets on a by-game basis, versus the pride and perks that come with being a STH. Putting all the fringe benefits aside, however, let’s just look at which option is cheaper by comparing the STH prices to the prices you could pay on the secondary market (i.e. NBA Ticket Exchange, Stubhub) to get into each game. The spreadsheet below shows a summary-level view of this comparison:

STH High Level

This isn’t an exact science, as the STH prices we’re citing are the cheapest ones for each section, as are the secondary market prices. There is likely to be rather large of prices within a single section. However, it is noteworthy that the STH discount is universally less than 7%, and even negative for the most expensive sections.

These numbers will be disconcerting for incumbent and prospective STHs. When you purchase professional basketball in bulk, you’d hope that you’re at least getting a better deal than the guy sitting next to you who’ there for his one game of the season. It seems that Ted has set the STH prices to purposefully make these numbers line up pretty closely, possibly to put upward pressure on the prices of resale tickets – which routinely undercut Monumental’s individual game prices. Strategically planned by Leonsis or not, at face value, the economics of season tickets are rather lackluster in financial appeal.

Click here for a detailed view of the STH vs per-game price comparison, with a breakdown of the secondary market prices for every home game.

A Tale of Two Markets: If season tickets save you very little money compared to buying tickets on a per-game basis, then why does anybody do it?

Because the costs of admission to the premium games are so high. More than any other American professional sports league, the NBA is star-driven. Moreover, the average sports fan only knows and appreciates the very top echelon of All-Star players, which constitutes only a handful of guys. The result? Rabid demand and extraordinary prices for only the most marquee matchups on the Wizards schedule. Everybody wants to see the Cavaliers and the Warriors, sending the prices for those games skyrocketing.

The table below shows the prices on the secondary market for the Top 7 games by ticket price on the Wizards calendar. Cells highlighted in green show where STH prices constitute at least a 25% saving over individual game prices.

STH Top 7

This is perhaps Monumental’s biggest selling point. A Wizards fan (probably more casual than diehard) wants to see the squad take on the NBA heavyweights, but every time he looks for tickets to one of the good upcoming games, the costs are crazy high. He starts envying the folks who got into these games for a fraction of the prices he’s looking at, and considers signing up for season ticks for the upcoming season.

There is a flip-side to this pricing dynamic, however. It’s true that being a STH gets you a great deal for the most hotly anticipated tilts of the year, but it also locks you into a bad bargain for a larger slew of less stellar matchups. The table below shows the prices on the secondary market for the Bottom 12 games by ticket price on the Wizards schedule. Cells highlighted in red show where individual game prices constitute at least a 25% saving over STH prices.

STH Bottom 12

As you can see, over the course of a season, any money/savings you accrue on the top tier games are wiped out by what you lose/overpay on the games at the lower end of the spectrum. Thus, it’s wiser to get your tickets a game at a time, even if you really want to go to all the expensive contests – you may pay a surcharge for those games, but at least you don’t get stuck with a heavy bill for tickets to games nobody else wants to attend.

Playoff Numbers: If there’s any potentially redeeming quality about the DC12 Club, it’s the cheap access STHs get to the Wizard’s home playoff games. This pitch is what got me to originally sign-up for season membership, and the lack of this benefit after the 15-16 season is what made it a no-brainer not to renew that year. Of course this playoff benefit has to be taken into account when evaluating the worth of season tickets.

The value of the perk is a tricky thing to gauge, however, when the Wizard’s chances for playoff success, and even the identity of their potential opponents, is very up in the air. How many home playoff games will we get? Will it be one series worth or three? Will the series stretch to Game 7 or will be swept out? And equally important, what team will we be matched up with? Any DC playoff ticket will be a hot commodity, no doubt, but there’s a huge difference between the frenzied buzz that would surround a matchup with Lebron’s Cavs and the modest intrigue that we might expect from a first-round matchup with the Pacers.

These things are impossible to know. The best we can do is use the data we have to project the playoff ticket prices, and then keep a close eye on the standings. The table below gives a rough estimate of how much STH access to playoff tickets are worth for a 1st round series against our various potential opponents. Note: These numbers are calculated by STH price minus secondary market price (assuming playoff tickets on StubHub, etc. go for 1.5X the price of the identical regular season match-ups) times an expected 2.5 home games.

Screenshot (16)

The figures show that there is a very wide range of outcomes. Depending on who we face-off against in the playoffs, and whether or not we beat them, and if we do beat them then who we face-off against next, the yield from the STH playoff access can fall anywhere between minimal and gargantuan. The ideal situation from this perspective would be for the WizKids to fall to #7 to take on the Celtics in the first-round, beat them in six games, and then go on to play the Cavs in a 3-seed vs 7-seed matchup. The nightmare situation would be for the Wizards to get bounced by the Pacers in a first-round series.

You’ll have to decide for yourself what you want to make out of this playoff benefit. You certainly have to take it into consideration, and there is the possibility of it yielding tremendous upside. However, there is so much luck and uncertainty involved that banking on any playoff returns is as good as gambling.

Wrap-Up: In the end, the analysis shows that Wizards season tickets – especially after price hikes – are a poor deal, with the one caveat that a favorable combination of playoff success and lucrative match-ups could potentially push the numbers from red into the black.

For me, though I’d love to be able to call myself a STH, the flexibility and value you get from cherry picking tickets on secondary markets is too good to pass up. Low prices for unheralded matchups are a gold mine for hardcore fans – there’s no such thing as a bad game when the main attraction for you is always the home team. And the ignorance of the average fan means you can score cheap tickets to great games – you mean I can see Anthony Davis, the Greek Freak, and the Raptors all for cheaper than STHs? Yes, please!

Maybe one day I’ll be able to rejoin the likes of the DC12 club. Barring a major price decrease, the introduction of some additional value-add benefits, or the serious potential for a playoff run to the NBA Finals, I don’t see it happening any time soon.

John Wall Press Conference/Get John Wall His Goddamn Billboard

Earlier today, the Washington Wizards held a press conference to formally announce the signing of All-NBA guard and franchise cornerstone John Wall to a supermax extension that locks him in as the foundational piece of DC professional basketball through at least the 2021-2022 season. With no disrespect to running mate Otto Porter, the Wall news was the marquee free-agency headline and the one that re-energized Wizards fans’ title aspirations in an otherwise uneventful and borderline disappointing summer.

 

Image-1.png

 

It can’t be understated how monumental (no pun intended) signing the WallStar to that extension was for this team.  We’ve seen a franchise cupcake use free agency to join the biggest bandwagon in sports (KD), another perennial star traded for nickels on the dollar before the get the chance to leave (PG13), and on the very same day that the Wall news broke, a more-hyped but less-talented point demand an exit from the situation that gift-wrapped him a ring and three straight trips to the Finals (the flat-earther from Duke).

 

A similar exit by John Wall would’ve had far more devastating effects on the franchise that drafted him. When you have a shallow roster and a GM who’s best move was lucking into the #1 pick after a season of unintentional tanking, it’s a safe bet your team is going to be pretty miserable for years to come if you lose that #1 guy. That’s why Wizards twitter was getting anxious when John didn’t sign the extension right away and we were forced to endure a litany of hypothetical trade proposals and Wall2LA conspiracy theories from obnoxious Celtics fans. Personally, the thought of this team without it’s WallStar was enough to send me into a miniature existential identity-crisis that forced me to fathom a future where I no longer pledged allegiance to the #DCFamily.  Fortunately for me and all the Wizards faithful, John quelled all the doubts and proved his commitment to the city by signing on to lead this team for the foreseeable future.

 

In his press conference today, John said a bunch of things that he’s said before, but that we were still more than happy to hear him affirm: “This is the team I want to be with for the rest of my career and I won’t stop until we get to hang a banner in the rafters.” With John in the fold for the long-term, and Eastern Conference rivals on the decline, us Wizards fans are for the first time feeling confident enough to consider that a championship in the nation’s capital could be a realistic possibility. Considering where this team was before the franchise savior arrived, the $170M Ted Leonsis will be paying over the life of the extension to retain his point god might be a steal.

 

This week, another Wizards blog wrote a piece chronicling the Wizards journey over the last ten years. It was a good piece, but it could have been summed up quicker. The Wizards sucked, they lucked into John Wall, John got better every year while making his teammates better each year, Wall helped establish the Wizards as a contender, John Wall kept Wizards championship hopes alive into the future by signing his supermax extension.

 

I know I’m coming off as a John Wall fanboy, but at this point it’s impossible to be a Wizards fan and not be. That isn’t a bad thing; there are much worse people to rep than a guy that shows loyalty, gives back to his community, and puts the city on his back. Today’s press conference was a celebration of that: a four year extension of the privilege to don jerseys with the number 2 stitched on the back, to hashtag tweets with #WallStar and #WallWay, to chant “MVP” at the Verizon/Capitol One Center, to enjoy and be proud of D.C. basketball.

 

Today, John Wall solidified his commitment to bring another Larry O’brien trophy to D.C. The only question that still remains as pertains to John Wall’s legacy in the district is where is his goddamn billboard? 

 

Back in early 2016, John was feeling under appreciated and marveled at the lack of exposure he was getting. “I was everywhere (in Kentucky),” Wall said. “I ain’t got no billboards in D.C.” Well, Ted Leonsis, can you please give this man the billboard he wants? 

 

untitled1.png

The temporary mural he shared with during the playoffs with backcourt mate Bradley Beal was nice, but I think we can all agree he needs something a bit more permanent. How much can a billboard possibly cost? Doesn’t the Verizon Center have space on an external wall that can be spared to honor the player that dominates inside the building? Shouldn’t the Verizon center just be named the John Wall center and turned into one giant billboard? Shit, John Wall needs five billboards, one for each All-Star appearance. Plaster his face on the Washington Monument, and then update the alternative logo to match. Come on Ted, get the man his billboard.

 

John Wall gives the team the cache to get media attention and nationally televised games.  He produced the most memorably triumphant playoff moment in the last 40 years of the franchise. He already has the franchise record for assists and steals, and by the time his extension expires he’ll probably also be the leader in points, and regular season games played. The man could retire today and go down as the best player in team history. 

 

Now, somebody get this man his goddamn billboard already.

 

Are Wizards Season Tickets a Good Deal? Here’s a Detailed Analysis

Click here to read the new analysis for the 2018-2019 NBA season.

If you go to a few Washington Wizards games at the Verizon Center, you might discover that there is a peculiar breed of fan. These fans seemingly attend every single game, even the mid-week contests against Eastern Conference bottom feeder. These fans appear to have some obsessive compulsion that mandates that they always sit in the exact same seats at every game. It seems that each and every one of these fans owns the same red Wizards sport jacket, and you might hear them refer to a mysterious society called the “DC 12 Club”. Though all the evidence points to these fans being members of some satanic basketball cult, the truth is that these fans are in fact Washington Wizards season ticket holders.

For most sports fans from the DC area, the idea of a season-ticket holder is probably at best a very abstract concept. It’s hard enough to get folks to attend one Wizards game, so the prospect of willingly signing on to pay for admission to 41 regular season NBA games plus an additional 3 pre-season exhibition games is beyond inconceivable. Even for big Wizards fans, this is a tough sell. Having been a season-ticket holder for two years before opting out after the catastrophe that was last season, I can attest to the fact being a season ticket holder yields no value in and of itself. Individual game tickets, purchased from Ted’s Monumental Sports or elsewhere, get you into the arena just as well as season tickets, and they even grant you access to the very same game. The only rational reason for not buying Wizards tickets on a strictly game-by-game basis is that you expect to receive a quantity discount.

seasonticks

And yet, Ted Leonsis will soon announce the prices for next year’s Wizards season tickets. For incumbent STH’s, the news compels them to decide whether or not to re-up for another year. For the less-invested fans like myself, this is an invitation to join the likes of the DC 12 Club members.

Is there any sensible reason that somebody would purchase Wizards season tickets? How much money can you actually save? Are there circumstances where it makes sense to make this investment? Is it possible to actually make money of this deal? Let’s take a look:

 

How Much Can I Save With Season Ticket versus buying Individual Game Tickets?

For two years, I had season tickets in Section 117 Row S. These tickets were in the sections behind the basket, which from my experience gave you the best value for your dollar. I was a single grad school student, so I had plenty of time to attend games and no one to answer to about my how I spent my money. Still, like even the most ardent fan, I didn’t have the time nor the finances to attend every home game. So I attended about a third of the games and sold the rest of the tickets on the secondary market, trying to strike a balance between attending good games and recuperating a decent amount of my costs. Being a business student, I of course tracked what I paid versus what I made back, to gauge if the season ticket deal made sense for me going forward.

This current season, after a second consecutive year of price increases for my seats, is my first one back to buying tickets one game at a time. Still, I’ve been tracking what the prices are in my old section for each game on the secondary markets (I buy on NBA Ticket Exchange), versus what I would have paid for a year’s worth of tickets. Those numbers are in the spreadsheet below.

screenshot-4

What you might be surprised to see by looking at the above table, is that in reality, there is a quantity surcharge instead of a quantity discount that came with buying Wizards season tickets this past season. Simply put, Ted Leonsis priced his tickets above market value. You could have bought two tickets for every game individually and saved $175 as compared to signing a deal for season tickets. That’s without even taking into consideration the fact that in all likelihood you’d have zero interest in going to many of these games, chiefly three worthless preseason games.

Regardless of what combination of games you wanted to attend, it was always cheaper to buy those tickets individually. STH overpaid for the majority of this year’s games. To put this into perspective, here is a lineup of Wizards games you could have gone to for $1,250, less than a third of the STH price: Raptors, Hawks, Rockets, Cavaliers, Suns, Spurs, Magic, Nuggets, Bucks, Hornets, Timberwolves, 76ers, Trailblazers, Grizzlies, Celtics, Pelicans, and Thunder. Even if you threw in the outrageously overpriced Warriors game, you’d still have paid only 40% of the STH price.

Luckily for fans locked into this deal, the game against the Golden State Warriors and two versus the Cleveland Cavaliers helped make the returns more favorable. Tickets for just those three games on the secondary market went for $1,100, a full $800 more than STH paid for them. On the flipside, it’s hard to be okay paying one-hundred dollars for a Monday night tilt against the Sacramento Kings in November when the guy sitting next to you paid only twenty-eight bucks.

 

How Will Likely Price Increases Figure Into the Equation?

Seeing how Ted Leonsis raised Wizards season ticket prices even in the midst of last year’s miserable season, it’s a near certainty that he’ll continue to up the prices now that the team is experiencing success once again. For season ticket holders that’s obviously bad news.  Now, it might make logical sense that a better team should translate to higher ticket prices, at both the individual game and full-season level. However, the truth is that the relationship between on court success and fan support for basketball in DC is not so perfectly linear.

The Verizon Center has lousy attendance, and we’ve seen in the past that not even a deep playoff run is going to do much to change that. If the median market for individual game tickets does see a bump, it will probably be offset by lower prices at the highest end of the spectrum. Resale prices this year for the Warriors game are astronomical, due to the intrigue of seeing Kevin Durant in his first return to DC since joining the Bandwagon team of the moment (who btw we should boo mercilessly). But those tickets priced should come back closer to Earth next year when that novelty wears off a little bit.

All in all, any raise in the price of season tickets are probably going to mean a worse deal for season ticket holders. Every extra dollar you pay for season tickets is probably just one more dollar that you’re overpaying.

 

What About Buying Season Tickets and Selling Them?

Based on regular season games, you should not try to do this. You’ll be able to accomplish this, you just won’t make any money.

The figures in the chart above are what buyers pay for tickets on the secondary market. The amount that sellers make is typically, at best, twenty percent lower once the selling platform takes out their fees or commissions. So that $4,075 figure that I could have paid for individual tickets would translate closer to $3,200 for the people who sold those ticket. You don’t a business degree to know that that is not a good return on investment.

 

How Do Playoff Tickets Play Into the Picture?

Considering the numbers in the chart above, it probably seems like a no-brainer that Wizards season tickets are an all-around terrible idea for fans, right? Well no, not exactly. There is one season ticket holder perk, really the only one that has any value at all, that can potentially alter the balance of this equation: guaranteed tickets to this year’s home playoff games. Those fans that commit to the full slate of next season’s tickets (sorry all you current STH’s, you get nothing) receive the privilege of buying tickets to all of this year’s postseason games at a low, fixed price. For the lower level sections behind the basket, that fixed price has historically been somewhere between $45 and $65 per ticket depending on the round, which is considerably less than what these playoff ticket will go for on Stubhub, NBA Ticket Exchange, etc. when the Wizards hype starts really rolling.

Since we’ve been defining the value of season tickets by the difference between what season ticket holders pay and what one pays on the secondary market, these cheap playoff tickets make a season ticket package more attractive. Depending on who the Wizards match up with in the playoffs, how many home games they get in each round, and how deep they ultimately go, it is possible that this playoff ticket perk will yield enough value to actually make season tickets worthwhile. If nothing else, this perk offers enough to make you take a second look. Here are some estimates for how much playoff tickets in my old Section 117 could be worth versus what they’ll cost DC 12 Club members:

screenshot-5

 

What is the Final Verdict?

So what’s the final verdict on whether or not Wizards season tickets for next season will ultimately be worth the investment? Well, like most things in life it depends. In this case it depends on how far you think the team is going to make it in the playoffs. If you think the team is doomed for a first-round disappointment, then you can easily rule against season-tickets (then again, if you think this is how our season ends then you’re obviously not a real fan, so why would you even want season tickets?). If you think the Wizards will repeat recent postseason history by winning the first-round and then fizzling out in the second, then you probably still want to stay away from season tickets. That result will bring you some value as compared to buying individual tickets, but certainly not enough to warrant having to start making payments now for tickets to games months down the line.

However, if you are bullish on the team and foresee them charging into the Eastern Conference Finals to challenge the reigning champ, then this season ticket package is almost too good of a deal to pass up. A series against Lebron and Kyrie, one of the greatest to ever do it and one of the most overrated to ever do it, will be the biggest sporting event of the moment, not to mention possibly the biggest ever in DC. Watching those games would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and getting those tickets for cheap will save you a pretty penny if you go to the game, or make you one if you opt to sell. The numbers show that Wizards season tickets derive their value from the chance to buy playoff tickets for cheap. Therefore, this purchase decision is one that needs to be made on a year-by-year basis, depending on the team’s postseason prospects. If you paid for membership for the DC 12 Club last season when there were no playoff games to attend, you got hustled big time. But if you’re thinking about buying them for the upcoming season, it could actually be a good deal.

In the end, the question isn’t necessarily are Wizards season tickets are good deal, but instead how far do I think this team will go this season and am I willing to bet on that? For my part, being a diehard Wizkids fan and eternal optimist, I’m already trying to figure out how I can explain to my wife why we need to spend thousands of dollars on basketball tickets.

How Can We Build Up the Wizards Fan Base?

As a huge Wizards fan, I was quite discouraged to hear that one of the reasons Kevin Durant never considered DC as a viable free agency destination was that he felt the team lacked fan support.  Of course, there is a very obvious person to blame for the team’s failures in the free agency market.  Still, KD’s reported sentiments strike an insecurity that all true Wizards fans have: that our fanbase is pretty weak.  The Verizon Center is routinely half-empty, our franchise player is chronically underappreciated, and the fans themselves are often regrettably apathetic.  It seems you can’t go to a game and cheer for the Wizards without having to yell over a contingency of fans from the road team.  Nights like Kobe’s final game in DC highlight this unfortunate reality, and the home record speaks to the lack of any realized home-court advantage.

As tempting as it may be, nothing will get solved by wallowing in self-pity or hunting for a culprit to blame.  Instead, we should be productive and proactive in rebuilding the culture around being a Wizards fan.  We have to take it upon ourselves to foster the growth of this fanbase into one that free agents want to play for and opponents are scared to play against.  In that spirit, here are some strategies that Ted Leonsis and the core group of passionate Wizards fans can employ to build a stronger fanbase:

490796233

Appropriate Season Ticket Prices: Okay, so this one is squarely on Ted.  Perhaps the most important variable in determining how many Wizards fans fill the arena is the price of season tickets.  And recently, season tickets prices have risen to levels that are clearly above market value.  After my first season as a ticket holder, I saw that the price increases following the 2015 season resulted in many of my fellow Section-117 plan holders opting not to renew.  After the most recent price hikes, even I couldn’t justify buying a season’s worth of tickets from Monumental when I could get individual game tickets on secondary markets for a fraction of cost.  Based on how many times Monumental extended my renewal deadline, I have a hunch that there will be a more dramatic drop in season ticket holders this upcoming season. Obviously, this attrition means that many of the most tenured and ardent fans are going to be replaced with more empty seats, or worse, bandwagoners in Cavs or Warriors jerseys.

Of course, Ted is running a business and he has to make money.  The marginal success the team has experienced over the past few years and the growing popularity of the league overall certainly justify some increase in ticket prices.   But prices above market value are hard to justify, especially when they come at the cost of lower attendance by the team’s most enthusiastic fans.  Ted, who has a vested interest in maintaining a base of loyal, repeat customers, should meet season ticket holders halfway.  Fair prices will allow more devoted Wizards fans to come more games, creating a better atmosphere in the stadium.  This will help develop a home-court advantage that results in a better team, which will drive fan interest, which will ultimately yield more demand for Wizards tickets.  In the end everyone benefits: Leonsis, the players, and the fans.  But it all starts with Ted setting the season ticket prices back at an appropriate level.

Special Cheering Group/Sections:  One of my biggest gripes against Wizards fans is that as a group we’re very subdued.  John Wall infamously commented that the fans seem to get more excited about free chicken sandwiches than they do about a win.  And if you are somebody who likes to cheer loudly and heckle the opposing team (me), quite often you’ll find yourself the recipient of reproaching glances from your neighbors.  We need to redefine the code of etiquette for attending a Wizards basketball game.  To do that, I propose starting a Designated Cheering Section.

This idea is not all unique; it comes from supporters of the University of Maryland Men’s Soccer team who started a fan club called The Crew.  The club started in 2003 with a small group of students who would sit behind the goal, loudly heckling the opposing goalie and raucously cheering on the home team.  The group quickly grew in size and sophistication, coordinating outfits and organizing chants.  The result has been a spike in interest in the team and a long standing reputation for one of the best home field advantages in college soccer.

We should bring this idea to the Verizon Center in the form of a few sections, preferably behind the basket, where fans are encouraged to cheer, yell, and heckle opposing players.  Obviously, fans are encouraged to do this all throughout the arena, but these sections would be reserved for the loudest, rowdiest, and most energetic fans.  Putting all these fans in the same section will allow them to feed off of each other’s energy, and also to coordinate chants and jeers.  These sections of boisterous fans will lead the rest of the arena in rooting for the team while teaching casual fans the proper way to cheer.

The Cheering Section would start small, but it will grow quickly as other fans see how much fun it is.  Passion is a contagious thing.  And once fans have yelled and screamed their support for the WizKids, they’ll probably find themselves more invested in the success of the team.  As the group of cheerleaders grows, signature chants, norms, and traditions are sure to develop and embed themselves in the culture of the team. Hopefully the end result is a more lively and intimidating home crowd and a few more Wizards wins at the Verizon Center.

Own the Wizard: I, like many of my fellow fans, think that “Wizards” is pretty silly moniker for a collection of world class athletes.  But I figure that if we’re not going to change the name back to the Bullets, then we might as well take ownership of the name that we do have.  That’s why my friend and I went to last season’s home opener on Halloween dressed as Wizards.  As in actual wizards; with hats and beards and a staff that got confiscated by security.  It was incredibly silly, but it was one of the best times I’ve had at a game.  I think the team should encourage more things like that.  We have a weird mascot, so let’s have fun with it.

For starts, every year the game that falls on or closest to Halloween has to be costume night, where everyone comes dressed up as their favorite Wizards.  This past year I was Gandalf, but let’s fill the stands with some Harry Potters and Hermione Grangers and Merlins, etc.  Bonus points for wearing a jersey over your costume.  Next, we should build out G-Wiz’s backstory.  He must be some sort of wizard, but what kind of powers does he have, what kind of quests has he been on, what the hell species is he?  Someone needs to answer these questions.  And one more suggestion: Since the NBA is making new alternate jerseys each year, can we get something wizard inspired?  Like maybe the team can warm up in hooded cloaks for a couple games.

Bandwagon Shaming: Among the worse symptoms of the Wizard’s underachievement this past decade is that we have a lot of bandwagon fans in DC.   It’s easy enough to understand where they’re coming from: they haven’t had a home team to root for in the NBA playoffs so they pick another team to support.  Still, it’s pretty lame when they just pick the best team to root for, and even more shameful when they’re rooting for those teams against the home squad.  We need to call these fugazi’s out.  We need to remind everyone that the only fans that get respect are loyal fans.  We need to shame the bandwagon fans clogging up the Verizon Center.

The Wizards were one of the first teams to get into bandwagon shaming, with the Bandwagon Cam on the jumbotron a few years ago.  I say let’s take this a step farther.  Let’s rig the nightly seat upgrade promotion so that a Warriors groupie wins, but then let’s upgrade them to the last row in the 400 section.   Let’s raise the stake on the Bandwagon Cam and show losers in Cavs jerseys on the jumbotron with the nerdy Snapchat filter.  Let’s send G-Wiz out into the stands to prank clowns wearing LA Clippers gear.  Or we can give a kid in a KD jersey a chance to play someone 1-on-1 for a prize, but then have him faceoff against one of our D-League players.  This may sound like a harsh way to treat these confused fans, but the truth is that we’ll be doing it for their own good.

Bonus Thoughts:

-A Wizards branded sports bar near the Verizon Center that fans have a place to come for road games or before and after home games to kick it with other fans.  Maybe they can set it up so that every now and then players will roll through after the game to interact with fans.

-Let people send SnapChats to the team and pick a few of the best ones to display on the jumbotron or the CSN broadcast.

Bring back G-Man.

-Fire Ernie Grunfeld!

 

How to Cope With the End of Another #soWizards Season

After another heartbreaking and incomprehensible loss last Friday, it is time for us Wizards fans to accept our inevitable fate.  In a few weeks’ time, we’ll be watching our team’s performance in the draft lottery rather than in the first round of the NBA playoffs.  The first step to recovery is acceptance, and while we may have been trying to delude ourselves into believing we could turn things around, it’s better to now move on and begin the healing process.  But after a season of anguishing over every win and loss, how does a fan flip the switch from passionate engagement to indifferent detachment? In my experience this can be extremely difficult, especially when there are still games left to be played.  Here are some tips for dealing with the pain:

johnwallbruh_nve7lf

Don’t dwell: Again, the first step to recovery is accepting the facts and admitting that you’re powerless to control the situation.  So, even though the Wizards aren’t yet mathematically eliminated, and even though Detroit still has a tough schedule to close out the season, we have to come to terms with the fact that we’re not making the playoffs regardless.  Even if we do miraculously go on an 8 game win streak, we all know that’s just a setup for us to lose by 30 in the season finale and miss the playoffs by a game.  It’s better to move on now then to keep tormenting ourselves with revitalized hopes that only turn into dashed dreams.

Along with this, it’s important not to dwell on how close we came or how things could have been different.  Sure, a handful of made free throws here or there could have us in the driver seat for a playoff spot.  But reminiscing on those close calls isn’t going to change the box score, and will only serve to torment you further.  Instead, let it go; clear your mind of what could have, would have, or should have been.

Look For Silver Linings: Another key to staying positive despite the abysmal results of this season is to look for a silver lining.  In the case of the Wizards, the biggest positive of this season will be us firing Randy Wittman.  Wittman has done a good job in resurrecting the team from being the laughingstock of the league, but the time has come for him to go.  The players clearly are no longer responding to him, and the team is underachieving under his guidance.  While Wittman has been a good stopgap, the team will never reach its ultimate goal with him at the head.  Had the Wizards made the playoffs, Ted Leonsis might have convinced himself that three consecutive postseason berths warranted keeping, or worse yet, extending Randy’s contract.  From that perspective, if the cost of getting rid of Randy Wittman was missing the playoffs, then maybe this poor season was worth it.

Retroactively Revise Your Preseason Projections: Comparing where the Wizards are now to where we thought they’d end up back at the beginning of the season puts into perspective how much of a colossal let-down this year has truly been.  To minimize your misery, it’s probably best to wipe these expectations from your memory, or even go a step further and misremember them as being lower.  Looking back through my Twitter feed, I honestly thought this team would win 51 games this year, a heart-breaking fact.  For purposes of consoling myself, I’m changing that number to 41.  Now, looking from the through the eyes of a fan expecting 41 wins, this season wasn’t such an epic failure and only moderately disappointing.  I’m feeling better already.

revisedProjections.jpg

Conveniently Forget  How Much Trash You’ve Talked:  If you’re like me, you talk a lot of trash to other NBA fans during the regular season.  All year long I was bragging about every win, telling everyone how much better the WizKids were than their team, and insisting we’d turn the season around despite our poor record.  Now that our season is effectively over, it’s time to do a complete 180: keep quiet, avoid any basketball conversations with those same fans you shit-talked, and pretend like you never cared in the first place.  There’s no good comeback when your team is losing, so it’s best to keep your mouth shut.

This season, my good friend and Hornets fan has been a primary target of shit-talk. Every day I had a smart comment for her about Jeremy Lin’s stupid hair or an insulting hashtag.  But now that they’re surging and we’re sucking, she’d be lucky to get two words out of me about NBA basketball.  I’m just going to lie low and wait until next season tips off, when I’ll be right back running my mouth off in her ear with several months’ worth of new jokes and insults.

hornetsTrashTalk.png

Look to play spoiler: Now that we’ve fallen dramatically short of our aspirations, the only way to still watch Wizards games without being completely depressed is to root for our team to ruin other teams’ aspirations.  If we can’t have things, then no one can.  Root for upsets, spoilers, and streak busters.  This gives us a reason to stay engaged in rooting for the Wizards to win these last few games.  And the more bitter we can make other fan bases, the better.  Let’s embarrass Kobe in one of the final home games of his career. Let’s end the Warrior’s home win streak and hurt their bid at the regular season record.  Let’s spoil Blake Griffin’s return to the Clippers.  Let’s keep the Hornets from winning home court advantage for the playoffs, and then let’s do the same thing to the Hawks.

Enjoy Clearance Sales on Merchandise: The end of the season is always a good time to buy team apparel and merchandise for cheap, and with the Wizards missing the playoffs we can expect especially good sales.  Retail stores in DC don’t routinely stock up on Wizards gear, and they’ve only recently increased inventory now that football is over and the NBA playoffs are almost set to begin.  But with our season coming to an abrupt halt, retailers are going to have to offer massive discounts to sell off their Wizards stuff to clear their shelves in time for Nationals season.  As fans that support the team even when they’re not trending, this is an opportunity to pick up Wizards swag for pennies on the dollar.  Just try not to buy gear branded for players who might not be here next year.

Attend the Last Home Game and Bring a Good Sign: The regular season home finale is always a fun game to go to.  But when your team is certain to miss the playoffs, attendance at this game is essentially mandatory.  There won’t be Wizards basketball for six plus months, so take advantage of this final opportunity to watch the team.  Being at the final game also lets you get some closure on the season.  This is where you demonstrate your love (or hate) for different stakeholders in the organization.  I’ll be there to boo Randy Wittman one last time during his introduction, and to give John a standing ovation when he comes out of the game for the final time this season.  What will make this experience even better is bringing a well-constructed and carefully thought-out sign that sums up your feelings to the whole stadium.  Personally I’m working on several ideas (stay tuned for more.)

VeseleySign

This Wizards season sucked.  That’s plain and simple and there’s no other way to look at it.  The only thing we can do is make the best of what we’ve been given and squeeze whatever fun we can out of these last few games.  These steps won’t make the season any less depressing, but they’ll help us Wizards fans come to grips with our sad reality and move forward.  Until next year, when we’ll probably do the same thing all over again.