- - Sunday, May 14, 2017


There has been a weekend of celebration in Washington about John Wall’s winning shot Friday night against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Verizon Center – and rightfully so.

But let’s recognize it for what it was – a bandage over an open wound, still oozing from the Game 7 exit of the Washington Capitals in their Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in that same arena two nights earlier.

Let’s not make it more than that. Let’s not make it one of the greatest moments in Washington sports history. It is a bandage, a salve to numb the pain.

A Wizards win in Game 7 Monday night in Boston, moving them to the NBA Eastern Conference finals? That would start healing the wound.

That would be worthy of a place in Washington sports history – who knows, maybe the start of a new era.

You think they celebrate Game 6 Eastern Conference semifinal wins in Boston? Forget the 11 championships of the Bill Russell era, the two of the John Havlicek-Dave Cowens era, and the three of the Larry Bird era – since Ernie Grunfeld has been general manager of the Wizards (14 years), the Celtics have won an NBA title (2008), became one of the worst teams in the league (25-57 in 2014), and then rebuilt to become the best team in the Eastern Conference this season (53-29).

There I go, bringing up their history. The water carriers for this franchise will say what do Bradley Beal or Markieff Morris have to do with that past?

These are the same water carriers that have been dancing in the street, reminding everyone that this 49-win season was the best year this franchise has had since its 54 win 1979 season, when they reached the NBA finals, only to lose to the Seattle Supersonics.

You can’t use the history of failure of this basketball team – nearly 40 years of irrelevance – only when it suits you. You can’t use the history of failure of sports teams in this town over the past 25 years only when you are cheerleading, and then disavow it when it comes to the tough examination of criticism.

No, the history comes with the team.

Of all the foolish things Ted Leonsis has said and written in his time as Wizards and Capitals owner, this one ranks among the most tone-deaf: “I only look at since I’ve owned the team. That’s important. I wasn’t here back then, so I’m only focused on since I’ve bought the team.”

No, Ted, you bought the history when you bought the team – the Kwame Browns, the Tyrone Nesbys, the Kevin Duckworths, the Darren Dayes. What this Wizards team – your Wizards team – has accomplished has meaning because of that past, that history, when you didn’t own the team.

When John Wall puts on that Wizards uniform, he carries with him that history as well. So does Martin Gortat, and Otto Porter. The fan base does. Why wouldn’t the players?

When Alex Ovechkin puts on that Capitals uniform, he doesn’t just carry the failures of the franchise during his time here. He carries all of it, the decades of disappointment and early Stanley Cup playoff exits.

When Kirk Cousins puts on that Redskins uniform, he carries the dysfunction and chaos of this franchise over the past two decades with him – the Albert Haynesworths, the Adam Archuletas, the Trung Canidates.

When Bryce Harper puts on that Washington Nationals uniform, he carries the absence of baseball for 33 years in this town with him.

The fans who pay money do, too. The players who get paid don’t get to bask in the glow of victory – a win that takes on an added importance because of the losses that this city has lived with – and then divorce themselves from the pain that existed long before they arrived.

John Wall’s Game 6-winning shot in a conference semifinals game meant more because of that pain. And it is why, if the Wizards win Game 7, an appearance in a conference finals would seem like a “Monumental” accomplishment.

It will feel so good because it has felt so bad for so long.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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