Ted Leonsis seems to have found a way to get the dwindling, diminished, demolished Washington Wizards fanbase fired up and passionate about something: The boss is considering cutting loose perhaps the only good thing about the basketball team.
Longtime Wizards play-by-play voice Steve Buckhantz has been told, according to the Washington Post, that the Transparent Ted’s network — NBC Sports Romper Room — will not be picking up the option on Buckhantz’s contract for next season.
Buckhantz began calling games for this basketball team in 1997, but his future is in doubt. The network needed to tell Buckhantz by March 1 if it was picking up his option, the Post reported, but there is still a chance that the talented, veteran announcer returns.
It should come as no surprise that Transparent Ted and his management team would even consider letting Buckhantz go. After all, they keep making the inexplicable personnel decisions, including sticking with the worst general manager in the NBA, the franchise arsonist-fireman that is Ernie Grunfeld.
Unlike Grunfeld, Buckhantz is very good at his job, a job that is certainly more difficult by trying to call bad games with bad teams year after year. Consider this list of some of the players Buckhantz called action on over his time behind the microphone: God Shammgod, Jahidi White, Cherokee Parks, Kwame Brown, Peter John Ramos, Andray Blatche, DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young …. you get the idea.
Yes, there has been Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, John Wall, Bradley Beal, good players, too, along the way. But here is the sum total of those names while Buckhantz has described the action — 745 wins, 993 losses. And every time I tuned into a Wizards game — no matter how pathetic the team on the floor was, Buckhantz was interesting, entertaining and professional. And even through all that losing and hopelessness, Buckhantz hasn’t lost anything from that trifecta that he brought to Wizards broadcasts.
He also has what should a valued commodity — institutional knowledge. Buckhantz knows this town and its sports history. A District native, Buckhantz was the longtime sports director at WTTG Channel 5, and broke one of the biggest stories in this town when he learned that Redskins coach Joe Gibbs was retiring following the 1992 season. He was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences National Capital Chapter Silver Circle, honoring those who have made significant contributions to the broadcast industry over 25 years or more in the area. Last year he was inducted into the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
Buckhantz is not a guy you show the door — especially when you have a basketball team that is irrelevant and invisible in what many believe is a basketball town. This is a guy you embrace as long as you possibly can. It’s like a great waiter at a bad restaurant. The food may stink, but the service makes it easier to digest.
Now, supposedly this is a decision that is being made by NBC Sports Washington, which has a new boss in charge, general manager Damon Phillips. But make no mistake about it — this is Transparent Ted’s network, having bought a significant share in 2016. You don’t have to be Edward R. Murrow to figure that out in its coverage of Transparent Ted’s teams.
Two years ago, former franchise star, longtime analyst and Buckhantz’s partner, Phil Chenier, was forced out of the broadcast and given a lesser role in the team’s media presentation. That move was supposedly engineered by Transparent Ted’s son, Zach Leonsis, according to sources, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives for Monumental Sports and Entertainment. So this could be another case of the son flexing his inherited muscles.
Again, it is important to note that the report states that Buckhantz has not been terminated as of yet and could conceivably return.
Back in 2010, three months after taking over ownership of the Wizards, Ted Leonsis patted himself on the back with everything the team had accomplished in such a short time in a blog: “But please be assured that we won’t stop listening. Obtaining your feedback makes all of us better and puts us in a position to better serve you. So I am always cognizant of that, no matter how many changes we have made or may make, I will believe in the wisdom of our crowds.”
There you go. Call Transparent Ted on his pledge to listen. Let him know that the only thing you aren’t embarrassed about as a Wizards fan is Steve Buckhantz as the voice of the team. Don’t pass the Buck.
⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.