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Posted at 4:51 PM ET, 12/15/2010

Bring back Robin Ficker

By Lee Friedman

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has made some good changes and brought a renewed energy to the Wizards organization since taking over. While the positive energy hasn’t exactly translated to performance on the court, his willingness to make changes and own up to mistakes is refreshing. I’m thinking Dan Snyder doesn’t take much time for self-awareness. Compared to the other owners of D.C. and Baltimore franchises, he looks like Art Rooney after less than a year of ownership (with Snyder, Peter Angelos and the Lerner family as competition the bar is pretty low). He’s said the right things about building a team through the draft versus signing high priced free agents (I hadn’t intended to make this a contrast with Dan Snyder, but it’s just too easy), and leaving the basketball decisions up to people who know about that sort of thing (yes, I’m aware there are people who wouldn’t include Ernie Grunfeld in that category, although I am not one of them).

Growing up as a Wizards fan under the reign of Queen Susan I (anyone who worked for or with the Bullets during the ‘90’s would understand), one of the biggest complaints about the team was the way they used to advertise their opponents in order to build a crowd. It was a good way to build a crowd but a lousy way to build a fan base. When he bought the team Leonsis pledged to stop that practice. When it recently came out that the marketing staff was still selling tickets by featuring their opponents, he immediately apologized and promised to make sure it never happened again. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the number of Knicks and Lakers fans at the last two home games, there is still work to be done.

One of Ted’s new ideas is the creation of the Washington Bullets/Wizards Alumni Association. It’s a way for players to reconnect, for new fans to learn about the team’s history, and for older fans to be reminded of some of the great players to put on the jersey. When you turn on the radio, attend a charity event or watch a Redskins game, you always see lots of their alumni still being involved (count me in the category of people who wish Brian Mitchell would choose to be less involved). It would be great for Wizards alums to be just as involved (but please keep Wes Unseld away from the front office). Outside of the underrated Phil Chenier on TV and an occasionally inebriated Gheorghe Muresan walking around Verizon Center, there just aren’t enough high profile former Wizards active in the community.

I do have two suggestions for Ted:

  1. Washington has one of the best street-ball basketball leagues this side of Rucker Park. Barry Farms draws NBA and college players from all over the country to play pick-up ball and during summers in the Goodman League. The Wizards should play a pre-season exhibition game there, or have players from the league play at half-time of a Wizards game. I’m sure the guy who can stuff himself into a box can find another line of work. This also sends an important message to Washingtonians that the Wizards represent the entire city, including east of the river.
  2. Plagiarize from another team: The Bucks have a fan section (much as soccer teams do) reserved for their most devoted fans. Make it close enough so that opposing players can hear them and call it the Robin Ficker Section. He’ll probably threaten to sue, but the free press will be priceless (plus everyone hates him already).

With the Capitals, Ted has successfully rebuilt one team’s fan base (postseason success notwithstanding). I know the on-the-court performance may take a while, but rebuilding the fan base needs to be an equal priority for the Wizards.

By Lee Friedman  | December 15, 2010; 4:51 PM ET
Categories:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  | Tags:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  
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"... occasionally inebriated Gheorghe Muresan walking around Verizon Center"

Why the cheap shot on big Gheorghe?
Did I miss something?
I like George.

Posted by: jmII | December 16, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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