Wiz Fans, Swagging the World
Brendan Haywood quotes aside, you know a Bog road trip was worthwhile when two of the first four fans you interview at a Wizards road game reference the Wizznutzz without prompting, and a third is a 'Sixers fan who's nevertheless carrying a Hibachi sign, and a fourth is screaming about Oprah. Let's take this from the beginning.
1) First fan: Boring Sixers fan whom I couldn't bait into saying anything rude about Gilbert.
2) Second fan: Man with son.
Names: Andrew Kerber and Andrew Kerber Jr. (age 11).
Identity: Sixers season ticket holders.
Prop: Handmade "HIBACHI" Sign.
Explanation: "I hope the Sixers win, I hope the Wizards lose, but I hope Gilbert has a good game," dad Kerber told me. "I think he's a real good player and I think he's got a real good gimmick....I'd love to see him on the Sixers. I think he got robbed on the Olympic team, just like A.I. did."
Previous Visiting Players They've Made Signs For: "Never," he said. "Maybe Shaq. But not really. I hope [Gilbert] scores 50 and the Sixers win by 199....He's got a big personality. They've taken a lot of personality out of the league, and I think he's bringing some of it back."
3) Third fan: Woman with friends.
Name: Reese Espinal.
Identity: Virginia native and Wiz fan now living in Philly.
Explanation: She couldn't decide whether she should wear her Mothering Hut "You're My Hero Zero" shirt, or her Mothering Hut "Caron's Tough Juice" shirt, or one of her other Mothering Hut shirts. I'm willing to believe that there are people wearing Mothering Hut and The Hype shirts and YAY!Sports shirts all over the league, but this was my first road game of the year and I was most pleased to see Reese in the stands. Most pleased indeed.
Response to Those Home Fans Booing Gilbert: "Be quiet!!!!! Haters!!!! Haters!!!! Haters!!!! Shut up!!! GIIIIIL-BERT. GIIIIIL-BERT."
4) Fourth fan: Woman with boyfriend.
Name: Lauren Doup and Jon Mukai.
Identity: Lehigh students. She's from Pittsburgh. He's an Annandale native and W.T. Woodson grad.
Prop: Two large, colorful, handmade signs. One said "Hey Allstar" with a Butler jersey, an equals sign and some very pink lips on the other side. The other sign read "FOUNDERS OF SWAG."
Explanation: They drove from Lehigh for yesterday's game, leaving at 1 pm. They also went to a Wizards-Sixers game just days after the Hibachi was first plugged in, with a handmade Hibachi sign; the tix to that game were a Christmas present for Jon. Lauren "fell in love" with Caron Butler after hearing his redemption story, and was hoping maybe he'd kiss her last night, this being Feb. 14 and all.
"It's Valentine's Day," she explained. "I thought I'd try. Especially because I didn't think his wife would weather the storm."
As for the Founders of Swag sign, Lauren wanted to go with a "SHOW ME A SWAGFEST" sign, which would have been excellent, but she let Jon make the final call. Also, she tracks the final resting spot of all of Gilbert's thrown jerseys, so she was pretty confident that their seats (just to the left of the tunnel) would be no good, since Gilbert usually throws to the right of the tunnel (and he did). I mean, she tracks Gilbert's thrown jerseys the way Tim McCarver tracks the strike zone.
"It's kind of pathetic," Lauren said of her research, although I disagree. Anyhow, she doesn't own any Mothering Hut gear but thought about ordering the Caron's Tough Juice shirt especially for last night's game, until she realized that it wouldn't arrive in time.
5) Fifth Fan: Young man.
Name: Richard Bangs. (I checked his license, I swear.)
Identity: Unsilent Majority doppelganger (23 years old, sitting in virtually the exact seat UM occupies at Wiz home games, yelling at everyone in sight. Except he's a WCAC guy, not an IAC guy).
Explanation: Took two days off from work to drive to Philly for the game. Sat in close proximity to many Sixers hecklers. Screamed louder than them. Also, screamed a greeting to Roger Mason from a high school acquaintance during halftime. Roger told him to say hello to Kate. Those courtside seats are nice.
Caron dunked. "ALL-STAR, ALL-STAR, THAT-IS-WHY, THAT-IS-WHY," R. Bangs screamed.
"I saw you on Oprah!" R. Bangs continued, saluting Caron. "I was pleased. Respect. Respect, Caron, respect. You were drafted too late. You were a steal."
Except louder than that. Andray Blatche then dunked. "YES Andray," R. Bangs screamed. "You, too, were drafted too late. Steals, both of you."
Moments later Gil went crashing into the front row after he saved a ball. "Good hustle, my man," R. Bangs screamed. "Little things, my man, little things."
A younger kid across the aisle who was supposed to be rooting for the Sixers seemed to give up and start rooting for R. Bangs at this point. Fine showing by Wiz fans all around, and that's not even counting the guy with the Wizards wig.
(Side note: Reece and Jon and Lauren and R. Bangs were all quite familiar with the Bog, which was nice, being away from home and lonely and all that, plus later on that night I met Local Poll voter Andrew Alberg in 30th Street Station, which was weird, Alberg having covered GW's loss at St. Joe's (and Alberg being accompanied by WTWP color guy Phil Kaminski, but not by Post beat writer Marc Carig, who apparently milked a hotel room out of that trip, unlike some of us), and then in Union Station at 1:45 a.m. we all ran into Post tech guru and major Bog benefactor Ed Holzinger, which made me feel that all in all it was a solid night, except I can't believe I forgot to ask my Swagfest questions.)
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