Notes From a Ravaged Season
In which I answer all of your questions about yesterday's narrow loss to the Bulls. And by "your," I mean "my." And by "loss," I mean "decapitation."
So, I hear Gilbert came to the game?
Yup, in black slippers and a soft white athletic suit of some sort. His limp was severe. He declined to talk to the media. As the AP reported, Gil told reporters that he doesn't talk before games. Ha. Also, he doesn't stay for such games. Ha. Eddie Jordan was asked about Gil's absence afterward. "Gil is Gil. He's very, very different," Jordan said. Great news.
Were there any fans who flew great distances wearing funny t-shirts merely with the vain hope of at least seeing Gilbert?
Yup, that would be Amanda Young, Julie Walker and Cyndi Crossette-Powell, three T-Wolves fans from the Iowa City area. Walker's daughter became a Gil freak after he highfived her during a game two years ago, so the Walkers got courtside seats for the Wiz game in Minnesota this year with the hopes of getting a Gil autograph. Well, there was a blizzard, and they couldn't go. A friend promised to try to get Gil's autograph, but she couldn't get it, and she then sent a defeated e-mail to Walker: "I'm sad to say, Operation Gilbert Arenas has failed."
Julie Walker doesn't roll like that, though. There is no failure. And so she borrowed her husband's credit card and hooked up a flight to yesterday's game, and courtside seats, and three $30 blinged-out "Operation Gilbert Arenas" t-shirts for herself and two friends. Then Gil got hurt, after the reservations had already been made. When Young finally reached her phone that night, Walker had already called more than 20 times.
They were still hoping to get Gilbert's autograph when I saw them, but then I told them that word was he had left the building. Sad. The ladies thought about covering their t-shirts with band-aids, or putting "Continued" on the bottom, but they're still not calling it a failure.
"We can definitely do this again," Walker said.
Anyhow, Julie sent Gil a message through his MySpace page, and he wrote her and said they should provide their address and he'd give them some goodies.
"When he messaged her back, I could hear her scream clear down the hallway," Young said.
I asked why they were going to such lengths for an autograph.
"C'mon," Walker said. "It's the NBA."
That's pleasant. What else was pleasant about yesterday's game?
The media milkshakes.
Well, surely fans must have been yelling encouraging slogans?
"At least get to 20 before the half," suggested one fan midway through the second quarter. "At least it was a good miss," one fan screamed after a failed layup attempt. "Nice!" someone shouted after Donell Taylor missed two free throws. "Wake up Wizards!" someone else shouted. "That's why you don't play," someone screamed at Brendan Haywood after he lost the ball. "Big Gheorghe, suit up!" someone pleaded with Mr. Muresan. "When you start out down 11-0, you know you're in trouble," a dad told his son in the bathroom. "They laid a stinkbomb on national TV, wow," a guy behind me said on the escalator during the mass exodus. Which occurred sometime midway through the fourth quarter.
Did the fans get excited about anything?
The biggest cheer of the first half was awarded to the Wizards Junior Dance Team, which put on a nice show. The second-biggest cheer of the first half came during the free Chipotle burrito giveaway. This was also the time when the fans finally stood and waved those little white towels you get at big games. Yes, they were waving the towels for free burritos.
The fan of the game was easily Caron Butler, who stood and yelled and cajoled and encouraged and clapped, despite his cast, even late into the fourth quarter, when things were way out of hand. Also, he's carrying a little electronic hand massager, which is supposed to make his hand heal more quickly. He will resort to voodoo magic, if that's what it takes.
Was there any tough talk after the game?
"I'm not scared of nobody," DeShawn Stevenson said. "Whoever we play [in the playoffs], we've just got to suck it up and play: if we play Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, it's the playoffs. Big teams, big players step up in the playoffs. You can't worry about that."
How 'bout from the coach?
"Talent beat lesser talent tonight," Coach Eddie Jordan said.
How is SLAMOnline describing a first-round series with the Wiz?
"It's basically like a two-week bye week."
That's great. Any more cheerful news?
One prominent media member left the court at some point, saying he was going to wait for the varsity game to start. And the security guards were flipping through the channels on their little TV by early in the second half.
Is it true that you were offered a $1 bet on whether the Wizards would reach 30 points before halftime, and you couldn't bring yourself to accept it?
Let's move on.
I see the Wizards are now at .500, entering tomorrow's crucial meeting with Orlando. When was the last time this team was below .500?
At the end of the third quarter, the Wizards had Taylor, Blatche, Mason, Songaila and Ruffin on the floor. How many points per game does that quintet average?
Um, 17.3, give or take a few percentage points.
And which player, by the way, is featured on the massive playoff billboard on the east side of the VC?
That would be Gilbert Arenas.
Ok, forget all this depressing stuff, what was the best sign at yesterday's game?
I think there was a "Hiblatchi" sign somewhere, but I couldn't find it. Barring that, the prize will go to Dan Sachs and Duncan Ward, who had hastily constructed red poster board signs in honor of Michael Ruffin ("We Want the Ruff Stuff") and Etan Thomas ("Poetry Slam Dunk"). Seems that these two are Wizznutzz devotees, and they think some of the lesser-known players deserve the love. Sachs even had a Brent Price trading card in his back pocket, or possibly Mark Price. When he was a kid, Sachs would sit in the 400 level and carry signs for Ben Wallace and Darvin Ham, including the classic "Ham Slam." They were huge Jahidi White fans.
"We've always just been sympathetic to the lesser-known Wizards," Sachs said.
"Michael Ruffin, we feel he deserves more credit," Ward said. "Except when he missed that layup. That was embarrassing. We still held up the sign, but he's not doing the sign much good at that point."
"Putting our sign-making talents to waste," Sachs added.
In honor of the lesser-known Wizards, Sachs and Ward, who play together in a band, once attempted to get a friend to read some Etan Thomas poetry during one of their shows. He declined. Regardless, at one point yesterday, they yelled "I love your poetry" toward Thomas. Also, they yelled at Ruffin, "I love your beard!"
Wait wait wait. Beard?
Michael Ruffin began growing a beard during the team's West Coast swing. Then he thought he might shave it off after the regular season. Then people started telling him about playoff beards, so now he's thinking maybe he won't shave until the Wiz get eliminated, and please, spare me your jokes about how the beard is not long for this world. I just hope Ruff can get included in the Playoff Beard blog. I mean, he's rewriting the rules of that blog, to be honest.
Was there yet more Ruffin news?
Yesterday was the final Ruffin Family Affair of the season. At these affairs, the Ruffins choose one special family based on essays written by the kids, and the family gets to come to a home game and gets special seats and gets to meet with the Ruffins and get on the 'Tron, and everyone gets to wear red "Ruffin Family Affair" t-shirts. Then, at the end of the year, there's a big party for all the families who have been chosen over the course of the year. Honestly, those "Ruffin Family Affair" t-shirts are cooler than DeShawn's "I Can't Feel My Face" t-shirts.
What else did you learn yesterday?
Some people are of the opinion that Michael Sweetney is the fattest player in the NBA.
Cool. So, what in the world are you going to ask at this morning's practice?
Hell if I know.
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