Leonsis removes Mystics attendance banners
The attendance banners were a joke from the start. Even to WNBA writers.
In June of 2000, the team's mascot "was introduced amid much smoke and fireworks as the Mystics raised their Best WNBA Attendance banner," the Orlando Sentinel reported then.
"If we can raise a WNBA championship banner to go with the attendance banners, [fans] will go ballistic," Chamique Holdsclaw told USA Today two years later.
"During a halftime ceremony, the Mystics hoisted another attendance banner, the fourth time in five seasons the Mystics have raised a flag honoring their fans," the Washington Times reported at the end of the 2002 season. "And to honor the occasion, Mystics' fans sang the national anthem accompanied by organ music."
Maybe if D.C. teams were regularly winning titles, no one would care. If the attendance banners were just accents to all the conference and division titles, maybe you could overlook it. But no Verizon Center tenant has won a league championship since the building opened, and that made the banners a regular punchline for visiting fans and visiting writers -- the Montreal Gazette's Canadiens writer made mention of the banners this spring. And they were especially grating to the sardonic home fans.
So with Ted Leonsis nearing control of Verizon Center and all its professional tenants, the suggestions were obvious. William F. Yurasko included attendance banner removal among his six suggestions for Leonsis, writing simply that "those things are embarrassing."
"It just seems silly, and condescending, to put up banners celebrating the fact that people attend Mystics games," Kyle Weidie argued.
"Please, win a trophy, not a turnstyle, before touting it in the rafters," requested Rick Snider, who included banner removal among his eight Leonsis suggestions.
These suggestions were all given within the last two weeks. Usually in sports, common-sense suggestions are tossed into some sweat-stained bucket and jammed into a locker. But this one was exposed to glorious sunlight. From Leonsis's blog announcing the change:
The only banners we should display revolve around winning a division or conference or league championship. So to all of the folks who have emailed me your thoughts over the years about the attendance banners- as a heads up know they are no longer up in the rafters.
Huzzah to that. No banners for leading the league in season ticket waitlists, or nacho sales, or per-capita blogs. If the rafters remain vacant, so be it. An empty belly is better than one filled with nothing but Twinkies and Boone's Farm, and so it is with sporting arenas.
More positive reviews:
Off Wing Opinion: "The fact of the matter is that those banners have been the object of scorn and derision ever since the first one was raised to the rafters following the 1998 WNBA season. I can still remember the first time I saw it, and then pointed it out to my friends in the season immediately following the run the Caps had to the Stanley Cup Finals that same year. We had a good long laugh at its expense."
Tim Lemke Sports: "Not sure what took Leonsis so long, but I guess this is part of ushering in a new way of doing things now that he owns the Verizon Center and three major teams in the city."
Deadspin: "Ted Leonsis: Greatest Owner Ever?"
Next up: Change the color schemes of the Wizards and Mystics, please.
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