As a lifelong Wizards fan, there are only a handful of great moments I can point to. Signing Bernard King was a fun one. Trading for Chris Webber was a great one. (Trading him away for Mitch Richmond, not so much.) Signing Gilbert Arenas (before things went... y'know.)
Two summers ago, when the Wizards won the John Wall Lottery, that was the closest thing I had ever experienced to the ecstasy of a championship with this team, which otherwise had given me so much frustration over the years -- no year more than this one, when the "rebuild" seemed like a vacant foreclosure.
This season, the Wizards started with one win in their first baker's dozen of games -- by far the worst record in the NBA, but even worse, the Wiz gave the worst effort in the NBA. Andray Blatche is the worst. JaVale McGee is a knucklehead. Nick Young and Jordan Crawford shoot way too much. John Wall's body language suggested he was serving time.
Last night, the Thunder -- the model of how a winning team is built from the ground up and an odds-on favorite to win the West (if not an NBA championship) -- came to town and I fully expected Oklahoma City to teach the Wizards a brutal lesson. After all, if the Timberwolves can shellack the Wiz by 20, the Thunder should be able to double that up, easy.
I scored a ticket to the game with a buddy; the seats were phenomenal. We settled in to watch the massacre. And yet... the Wiz kind of hung in there. They made the usual bone-headed mistakes and missed the usual litany of forced jumpshots -- but the rebounding was solid and the defense was relatively intense.
They kept it close at the half, then in the third quarter. Along the way, I noted that it's a moral victory even for the team to make it a game with the Thunder, even if they ended up losing. But as the Wiz took a tenuous lead, I shifted from the thrill of moral victory to realizing that when (not if) the Wiz lost this lead and this game, it would be the worst loss of them all.
With 90 seconds to go, the crowd got on its feet to will the Wizards to hang on to that lead, even as the Thunder seemed primed to come back, take the game to OT and claim the victory they clearly figured two hours earlier would be in the bag. It was the closest thing the 2011-2012 Wizards would get to a playoff atmosphere -- this felt like the team's championship, if they could just eke it out.
When Kevin Durant's desperate 3 to tie with a second to play rimmed out -- and I'll bet that 90% of the arena figured it was going to drop right in (I sure did) -- the Wiz claimed the most unlikely victory of the NBA season.
And a fan base that had been beaten down over the past dozen or so games by a team that seemed hapless and helpless got that flicker of joy that every other team's fans seem to get on a more regular basis (and certainly the playoff and Finals contenders get constantly).
Woefully low expectations are typically a huge problem -- they indicate that your team is going to be horrible. But in this case, it allowed for the thrill -- the genuine glee and surprise -- of watching the worst team in the league (your team) beat one of the best.
It was enough to keep me happy as a fan for the long losing season ahead.
*Yu Darvish signs with the Rangers: When he ends up being something in between solid and spectacular, it will be an entirely reasonable signing. (It's unlikely Texas also makes a play for Prince Fielder, but I'd rather spend $150M on Prince than $100+ on Josh Hamilton.)
*"The Streak" ends: Trinity's 252-match squash winning streak -- the greatest streak in the history of college sports -- was snapped last night by rival Yale. Worth going back to read the New York Times Magazine profile of the team from last February.
*Parenting: This is a pretty good recap of solid parenting techniques, via Deadspin's Drew Magary.
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