You have to understand that long before Florida and before Northwestern, I was a Bullets/Wizards fan -- it is my oldest and longest-standing fan allegiance, going back roughly 30 years.
For almost all of those 30 years, the team has been somewhere between mediocre and terrible. There were brief glints in '87/88 and '97. Up until this season, my three favorite Wizards moments didn't even come on the court -- it was the day of the trade for Chris Webber, the night we won the NBA Lottery to secure us John Wall and the moment the Bobcats passed on Bradley Beal, ensuring he'd come to DC. (I enjoyed the Arenas years a lot -- who didn't? -- but can't help but remember them as tarnished for the way it all ended.)
Three years ago, when I relocated back to DC, I became even more engaged with the team -- I watched a lot (a LOT) of Wizards games, most of them in the range of atrocious. Slowly, we got rid of the knuckleheads. We got Nene. We got Beal. We got Gortat.
This season, I would say that I watched all (and certainly part) of at least 75 or more of the 82-game regular season, subjecting Mrs. Quickie to Wizards basketball throughout the winter.
Like the rest of the fan base, I was rewarded with a pretty good season! And pretty good is pretty great, when you consider that almost all of the previous 30 years were pretty lousy.
Then this playoff run started, and we dispatched the Bulls, which was as thrilling of an on-court result as I have ever experienced. The city cared about the team again, in a way it hadn't in a long time. Is this what it is like in the cities with perennially good NBA teams?
You cannot underestimate the idea of feeling relevant -- of feeling ANYTHING positive about this team, even feeling frustration over bad plays or losses. Because those bad plays and losses were happening in the playoffs, not in December against the Bucks en route to a 20-win season.
Then we beat the Pacers in Game 1. Then we lost three straight, and I figured it was all over -- good job, good effort. Then, in Game 5, we destroyed them -- a new "favorite moment" for me. It re-sparked that, yes, this team was good enough to beat the Pacers in a 7-game series.
My feeling going into Game 6 tonight was "We SHOULD win. We probably won't. But we SHOULD." I can't tell you how amazing -- exotic, really -- that feeling is for a Wizards fan.
And guess what: They should have won this game. They should have. They should have taken this to Game 7 on Sunday and, then, won the damn series.
I can simultaneously be disappointed about tonight -- to have that many miscues and still be in a position to win is inexcusable for a team that is as good as this one -- but so satisfied about getting this far and putting up this much of a fight.
That I finally get to feel that mixture of elation and disappointment -- what so many other teams' fans take for granted -- is a newly minted priceless sports memory for me.
I hope for nothing but this being the start of sustained success where I begin to EXPECT success, rather than merely appreciate it as a novelty. Despite having the best young backcourt in the league, I actually worry -- like any good lifelong Bullets/Wizards fan -- that we will look back in 10 years and this will end up turning out to be "peak Wiz."
But I'll always remember this team and this run for the new emotions it allowed me to feel.