Tuesday, 11 Dec 2018

"It's clear that something is wrong with us mentally": Life as a Wizards season ticket holder

Washington, DC – December 1: Tim Sullivan, a long-time subscription cardholder, is constantly renewing his Wizards package, even though his wife has already stayed. "We have hope. I mean, we are fans, "said Sullivan. "The fans have hope." (Katherine Frey / The Washington Post)

Tim and LaVera Sullivan are on a rendez-vous night. They are huddled together in seats 1 and 2, row F of section 113 inside the Capital One Arena for a Washington Wizards game. Tim calls her "my beauty" and promises to keep her cool as she is accompanied. LaVera loves certain things just because they make her happy, and that's why she's by her side tonight.

They are retired and still in love, but these wizards play with their marriage.

"My wife could not bear the losses, so she left – I do not know – many years ago," said Tim, who had a variety of season-ticket packages since the 1990s. , later. "And I continue. Hoping that something will happen.

Over the years, LaVera has transmitted so many games that other subscribers of his section, at least those who always come back, wonder if the Sullivans have divorced. Tim does not recognize many faces around him anymore. many of his friends stopped renewing themselves years ago.

Tim, however, is no different from other Loyalists who continually renew their ticket packages.

"We have hope. I mean, we are fans, "he said. "The fans have hope."

These fans have never attended an Eastern Conference finals in their local arena nor seen their favorite team win 50 games. Some sentences trigger stress: the project of 2011.. . four years, $ 64 million. . . the wizards traded their first round pick. Many of them declare their last win each year and yet they are there, loyal and frustrated by expensive places on a sleepless night in November, watching the Wizards fall 20 points in the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers.

They continue to hold. Why?

"It's clear that there's something wrong with us mentally to keep coming out every year," joked Adam Gracia, 31, who has been getting season tickets for 12 seasons.

Gracia was still in college when his family bought for the first time three seats in section 102. In adulthood, he now participates.

"We keep coming back because we never know, it could well be at least one year when we will turn around," he said.

As he watched the Wizards-Blazers match from his usual position, two friends filling the other seats, Gracia kept his phone in case he had received a message from his wife asking him to hurry home because their new would not stop crying. In truth, he was secretly rooting for S.O.S. message.

"Even though I liked going to the games, watching this team can be miserable," said Gracia. "I have a 6 week old baby, she cries a lot, I sometimes prefer to listen to her crying for three years, than watching them play."

Jerry Higgins, who faces players on the way to the court for pre-game warm-ups, is easier to satisfy. During the summer, the arena has undergone renovations; he thought that the space was good like that. He will applaud politely even though the star singer of the evening adds too much sauce to "The Star-Spangled Banner" – "I've heard a lot of really bad national anthems," said Higgins – and he's n & # 39; He's not one to boo even when wizards go in 61-42 half-time against the Blazers. He would be happy with a 41-41 season as he just wants to see his favorite match.

Why does Jerry Higgins keep his season subscriptions? "I like basketball. I would watch your mother play my mother in pay-per-view and my mother's death. But it's hard, so you never know. (Katherine Frey / The Washington Post)

"I love basketball," said Higgins, 61, a season ticket holder for 19 years. "I would watch your mother play my mom on pay-per-view and my mother's death. But it's hard, so you never know.

Since the first siege of Row A in Section 116, Higgins has seen Michael Jordan say goodbye and Bradley Beal and John Wall grow up. He does not give up his place, as does Jay and Willistine Brown at seats 4 and 5 of Section 104.

Jay has calculated an annual increase of $ 705 over his first season, but he is reluctant to stop renewing his drugs because hope is a potent drug.

"I guess I'm afraid the year we decide not to do it is the year they go to do it. Is it being addicted? I do not know, "Willistine said. "Maybe we are witch addicts, I do not know."

According to a spokesman for the team, the overall retention rate of season ticket renewals has remained relatively constant while the growth in the total number of season subscriptions has steadily increased since the start from the Monumental Sports & Entertainment era in 2010. The company does not publish accurate figures, but anecdotal figures. Evidence suggests that renewals decreased during the 2018-19 season.

Washington ranks 22nd with an average audience of 16,441 at home, up from 17,973 in 2017-18, according to ESPN attendance figures. While the team announced two walkouts in the arena with a capacity of 20,409 – the opening of the October 18 home game against the Miami Heat and the November 2 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder – The other 10 home games have attracted a lot less people, especially visible before 7 pm start.

"We will probably only watch after the first quarter," said Willistine Brown, 67. "We tell ourselves," Hmm, it's a bit sparse here tonight. "

Several years ago, a longtime fan in the same section as the Sullivans tried to convince others to stop renewing. Tim Sullivan did not take part in the mutiny, but now, he warned, he is close. His wife wants to spend more time in their retirement home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and has gone solo while he attends games. What could convince him to come back?

"Right now, my condition would be to shoot [Washington General Manager] Ernie Grunfeld or else I will not renew, "said Sullivan. "I'm so close to going out and I'm under pressure because we have a retirement home in Pennsylvania. . . There is a lot of pressure, then Ernie pushes. I just want someone to take me back here.

Sullivan's voice rose as he accused Grunfeld's faults: "Jesus, Ernie! Sixteen million! Launched Sullivan, citing Ian Mahinmi's annual salary. "I would have signed for six!" Gracia, who does not get any more excited about the Wizards, has the same complaints, but in a muffled tone. Nevertheless, he added that he thought the crowd of supporters of fire and sulfur was right and needed to be heard.

"Organizations have to take it as a compliment, because if [fans] do not say it, that means nobody cares, "said Gracia. "When [the Wizards] Speak like "We must exchange John Wall" or "Fire Scott Brooks" or the conversation is about getting rid of Ernie Grunfeld. These conversations take place because they are fans and want to see a winner and they care about the team.

"This is the most important thing," continued Gracia, "why we keep coming back because we want to see a winner."

After this double-digit loss of the Blazers, The Wizards had a difficult time in the news cycle but started winning home games. Last week, they offered a glimmer of hope by defeating the Houston Rockets in an exciting overtime game.

As the celebration music progressed, the Browns climbed the steps leading out of the main hall. Willistine stopped for a moment, letting Jay walk without her and smiled. One night the wizards were worth their devotion.

"This," she says, "is the reason we are coming back."

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