The end. The end is always defined by the occurrences that lead up to it, hence its unpleasant nature when preceded by something you love, or cherish. Some of us define an unpleasant ending by the death of a close one, or maybe expulsion from school, while others will call their fanhood for the Wizards a tough enough life that when their season ends, the power to overcome six months of its absence is unattainable. And the end of a Wizards season stings particularly sharper when you know they had a chance; when you know that a win would have meant their season is preserved, even if it was for just one more game. One more game, which only meant once again there existed the potential for a stinging end. Yeah, life is a bitch, huh?
For years – a half dozen to be exact – the Wizards and their fans were able to see the end from practically light years away. Thus, to expect it was common and to prepare for it; well, we were already numb to everything anyway. Take last season for example. The last Wizards game of the season had already been preceded by 53 losses and by that time we were begging for the coffin to be shut and the burial to commence. I believe a week prior to that Hoop District had already begun #OttoWatch as preparations for another top 3 pick got underway.
An end created by a playoff loss, however, always delivers a feeling of abruption. It’s always sudden. It strikes fiercely, making it hard to absorb it all right away. When the Indiana Pacers were rejoicing to the tune of the final buzzer sounding at Verizon Center, it didn’t immediately occur to me that I had written my last pregame post. It hadn’t occurred to me right away that for the next few months I’d no longer be watching games to cheer on John Wall’s blow-by speed to the rim, or the fluidity of a Marcin Gortat screen and roll. No longer would I shout A-THREE-ZA at home or tweet B3333AL at the Verizon Center, using that many “3’s”. Sometimes he earned more if it was from the corner and it was contested.
And even before I was able to get a full night’s of sleep after the dismissing loss (I was traveling back into town late), I was telegrammed by the Phone Booth that the team’s exit interviews would be conducted the following morning. Talk about a sudden, harsher impact.
For us Wizards fans, being a part of the bigger picture spoiled us a bit. Seeing our boys finally getting the respect of a national audience, and particularly the respect of the national media had us feeling a bit distinguished. We actually won arguments; we proved people wrong. We all had those pre-Bulls series debates with one of our friends or colleagues. I personally heard terms like “the Wizards are going to get tossed,” or, “how will Beal get past Jimmy Butler”. Some of you may have even heard a more ignorant variety of statements, like “Gooden versus Noah? Pshh.” And when the Wizards finally destroyed Noah and the Bulls in 5 games, our basketball minds exploded; our egos skyrocketed; and most importantly, our demanding thirst for more Wizards success intensified. A Game 1 win in Indy in the 2nd round wouldn’t simmer our excitement either. But that series wore on, the Wizards would slowly wear out, pushing the Pacers to the final minutes of the game before gassing out in a 13-point, series ending loss.
The Wizards gave the Pacers everything they could handle, and they gave us everything they had. The silver lining in the abrupt end to beloved Wizards basketball is that when it does begin again in six months, it will begin with a group of players placed around a tandem of talent that is on pace to be the best in the league. It will begin with a group of players who have assembled a strong brotherhood, the kind that essentially steered them to their success this season. It will begin with a group of players who are committed to taking the next step forward to making the end, the ultimate end.