As you may have read in yesterday's Washington Post, Ted Leonsis announced on Friday that the WNBA Attendance Champions Banners, relics of an earlier Mystics age, will no longer have a home in the Verizon Center's rafters. Here's what Ted had to say about them on his blog, Ted's Take:
I was walking around the Verizon Center with Dick Patrick today and I asked one of the senior executives at the building about the Mystics attendance banners. And after some discussion we decided to take them down.
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.
I hope we can put up some real championship banners based on team performance soon.
If you are unhappy about this change yell at me and only me.
It's hard to argue with Ted's reasoning. And you've got to love his mindset -- the goal of a sports team is to win -- and only winning (or winners) should be celebrated with banners hanging in the arena rafters.
Of course, Ted also knows a thing or two about winning. Just look at the Caps (the disappointing end to the playoffs notwithstanding). As for the Mystics, last season it seemed pretty clear that Ted and Sheila Johnson had decided to close the book on the old Mystics and begin writing some new chapters. So yes, we agree, this is a new team with a new focus and it is time to celebrate winning -- not attendance --and begin raising some Mystics banners "based on team performance."
But as the Attendance Banners are taken down, our only wish is that they find a good home. They may not symbolize what the Mystics are about now, but back in the day, they served an important purpose. The Mystics entered a women's professional sports league still in its infancy. The WNBA was just getting off the ground and there was no guarantee it would even survive. In order to last, the teams needed to put an exciting product on the court . . . and they needed to put fans in the seats.
The about-to-be-retired Attendance Banners really weren't about honoring the team . . . they were about honoring the fans whose loyalty, whose enthusiasm, and whose hard-earned money spent on tickets, concessions and team gear helped the Mystics (and the WNBA) survive.
Those banners honored the fans of a hapless team who kept coming to games, year after year, who supported their team through all the coaching changes, player dramas, and, yes, downright dismal performances on the court. They honored the season ticketholders who suffered through that inaugural season of 1998 when the Mystics went 3 and 27, yet still renewed their tickets.
Not every team in the WNBA managed to survive. The about-to-be-retired Attendance Banners honored the Mystics fans who helped ensure that their team did not suffer the fate of the Orlando Miracle, the Miami Sol, or the Portland Fire. (Perhaps some readers don't even remember those early but-no-more franchises.) So while the Attendance Banners no longer have a place where performance banners should hang, the BasketCases believe that those Attendance Banners are, nevertheless, an important part of Mystics and WNBA history. As such, they do have a place and should be preserved. They should not be thrown away.
We have a suggestion for that "place" . . . Frame the earliest banner (from the 1998 inaugural season) and hang it on a wall in the Mystics' offices, with a simple plaque: "In Honor of Mystics Fans -- the Best and Most Loyal fans in WNBA History."
Photo Credit: DC BasketCases
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Pre-season Game Update. . . This afternoon in Cookville, Tennessee, the almost-at-full-strength Mystics (only Matee Ajavon has yet to report to training camp) raced out to a 21-9 first quarter lead against the not-at-full strength Atlanta Dream (no Chamique, no Erika de Souza, no Coco) and never looked back. Final score: Mystics 77, Dream 58.
Mo and Marissa led the way for the Mystics with 16 and 13 points, respectively.
This afternoon's Mother's Day Special was the last time the Mystics play a WNBA opponent before the regular season opens next Saturday, when the Mystics face the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Indiana Fever, on the road in Indianapolis.
But before that, Washington has one last pre-season tune-up -- a scrimmage against the Polish National Team -- this Tuesday at 6 PM, at St. John's High School in NW Washington, open to the public.