Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Back to Bullets? Not So Fast.

Ted Leonsis recently took formal control of the Washington Wizards, a move that excited many around town, myself included. I've watched the Washington Capitals benefit from the stability of Leonsis' leadership, and his willingness to put his team in the hands of hockey people. He's got two longtime basketball people in place with the Wizards in head coach Flip Saunders and general manager Ernie Grunfeld, and Leonsis has already indicated that he'll be sticking with both of them moving forward.

Leonsis has always been one of the most accessible owners in sports, and his accessibility has provided basketball fans with the opportunity to give input on their favorite team. The issue that most fans have brought to his attention is their desire to return to the old team name and colors, the Bullets. I've hinted at this as well, specifically the use of red in the uniforms to try to generate some synergy with the Capitals. The "Rock the Red" campaign for the Caps has been hugely successful, and making the transition from "hockey fan" to "basketball fan" smoother, even by just a little bit, is always a good thing.

But I don't see the team going back to the Bullets, and in fact I'd oppose such a change. I'll explain.

"Bullets" is the name that longtime Washington basketball fans associate with the town's team. And I can appreciate the history that comes along with the name. But the reason the name was changed was because of the association with gun violence that it had, and because then-owner Abe Pollin did not want his team to have any association with the epidemic of crime that was enveloping Washington, DC. Many sports fans in town thought it was unnecessary, but it was at least a noble gesture by a giant in this city.

Do we really think that Leonsis would be willing to say, "Abe Pollin was wrong. This guy, who helped build the NBA and was a custodian of this city, didn't know what he was talking about. Let's undo what he did." I just don't see it.

Moreover, I think Leonsis has a better mentality than that. Living in the past, particularly with the Wizards/Bullets who haven't been to the NBA finals in 30 years and who've won 2 championships in their 50+ year existence, doesn't offer all that much to get excited about. The idea here should be moving forward.

The name shouldn't be the Wizards, but it shouldn't be the Bullets either. There are tens of thousands of potential names; there's no reason we can't find one that isn't Bullets that still helps us feel better about our team, and gives us an opportunity to change the team colors (which I'm still in favor of). I look forward to a name change. Just not back to the Bullets.

That name ran its course. Straight into the ground.

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