Among the Wizards' new fan traditions: Holding up "A" signs for every John Wall assist. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
I was surprised when a string of folks on Twitter joked Monday night that Wizards fans, standing until their team scored a bucket, might be standing for quite a while, as the Thunder built an 8-0 lead over the first few minutes of the game in Washington. I had not known that the Wizards have one of those “stand till we score” traditions, a college thing that has caught on mostly in Oklahoma City and New Orleans in the NBA.
It turns out the Wizards don’t really have that tradition. The team is trying to create it as part of an overhaul of the in-game experience for fans — and a larger image makeover that (as Henry Abbott pointed out today) also may involve redesigning the Wizards logo.
The man behind a lot of this is Greg Bibb, the Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the Wizards and the WNBA’s Mystics. Bibb took his position with the Wizards when Ted Leonsis assumed control of the team from the Pollin family, and he set about immediately to change the way fans experienced a Wizards game, Bibb said. The standing tradition, new this season, is part of that mission. “It’s part of a larger theme of trying to create an environment where, win or lose, fans leave the venue saying, ‘That was time and money well spent,’” Bibb said. “When fans are engaged and interactive, they are much more likely to say, ‘Yes, that was time and money well spent.’”
Also Bibb’s idea for this season: Having someone in the crowd hang a huge “A” along one of the Verizon Center’s facades for every John Wall assist – similar to the “Ks” fans hang in baseball stadiums for a strikeout. In Washington, though, the guy hanging the letters is a part-time employee paid to do so, and not a fan. The “stand till we score” thing isn’t exactly organic, either, Bibb says. The public address announcer and an in-arena DJ, Big Tigger, exhort fans to stand during that downtime between the starting lineup introductions and the opening tip — and there is an accompanying message on the big scoreboard above the floor, according to Bibb and some Wiz fans I spoke with.