It's an extremely sad day for D.C. overall and its sports fans in particular. Abe Pollin died this afternoon. The fact that so many people in the area feel this so deeply tells you how set apart Pollin is from not only the average major sports team owner, but from almost any owner you can name.
Think about it: how much would you really mourn, besides what you normally would for the end of a person's life, if your team's owner passed away?
Even merely listing what he meant to D.C. does him a grave disservice. Pollin owned the Bullets literally my entire life (he bought them when they were in
And he might have been the most generous human being of my lifetime. He leaves this earth a rich man, but he gave back over and over and over again with hands-on charitable work and insanely huge donations. His money, time and commitment fed people, clothed people, schooled people and housed people who otherwise might not have had any of those. In fact, down the street from where we lived for several years in
The only times anyone ever had anything bad to say about him was when the Bullets or Caps didn't win, which happened a lot. He was sentimental and loyal, sometimes (very occasionally, in the realm of basketball operations) to a fault. But no one could ever say he didn't care about winning, or care about the city and keeping the teams in town; you know a lot of fans can't say that. He and Michael Jordan butted heads twice, once when they were adversaries during the NBA lockout in 1998-99, once when Pollin fired
There were All-Star games at Cap Centre and at then-MCI, and walking into the downtown arena in 2001 reminded me of all the years of going to Cap Centre, and how much I had hoped during those years that one day the team would actually be Washington's. Even now, I get nostalgic when I visit the shopping area on the site where Cap Centre once stood, even though it was out of the way, hard to get to, too far from Metro and, in later years, a tad obsolete. But once upon a time, the arena with the Pringles chip-shaped roof and the groundbreaking "TeleScreen'' - imagine that, a video screen above the court! - was the place to be.
Abe Pollin also had the stones to go against the grain and stand up against the forces of both conformity and insensitivity - when he changed the name of the team from "Bullets'' to "Wizards.'' It was back when the murder rate caused many to dub D.C. "
If only a certain other racist-nicknamed D.C. team had that kind of vision. Pollin made
I'll never forget June 7, 1978, the night the Bullets beat
Pollin's presence is stamped all over those memories, as it should be for everybody who rooted for a team - or simply existed - in D.C. the last half-century or so.
I'll miss him. There will never be another like him. He really did my hometown proud. Hope your favorite team's owner can, will, does do the same for you and your town.
(Photo: The Washington Post)
(Photo: The Washington Post)