A Hawks Fan and a Wizards Fan Walk Into Verizon Center for Atlanta-D.C. Game 3Rob Carr/Getty Images
The Hawks and the Wizards are in the middle of the Eastern Conference semifinals. What the series may lack in sex appeal, it makes up with scientific intrigue: If two sports cities are doomed by decades of bad luck and disappointment, is it possible for either one to triumph? How does anyone win if everyone knows they’re supposed to lose? In its own way, this series is one long science experiment. To document results, we sent two incredibly biased correspondents to sit together in the stands for Game 3. These are notes from the day that ensued.
Andrew Sharp: We had a great lunch today. That was enough. Good to see Rem. That was fun. But it’s 80 degress and sunny out now. John Wall isn’t playing. I don’t need to ruin this afternoon by subjecting myself to three hours of Ramon Sessions, all while this dumb-ass Hawks team stomps on my heart. Especially not if I have to sit next to Rem while it happens.
Rembert Browne: Blackened fish over stone-cut grits — yes, that was delightful. It’s been a while since I saw that Andrew Sharp face — and what a face. It’s great to be back in my second home of Washington, D.C., the true sports capital of intramural kickball and intramural flag football. Our two hot-garbage franchises from our two immaculate hometowns are playing today, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share this moment by sitting directly next to punk-ass Sharp. Because one team has to advance, and it’ll most likely be my Hawks. And that would be true with or without Wall.
ONLY 32 MINUTES UNTIL GAME 3 OF THE PRESIDENTIAL FITNESS TEST.
Sharp: In the stadium 20 minutes before tipoff, the Wizards are playing Young Jeezy, presumably to lull the Hawks into a false sense of security. Wait till Wale comes out to make their ears bleed.
Rembert: It’s honestly not fair, this musical disadvantage D.C. is dealing with: Philips Arena’s trap organist extraordinaire Sir Foster playing Jeezy vs. Verizon Center borrowing someone’s Spotify Premium to play Jeezy. No wonder the Wizards beat us at home in Game 1: They had no idea what it was like to play in a nightclub.
Sharp: This is advanced hate from whoever runs the JumboTron.
Rembert: This is my third Hawks road game of these playoffs. I have not been to a single home game yet. This should make me sad — spending such little time around my people — but I’m beginning to grow into the villain role of being that guy. This was certainly true in Brooklyn, but it will only be amplified in D.C., land of people from Atlanta (just as Atlanta often feels like the land of people from D.C.).
Sharp: Wolf Blitzer welcomes fans on the JumboTron, explaining the Wizards’ “Situation” for Game 3, live from the CNN Situation Room. If you told people from out of town that this happens before every Wizards game, they’d think you were describing a scene from Veep.
Rembert: I can’t believe that happens every game. You have to be kidding me.
Sharp: Wale and Wolf, though. [Sniffs.] That’s my Wizards.
Rembert: I went into the tunnels of Verizon Center to speak with a Hawks employee while wearing my newly lucky 2 Chainz Hawks shirt.
The Hawks are 2-0 when I wear it, and I had no intention of hiding it under a hoodie simply because I was in D.C. I almost felt too comfortable here. Before I walked back to my seat for tipoff, someone ran by screaming “2 Chaaaaaaainzzz.” It was Jeff Teague, a.k.a. Playoff Teague, a.k.a. Big League Teague (BLT). That was all I needed to see. We were going to Eastside stomp these Hill staffers by 25.
Sharp: Nene walks out for the opening tip and stops to give Ted Leonsis a hug on the way to center court. OK then. Here we go.
Rembert: “Millsap’s not playing unless they need him,” I’m told. “Flulike symptoms.” CLASSIC.
Sharp: Paul Millsap was up all night with a stomach virus and he’s not starting? This is the best news I’ve gotten all day. Look, nobody wants to see any player injured, but if they’re limited … I’m not going to pretend I want the Hawks at full strength. As long as Wall’s hurt, they can all get Paul Millsap bubbleguts disease. The stadium is maybe 40 percent full at tipoff, class is in Sessions, and WE. HAVE. HOPE.
Rembert: Our fearless center, Mr. 1Oak himself, Pero Antic, has shot two 3-pointers in the first two minutes. And has missed both. Sure. Seems like the ideal game plan after four days of rest.
Sharp: After two minutes, there have been four missed jumpers and three turnovers. 2-0, Hawks. This is a playoff game.
Rembert: It’s like watching NYU play Emory in football.
Sharp: And now Paul Pierce goes down clutching his shoulder. You’ve gotta be kidding me. No. This isn’t happening.
Rembert: Update: Our fearless center, the Macedonian Muckraker, Pero Antic, has shot two 3-pointers and a baseline jumper in three minutes. He has missed all three. Sure. Seems like the ideal game plan after four days of rest.
Sharp: Pierce is on the bench, which means he’s probably OK. If he’d gone to the locker room and come back with his arm in a sling, I was leaving the stadium.
Rembert: It took me a few minutes to figure out what this game reminded me of, but I got it. This has all the qualities of a high school basketball game. And not just because of the level of play, but everything. The lights are really bright. I feel like Bradley Beal’s mom works the snack bar. I just watched two people in bucket hats walk up to Drew Gooden — who is on a stationary bike — and have a conversation with him. This is great. I mean, it’s terrible, but at least it feels familiar and completely lacks true stakes and will be followed by a party at the house of whoever’s parents are out of town this weekend.
Sharp: Six early points for Nene! Ted hugged him back to life!
Rembert: This is insane. We’re playing terribly. I know we’re going to snap out of it, but why not just beat them for the whole game? Why make me go through this? Why make Nene look like a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Sharp’s so happy right now. This is miserable.
Sharp: Mike Muscala is exactly the NBA player you imagine when you hear there’s an NBA player named “Mike Muscala.”
Rembert: The good news is that Kyle Korver is doing his job. He’s made two 3s. The bad news: everything else. I’m watching Washington, D.C., learn how to believe in itself as a sports city and I’m about to vomit. We have 18 points and are down by 10, and the first quarter is almost over. This is so annoying. Why come back and win when you can just win?
Sharp: Wall’s suit. The carnation. Wizards up 10.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
2 FRESH 2 BE STRESSED.
Rembert: Wall looks incredible. There’s no denying that. Like, someone who actually plays professional sports.
Sharp: Why not us?
So. Many. Reasons.
Rembert: Nothing sums up this series like “Why Not Us?” When this series goes back to Atlanta for Game 5, I hope we also have shirts that say “Why Not Us?” With that said, THE “WHY NOT US” TEAM IS BEATING THE 60-WIN TEAM BY 11 POINTS.
Sharp: Will Bynum is hitting 3s. WHY NOT US?
Rembert: “Yes, over here. I’ll have 50 beers. Just take my wallet.”
Sharp: The Hawks are so bad, they might be convincing me the Wizards still have a chance without Wall. Not going to record some of the thoughts I just had.
Rembert: The Wi-Fi not working is single-handedly saving my job right now. Every thought I’ve attempted to tweet has been a fireable offense.
Sharp: Favorite moment so far: Hawks get a stop and a rebound, and Rem jokes, “That’s Atlanta Hawks basketball.” Literally as he says it, Beal takes the ball right out of Korver’s hands and goes the other way for a wide-open layup. What a day.
Sharp: TEAGUE JUST CLOTHESLINED BEAL.
Rembert: YES, TEAGUE, YES. DO IT AGAIN. I LOVE IT.
Sharp: There might be a riot. Nobody goes after Beal. He is the entire city’s little brother. We must protect this Panda.
Rembert: LET’S GO, JEFF. AREN’T PANDAS ENDANGERED SPECIES? IF SO, POACH THOSE CUTIE-PIES.
Sharp: Beal hits both free throws on the flagrant, and Otto Porter Jr. comes back to add another 3. Fuck you, Rem, fuck you, Teague. OTTOMATIC.
Rembert: We’re losing by 18 points to the Washington Wizards. We have 31 points with about three and a half minutes left IN THE SECOND QUARTER. I cannot believe I drove down for this. DROVE.
Sharp: The half ends with Teague jumping to nowhere and forcing a pass to Al Horford for a bricked buzzer-beater. That Teague flagrant is the only time Rem has smiled since the game started. Go Hawks.
Sharp: Marcin Gortat and Nene are two of the goofiest, most enjoyable humans on this earth. The star shooting guard is nicknamed Big Panda. Wall is one of the coolest young superstars in the league, and even after the best year of his career, he might still be underrated. Porter could start a cult tomorrow and millions would follow him. Randy Wittman was a punch line all year long, and he may not have any idea what he’s doing or he might be outcoaching everyone in the playoffs. Nobody knows, and every game just makes it more confusing. Pierce is 37 and regularly dominates guys 15 years younger, talking shit to the entire world while he’s doing it. Can you imagine rooting for the Hawks in this series? Pretending to get fired up for Millsap and Horford? God.
Rembert: Hawks in five. I know it. We aren’t losing this game. I don’t care how excited this fan base is right now, and I don’t care how pumped the Wizards players are — they are not supposed to win this series. Good things are not supposed to happen to the Washington Wizards. Also, even though it’s completely embarrassing that this starting five once won “PLAYER OF THE MONTH,” I know we’ll come through. It’s what we’ve done all season. I couldn’t care less about Sharp’s Chicken Soup for the Gallery Place/Chinatown Soul story lines; all that matters is that we’re actually a good team and the Wizards are boo boo. Straight dookey.
Sharp: Sessions is on the JumboTron while the stadium loses its mind. Hawks down 17. Rem may rip off one of the cupholders and use it to stab himself in the heart. Or maybe he’ll stab me.
Rembert: Teague recently got a technical. Because he’s a goon. He’s the leader of this team and doing a terrible job at making us competitive, but at least he’s being a goon. And goons gon’ goon. The rest of them: just pudding soft. How am I supposed to root for a team that has the body language of little boys during timeouts? My fatigue level with the expressionless faces is reaching a critical point. The DNA of the team is supposed to mirror the DNA of the city.
I AM NOT SEEING THAT RIGHT NOW.
Sharp: None of this would be happening if Rem had worn a Michael Vick jersey today instead of that 2 Chainz shirt.
Rembert: None of this would be happening if I had worn my Michael Vick jersey today instead of this 2 Chainz shirt.
Sharp: Porter breakaway dunk. My entire body is vibrating. My heart is warm. This must be what heroin feels like.
Rembert: I need to get out of here. Right now. I refuse to have a heart attack and die of shame in Verizon Center.
Sharp: The entire stadium finishes chanting Otto’s name for 90 seconds. Everyone is standing. Rembert is sitting and mumbling “I hate Otto Porter.”
Rembert: I hate Otto Porter.
The only thing worse than getting trolled by the Wizards and the Hawks is getting trolled by Mark Lisanti, Georgetown University, Class of 1951.
Sharp: A Gooden 3 puts the Wiz up 18. Friend’s text: “This is genuinely shocking.”
Rembert: I’m going to fight someone. This isn’t a threat, this is a prediction. Because I’m losing control of my emotions. This is my group text, filled with the other masochists I call best friends from Atlanta who have been burdened with this life by birth:
Sharp: WHYYYYYYYYYY NOTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT USSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.
Fourth Quarter — Part 1
Rembert: You have to be kidding me.
Sharp: Wiz are up 20 with about seven and a half minutes left. During the third quarter, after Porter’s dunk, I misquoted Brian Windhorst and yelled, “There is something special happening in Washington, D.C. ” It was every bit as lame as it sounds. But it still might be true. This team loves playing together, and it shows in games like this. The Wizards were supposed to fall apart, just like they did last year against the Pacers. They even had a built-in excuse. And it didn’t happen.
Rembert: Look here. And I mean this — lovingly — from the bottom of my heart. I have never been associated with something as devoid of swagger and confidence as I have been watching my starting five in Game 3. I’m sick of this shit. It is the first time in my life when I have been embarrassed to be from Atlanta. Because of these five grown-ups.
When I was a child playing in junior tennis tournaments all over Atlanta, I’d often get down, pout, and then look into the stands for my mom. Where was my mom? Gone. The most supportive mother ever had stood up and walked away. When I saw that, it was a sign I needed to get my act together. It wasn’t because I was losing; it was because I was acting like a loser. And she was not going to watch her son act like a loser. And if I kept acting like a loser, she was going to walk onto the court and snatch me off.
She did this because she loved me. Winning and losing didn’t matter; what mattered was how you carried yourself.
This was my mom, instilling a life lesson to me — at age 10. By 12, I was good. Thinking about this and then watching the Hawks, all I wanted was to book my mom a flight to D.C. so she could tear into these five grown men. Break them down to their core, because they were acting like children — children who didn’t deserve to wear jerseys that said ATL.
They made me sick. Get them out of there. I loved them too much to look at them right now. Hopefully, between now and Game 4, someone checks them and gets their head right, or let’s just call it a season.
Sharp: Hawks just pulled all of their starters. The God Mike Muscala is checking in. Did you know the Nats are playing the Braves right now? Wonder what’s happening in that game.
Rembert: Oh god, the Braves and the Nats are tied.
Sharp: Rem just spilled an entire cup of Diet Coke on his lap.
Rembert: My lap is wet. Maybe I’ll pee on myself in fear, just to feel closer to my team.
Sharp: He’s using the Teague sweatshirt to clean it up.
Rembert: I’m leaving this sweatshirt here. This isn’t fair. The Wizards haven’t been the real Washington Wizards once this entire game. Not a single meltdown. Gooden just came out of the game and waved to the crowd. Not to a section, but to specific people in the crowd. This wasn’t fair. How come I can’t have players that seem like they enjoy basketball, being famous, and having people support them no matter what you put them through.
Sharp: Go Hawks.
Fourth Quarter — Part 2
Rembert: I knew it.
Sharp: 10-0 Hawks run. No.
Rembert: My shades are on and are not coming off, because MIKE SCOTT, SHELVIN MACK, DENNIS SCHRODER, MIKE MUSCALA, AND KENT BAZEMORE HAVE SCORED 12 STRAIGHT POINTS.
Sharp: Come on. This isn’t happening. Put Gortat in.
Rembert: I can’t move. Everyone here is so sad. I’m standing up being the cocky ass that I was raised to be because I’m from ATL, GEORGIA / WHAT DO WE DO FOR YA / BULLDOGGIN’ HOES LIKE THEM GEORGETOWN HOYAS.
Sharp: This is so much worse because everyone knew it was coming.
Rembert: What a world.
Muscala, Schroder, Scott, and Mack are in the game for crunch time in Game 3 of the second round of the NBA playoffs. Just unreal. These are the true guardians of the Atlanta galaxy. Korver’s in, but whatever, you have nothing on Bazemore at this point. Just be lucky you get to be associated with such legends as your bench.
Sharp: The entire stadium was worried about this from the second quarter on. Yep, the Wizards are still the Wizards.
Rembert: Look at Sharp. LOOK AT HIM. YOU DESERVE THIS.
Sharp: Hawks down 3. This must be how Millsap felt last night.
Rembert: Sharp’s head is on my shoulder. I’ve been there. Two quarters ago, my head was on his shoulder. It’s what happens when both of your teams hate you.
Sharp: I just put my head on Rem’s shoulder.
Rembert: I don’t know what to do right now. It’s opera-quiet in here. Wait, why am I the only one standing up?
Sharp: Hawks down one. Nothing to say.
Rembert: I love the Washington Wizards.
Sharp: I was sarcastically screaming “MUSCALAAAAAAAAAAAAA” with the Hawks going downcourt. He hit a 3 to tie it. Timeout, Wizards.
Rembert: Everyone thought that was the Korver dagger. But Korver daggers don’t exist anymore. MUSCALA DAGGERRRRRRRR.
Sharp: This game may be it for me.
Sharp: STANDING ON MY SEAT AND I WILL NEVER GET DOWN. THERE IS SOMETHING SPECIAL HAPPENING IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Rembert: I’m already halfway to a bar. Sharp is calling me and I am not answering. I do not want to see him right now. People are screaming, “You can’t handle the truth,” directly in my face. I just yelped, “Jail,” so I could be the one to turn myself in.
Sharp: Don’t know if it’ll last, don’t care. That was amazing. That was a religious experience. I believe in Paul Pierce. The Wizards will always be the Wizards, D.C. sports are doomed, everything ends badly. Yeah. But … He didn’t call bank.
Rembert: “Yes, 186 shots please, stack them mah-jongg style if you don’t mind, and — YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME BRYCE HIT A WALK-OFF ON THE BRAVES SHUT THE F.”
Everything’s going to be fine. Hawks in six.