Has Ted Leonsis Bitten Off More Than He Can Chew?
The beauty of being an owner of a sports franchise in the same town as Dan Snyder is there’s always someone keeping the grade curve in check. Like the kindergartener that ate glue or the sixth grader that made arm pit farts in study hall, Snyder, for most of his tenure as the Redskins owner, has allowed others to be viewed in a gentler light.
Take Ted Leonsis, for example. He bought the Capitals right as Dan Snyder took possession of the Redskins. And, for the first half-decade of the new century, neither franchise looked like they were really going anywhere. A few playoff berths turned into years of struggle. But were Ted and Dan viewed as equals? No. Snyder has always drawn the most ire of Washingtonians.
So when Leonsis built a year-in-and-year-out contender around Alex Ovechkin, Snyder looked only worse. Leonsis was taking one of the worst teams in the NHL and turning them into one of the best while the Redskins, save for a couple of wild card berths, watched season after season come to a merciful end.
However, in the world of sports, things rarely stay the same.
Flash back to 2010. The Capitals hadn’t lifted Lord Stanley, but the general feeling was that they were getting there. Then Leonsis, helming Monumental Sports & Entertainment, announced the acquisition of the lowly Washington Wizards, a move that was welcomed with open arms by the city.
Forgetting about those initial down years with the Caps, the move sort of looked like King Midas was going to lay his hand on another one of the nation’s capital’s teams.
Well, nothing ever turned into gold. Instead, it remained the same urine yellow.
The Wizards, who play the defending champion Miami Heat later today, are the butt of all jokes. Some say they should be called the Ashington Izards because there aren’t enough “W’s” to go around. Others say they should be called the Buzzards, a phonetic combination of Bullets and Wizards that accurately reflects the status of the franchise: akin to dead.
Ted’s other team — his ORIGINAL team — those Capitals, are currently locked out, but 2012 ended with yet another premature postseason exit, leaving some to wonder whether or not the team, as they’re currently assembled, have what it takes to get the job done.
And, not that many people care, but the THIRD team Leonsis owns, the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, are EQUALLY atrocious.
This all in stark contrast to the two Washington clubs Ted Leonsis DOESN’T own. The Nationals, fostering years of rebuilding, finished with the best record in baseball with a team clearly geared for a sustainable, competitive future. And now the Redskins, that team that USED to be the punch line of local sports fans, have a phenomenal face of franchise and just claimed their first division crown since 1999.
As everything around him gets better and better, it feels as if Leonsis’ ownership stakes feel overextended, proving to be a detriment to all parties involved.
If the Capitals’ roster is “blown up” as many are calling for, Leonsis will likely be the head honcho of three cellar dwellers. The man who looked as though he once hand-built Rome will have devolved into a Southeast slum lord.
All of this begs one simple question: has Ted Leonsis bitten off more than he could chew? If even Dan Snyder, that kid who eats glue, can finally build a winner, what’s stopping Leonsis?
It’s not just that the Wizards are awful, it’s that they are so bad without offering even a shred of hope. John Wall was supposed to be the savior, but nothing of the kind has happened. To make matters worse, Washington has also filled their payroll with overpaid veterans meant to be complimentary pieces, not staples that corral 30-40 minutes a game.
Last year, in a shortened season, the Wizards went 20-46. Sadly, that .303 win percentage was actually an improvement from the year before. But don’t expect to see any upward trend. Currently they’re 4-27 and they’ll be LUCKY to get back to 20 wins even in a full 82-game season.
For all the crap Michael Jordan gets for being a subpar owner, there’s certainly plenty of criticism to go around — even in the same division.
As for the Capitals, the team isn’t getting any younger. Don’t look now, but this once youthful core is becoming a squad of aging veterans. And that was BEFORE this year, when an entire season has virtually been scrapped. Despite what hockey fans might think, time hasn’t stood still during this lockout.
In his online blog, Ted’s Take, the owner wrote last year that this level of success is no longer acceptable. Everyone is in agreement there, but the question becomes what to do about it.
With these continuous years of dismal records, the Wizards have amassed plenty of premium draft picks, but none of them, to this day, have panned out. John Wall hasn’t been the game changer everyone said he’d be, Jan Vesely looks like a fish out of water on the court, and this year’s selection, Bradley Beal, has shown plenty of growing pains.
The Capitals are either going to finally get the job done or they’re not, and I, for one, am leaning heavily towards the latter. If they don’t and the team is broken down to be rebuilt, it could easily be 2020 before they’re ready to make another run. By then Bryce Harper will be 28, RG3 will be 30, and Stephen Strasburg will be 32. Who knows how much success the Redskins and Nationals will have already enjoyed by then. A couple of World Series? A World Series and a Super Bowl? Why not two of each?
And before you know it, Washington’s golden boy owner Ted Leonsis will have become the kid making arm pit farts. Isn’t that the way it always is, though?
Those who come up short usually peak early.
NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for sports updates and other shenanigans!
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