Leonsis not showing Chenier gratitude
I’m thinking Ted Leonsis is pretty happy these days, and why shouldn’t he be? Both of his major sports franchises, the Capitals and the Wizards, are in the playoffs — the Wizards kicking off their series Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center against the Atlanta Hawks.
Last Friday, both of his new ventures in the Arena Football League — the Washington Valor and the Baltimore Brigade — debuted in his arena before 16,000 fans.
You might even say he is in the “Business of Happiness” — the title of his 2010 book, the one where he gave the rest of us a road map to happiness.
He laid out six steps to happiness, one of them being gratitude: “No matter what the circumstances one faces in life — whether life is good on a given day or absolutely daunting — be able to show gratitude for what one has to be thankful for keeps us humble and grounds us.”
Leonsis must have forgot that step when it came to Phil Chenier.
This should be a glorious time for his basketball team. The Wizards had their best season in half a century, and are considered the toughest opponent for the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
Yet as the playoffs start Sunday
against the Hawks, the franchise has this cloud of ingratitude hanging over it. The news came out last week that Chenier, after 33 years of serving as the primary analyst for their television broadcast, is out.
As this season came to a close last week, Wizards fans learned that it would be the last for Chenier, who played for this franchise from 1971 to 1979 and is among the team’s top 10 in points, games, minutes and several other categories, will no longer call Wizards games. This first round series will be his last.
Chenier will stay on in a limited role, working pregame and postgame shows in the future, plus contribute “feature content” and at times be a second analyst for select games, according to CSN Mid-Atlantic.
I think they call that “the pasture” on the farm.
All indications are that Chenier isn’t ready to be put out to pasture, though, like the classy individual he has been, he has accepted his demotion without protest.
Others, though, have been protesting for him.
Someone has posted a petition on change.org calling for CSN Mid-Atlantic to keep Chenier in the job he has held for 33 years, with 700 signatures and counting.
You see, these people — unlike Leonsis — have a sense of gratitude that after 33 years of analyzing the worst basketball in the NBA, season after season, Chenier was owed more, particularly with the perception that the franchise may actually sustain some credible success.
After sitting behind that microphone for not years, but decades of dysfunction and disappointment from one of the worst franchise’s in American sports over that time, it seems so wrong for Leonsis to pull the microphone away now, of all times.
Maybe Leonsis doesn’t recognize those 33 years of service in suffering. After all, when they hired Scott Brooks and was asked about the fact that this was general manager Ernie Grunfeld’s fifth coach, the owner answered, “I only look at since I’ve owned the team. That’s important. I wasn’t here back then, so I’m only focused on since I’ve bought the team.”
So I guess before 2010, it was “Phil who?”
Leonsis may have his reasons — Chenier isn’t “Monumental” enough, he doesn’t have enough pixels, whatever — but even if you believe the change will benefit your product, this is not the change you make, not now. Besides, for what it was worth, Phil Chenier was still very good at his job. It is the job that has changed.
I keep referring to Leonsis because while Chenier works for CSN MidAtlantic, the Wizards owner’s influence on the network’s decision became significant after he bought a significant ownership stake in the network.
We saw how significant that influence was when the network decided to step up its coverage of both the Wizards and Capitals (whose games are broadcast on the network) and cut back its coverage of the Washington Nationals — you know, the Major League Baseball team in town that draws more than 30,000 fans to Nationals Park 81 times a year. Their games are not on CSN Mid-Atlantic.
I wonder what Leonsis’ friend and business partner, Mark Lerner, the Nationals owner who is also listed as one of the owners of Monumental Sports, the parent company of the Capitals and Wizards, thought of that decision.
“We have been honored to have Phil represent us with the utmost class as an ambassador on the court, over the airwaves and in the community for 42 years,” Leonsis said in a statement. “We thank him for his unparalleled contributions to our team and his unique ability to maintain relevance and be in tune with multiple generations of our fans over his career as a player and a broadcaster. I look forward to working with him for many years to come as he continues that connection in expanded roles with the Bullets/Wizards Alumni Association and Monumental Sports Network in addition to remaining a key piece of Wizards coverage on CSN.”
Maybe Chenier will get a copy of “The Business of Happiness” to read in his time off. He should skip the chapter on gratitude. It’s optional.
● Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.