Leon­sis not show­ing Che­nier grat­i­tude

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

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.

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