November 25, 2009

A Fond Farewell to Abe Pollin

Yesterday, a very special person in the DC community passed away. Although long-timer owner of the Washington Wizards (formerly the “Bullets”) was considered by many to be “old-school” in the way he approached his team – really running it like a family business, often hiring old players for management positions – he truly was a visionary in the way he gave to the community.

For over forty years, Abe spent lots of time and money in the poorest parts of town – always on the sly, never seeking recognition. If you heard some of the stories last night on talk radio here in DC (like this one), you couldn’t help but tear up. He gave opportunity to countless youths back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s – and you could hear how those people were then inspired to do the same. Abe created generations of people willing to help others.

Abe completely changed the nature of the city itself. He spent his own money – spending most of his fortune – to build the Verizon Center a decade ago. This in an era where most sport owners threaten to move a team if the locals don’t pony up and pay for a new stadium. That alone sets him apart. But Abe took the next step and insisted the stadium be built in a part of town that was essentially dead, just down the street from where the SEC’s old HQ sat (rather than build it in a suburb).

That part of town now is the apple of DC’s eye and its revitalization is continuing to spread outward. The transformation is amazing to behold – and it’s all due to one man. As we give “thanks” tomorrow, remember that one person can – and will – make a difference. Don’t give up in your struggle to reap the rewards of your own efforts to help others. Abe felt our love every day, as he has been the hero of this city for years. There are many tributes on the Web today like this WaPo article.

– Broc Romanek