The “Fantastic Four”

By Carla Peay
Updated: July 9, 2006

WASHINGTON,D.C.—There is reason to hope for the future of sports in Washington D.C. The nation’s capital has more than staid old monuments, traffic jams and cherry blossoms. We also have the “Fantastic Four”. No, not Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, the Invisible Girl and the Thing. That’s the Hollywood version. But D.C. has its own version, and just like in the movies, there is cause for celebration when these four put on their suits.

Washington D.C’s version of the “Fantastic Four”? Wizard’s guard Gilbert Arenas. Mystics Guard Alana Beard. National’s 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman. And Capital’s rookie of the year Alexander Ovechkin.

So, where are the billboards?

“When you go to L.A., all you see is Kobe. On billboards everywhere, as soon as you get off at the airport, it’s Kobe. Same thing in Miami. Everywhere you look, it’s Dwayne Wade”, said Washington Wizards all-star Gilbert Arenas.

“Why not here?” he questioned. It seems Arenas has been giving a lot of thought to this billboard thing.

“I know what billboards cost. I looked it up”, added Arenas. Suffice it to say that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the owners of the professional teams in this town to spring for a few.

Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas

Let’s start with Gilbert Arenas, whose brilliant performance in the playoffs against all-everything LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers vaulted Arenas from second tier star to that first tier category. (Okay, minus those two missed free throws in game 6, giving the series to the Cavaliers).

Arenas, 24, was drafted in the 2nd round in 2001 by the Golden State Warriors, and signed with the Washington Wizards as a free agent in 2003, after being selected as the NBA’s most improved player that season. Arenas had a career year during the 2005-06 season, averaging 29.2 points and 2.0 steals per game, ranking 4th in the league in both categories, and 6.1 assists per game. Arenas is a two time all-star, and had 12 games in the 2005-06 season in which he scored at least 40 points, and 43 games in which he scored at least 30 points.

Known as a gym rat with a quirky personality, Arenas has made a habit of tossing his jersey into the stands after every home game, and has made it known he’d love to stay in Washington, provided the team makes a commitment to building a winner.

Alana Beard

Alana Beard

Next we have Alana Beard, the Mystics 3rd year shooting guard out of Duke, who is rapidly becoming one of the best players in the WNBA.

“You have to market her. She has the face, she has the game. You have to market her”, Arenas said of his friend Alana Beard. Does Beard concur with that opinion?

“I wouldn’t disagree with that”, said Beard.

“Gilbert is in a position where he’s very marketable, so he should know what he’s talking about. But what a lot of people don’t understand is that we don’t have the resources and we don’t have the money like other corporations have to market the players. But I’m sure it will come. We’ve only been in existence for ten years (the WNBA) and I’m sure that in a couple of more years we’ll be able to do that”, she adds.

But like Arenas, Beard is pretty okay with this billboards idea.

“I love billboards. Anytime I can have my face on a billboard, on TV, on a poster, you know what? I’m happy”, she added.

As for a four-star billboard featuring herself, Arenas, Ryan Zimmerman and Alex Ovechkin? Beard smiled at the notion.

“I kind of like that idea. Anything to get fans out to our games to support us and to get our attendance back up. I think that would help a lot.”

Selected in the 2004 draft by the Washington Mystics with the number 2 pick, Beard, 24, led the Mystics to the playoffs last season, their first appearance since 2000. Selected to her second all-star game this year, Beard is 6th in the league in scoring, averaging 18.7 points per game. She is also averaging 4.7 rebounds per game and 2.7 assists. Explosive off the dribble, Beard is an exciting, dynamic, high energy player who clearly sets the tone for an up-tempo style of play that has the Mystics 3rd in the league in scoring, averaging 79.8 points per game.

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin

The next member of our group is the Washington Capitals rookie sensation Alexander Ovechkin. Selected with the first pick in the 2004 draft, Ovechkin, 21, spent the 2004-2005 NHL strike season playing in Russia. As a rookie, Ovechkin scored 52 goals and 106 points, ranking him third all-time among NHL rookies. He led all 2005-2006 NHL rookies in goals, points, power-play goals and shots. He finished third overall in the NHL in scoring and tied for third in goals. His 425 shots not only led the league and set an NHL rookie record, but also was the fourth-highest total in NHL history. Ovechkin’s point total was the second best in Washington Capitals history and his goal total was tied for third in franchise history. Ovechkin won the Calder Trophy, having been voted the NHL’s most outstanding rookie.

Ryan Zimmerman

Ryan Zimmerman

And rounding out the field is Washington National’s rookie 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman. His level headed confidence makes it hard to believe he’s a rookie, and this face-of-the-franchise talk doesn’t faze him a bit.

“There’s a long way to go before any of that stuff becomes true. It’s nice to be talked about like that, but when you’re out there in the game, you’re not thinking if I don’t get a hit, I’m not going to be the face of the franchise”, Zimmerman said with a laugh.

“You just really want to help the team win, and do whatever you can to make that happen”, he added.

As for the billboard theme, Zimmerman sees merit in the idea, just as Arenas and Beard.

“Yeah, I don’t mind. There could be a lot worse things. I feel comfortable. It’s nice to be young and have an opportunity to be where I am, and be in such a good city. I’d have fun with it. It’d be cool (to see my face on a billboard). I wouldn’t say I’d drive by everyday and look at it, I’m not that kind of person, but whatever helps the sports in this area, and you get a feeling that they like sports, whatever makes them (the fans) happy and whatever will make them keep coming out and watching and supporting us is fine with me”, he added.

A leading candidate for rookie of the year, Zimmerman, 21, was selected in the first round as the 4th overall pick by the Washington Nationals. Zimmerman is hitting .285, has12 home runs, 58 RBI, and 7 stolen bases one day before the all-star break. Within the last three weeks, Zimmerman has hit two walk-off home runs and a walk-off single to spark three victories for the Nationals. Defensively, he has a sure glove and a quick release, and with a .970 fielding percentage, he routinely makes spectacular plays look easy.

Separately, these four players are the faces, indeed the future of their respective franchises. They are all under twenty-five. They are all major talents with superstar potential. And if that weren’t enough, all four are traffic-stopping gorgeous. But together, they give the ‘most powerful city in the world’ (the phrase used by the PA announcer at Verizon Center home games, which hosts the Mystics, Wizards, and Capitals), a “Fantastic Four” of our very own.