Through the course of my fandom, I’ve met Wizards fans from all over the country. In addition to the common DMV-area fan, some reside in California, Florida, Colorado, Kansas, and even Louisiana. More recently, I’ve got to meet fans from Japan due to the popularity brought by rookie Rui Hachimura.
This past weekend I got to meet and get to know two Wizards fans that have particularly unique circumstances regarding their location. One of them lives in Pennsylvania, and the other lives in New Zealand.
What surprised me the most about the two fans is that they are in a long-distance relationship and watch most of the games together.
Meet Rachael Erdman, 22, and Alex Hawkes, 20.
This past Saturday around 1 pm, I FaceTimed with the couple. They were staying at Rachael’s parents’ home in Pennsylvania for the holidays. Before I called them, they were watching the movie The Prestige. It was Alex’s last day with Rachael before he went back to New Zealand, so they made sure to get some quality time in.
How it all began…
Long-distance relationships usually have unique stories about how the couple got together. The first question I asked them was how on earth they met.
In February of 2018, Rachael went off to New Zealand to study abroad. On the first night, she met another student, Alex. The two began a friendship after playing an innocent game of “duck, duck, goose” with friends.
The friendship only lasted so long, as the two eventually developed feelings for each other and a month later began to date. “Do you want to be my 10-week boyfriend?” Rachael joked with Alex at the time. Although both knew that their fling would be short-lived, they grew closer and were determined to give long-distance a try.
Since Rachael’s studies abroad, the two have alternated visiting each other. Alex has come to Pennsylvania for the last two Christmas holidays and Rachael has since returned to New Zealand during the summer.
Long-distance relationships can be very trying for several reasons. First and foremost, the couples cannot always do daily activities together. Being miles and miles away makes it difficult to maintain the normalcy of a relationship.
The Wizards gain an international fan
Alex tells me basketball is quite popular in New Zealand. People play it in school and the NBA is a fairly big deal over there. The most well-known player is Steven Adams, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s starting center, who is a New Zealand native.
This is where the Washington Wizards come into this story. Prior to watching the Wizards, Alex had some interest in the NBA but never chose a team to be a fan of. This was the perfect opportunity for Rachael to show Alex the life of a Wizards fan.
Rachael has been a lifelong Wizards fan along with her family. She is the older sibling to Paige Erdman and Nick Erdman. All three children have played basketball growing up, and their father Jeff was a coach for 20 years. Watching basketball is a huge part of Rachael’s life. It was only a matter of time before Alex would get introduced to the sport more closely. He began watching preseason games in 2018.
Alex watched his first game at Capital One Arena when he came to visit in December of 2018. It was the infamous triple-overtime game vs. the Suns, which occurred just after Kelly Oubre Jr. was sent off to Phoenix. Bradley Beal put up a stat line of 40 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists to give the Wizards a 149-146 overtime victory over the Suns.
Watching the games apart but together
“We’re definitely watching a lot more games together this season,” said Rachael. Alex chimed in and mentioned that the reason for this is because he has now invested in NBA League Pass.
Rachael and Alex are able to watch the games together using FaceTime. I was curious as to how that would work and asked them if there were any issues such as lagging and delays.
“Usually, my TV is ahead of Rachael’s. We try to sync up our TVs so that one of us doesn’t spoil a play for the other. ” Alex answered.
The time zones don’t create that big of an issue for the couple. Usually the Wizards play around 7:00 pm for Rachael, so the games start around 1:00 pm for Alex. An afternoon game might sound unusual for an American, but it at least gives them a time-slot during which they are both awake.
During his stay with Rachael this Christmas, Alex attended two Wizards games with the Erdman family. The family attended the game against the Heat, in which Garrison Mathews put up a career-high 28 points to help the Wizards secure the win. The second game Alex got to attend was when the Magic came to town on New Year’s day.
Future plans to live in DC
Alex, who studied engineering, expressed interest in moving to the DC Metropolitan area for a career in the aerospace field. Rachael is working towards a doctorate in physical therapy at Lebanon Valley College. She has expressed interest in working for the Washington Wizards and Mystics Organization as a physical therapist. Having played basketball in high school, Rachael has the knowledge to thrive in the sports industry. “It would be better for both of our careers to live in the DC area,” says Alex.
The most important reason for moving to DC one day? To be close to the team they love most.