Fan emotion after a tough loss is a turbulent wave of frustrated emotions. This I have experienced as an attendee in the stands; walking through the hallways and listening to the squawking of the opposing team’s fans. Out of the ten games I have attended with media credentials, tonight's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers was the first I have ever covered. Tonight provided to me a view inside a locker room not just after a loss, but an embarrassing loss to a major team rival. This was my first trip into a completely different world.
The post-game started off with the usual interview with Coach Popovich, who came out the door with a bit more huff than in recent games. People selected their questions carefully with Pop but the day still witnessed a minor casualty. A female reporter asked if Lakers fans in the crowd somehow altered the home court advantage. You could hear a soft collective "Oooo" from the group as they waited for Pop to rip this question apart. "I don’t think about that very often. You’re not serious, are you?" Ah, Pop’s preferential treatment shines through again. This was only a minor burn - If that had been me throwing that question out there, I’d still be icing my singed ears.
As stated, walking into the locker room was the chief difference from previous nights. The few players in view were already dressed or just about finished. There was no chatting or laughter echoing from the back portion of the locker room. Unlike in games past, there was nothing leisurely or relaxed about this setting. I was passed by a quiet but obviously unsettled DeJuan Blair, who’d probably walk right through me if I stopped to ask a question. Everyone in front of me had the same thought and let the big man go on his way. Tim Duncan was in the back, already circled by cameras and microphones, answering questions with his trademarked subdued manner.
After Duncan, the group quickly migrated over to Manu Ginobili, who was also already talking with a handful of reporters. With Manu’s interview complete and Matt Bonner answering a few quick questions shortly after, we all stood in the middle of the room waiting for the next player to pop out from the back. After several minutes had passed, it became obvious that most of the team had already taken off. There were no signs of Parker, Jefferson, or McDyess. Individuals stood around wondering aloud if they were done while others began to head back towards the media room. Gary Neal eventually appeared from the back and immediately drew the remaining crowd for the final interview of the night. Some folks stuck around to see if anyone else became available but the majority of the crowd took off – most with what they needed but some without what they wanted.
It is understandable that players, like fans, get upset at the poor performance and negative outcome of major games. And like fans, some players just want to be left alone while they calm down and analyze what just happened. I myself cannot think of a time I felt particularly "chatty" after a truly bad day at work. As ugly as this game was, players will recollect themselves, put this game in the rear-view mirror, and move forward. Feast or forget. The season is long from over with plenty of games left to play, including the fourth and final season matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers on April 12th. Tim Duncan spoke after the game on a similar note. "We’ll have practice tomorrow," Duncan said. "We’ll use that and then we’ll get back to the game on Wednesday."
This game was just a bad swing of the hammer, and as sure as Coach Pop is petulant, the San Antonio Spurs will be back on the court, pounding away at that rock.