The Media And The Pursuit of Symmetry


I am going to let you in on a secret: sports writers are enamored with symmetry. We all are, to some extent, which is why karma is such a popular concept. But writers? They absolutely worship symmetry. And why is that? Because it makes their work much easier, and the majority of writers are as lazy as they are shortsighted.

It is a literary device as old as writing itself. The story of the young man/warrior/basketball player who triumphs, propelled by brawn not brain - but who starts to fail as time wears on. When it looks as if his time has passed, he finds a new weapon that was beyond him in his youth, one that can only be gained through experience: wisdom. Thus, the wise old man/warrior/basketball player revisits past glory in an improbable last stand. Excellence at both ends of the rope - this stuff writes itself. I can imagine Wojnarowski right now salivating on his grease-stained ash gray keyboad, paper bag over his mouth to keep himself from hyperventilating.

And why does it work so effectively on us, the unwashed masses? Because it represents a clear, recognizable pattern that we can wrap our minds around, a fleeting perception of order in what we know is an absolutely chaotic existence. It was why we embraced that "Spurs win in odd years" nonsense for so long, and why I have met several people excited over the Spurs' position at the top of the Hollinger rankings, just like in 2007, isn't that interesting? (No, it is not.) It is why we find that one Jordan commercial where late-90's MJ plays one-on-one against his younger, late 80's self so appealing. "You reach, I teach." Full circle. So easy.

We regular Joes tend to understand the world through stories. Yes, even us The Fucking Classy Spurs fans do. The hero, the villain, the secondary characters, the mastermind pulling the strings from the bench. The story arc with the perfect, golden ending and Tim Duncan's knocking down a game-winning three against LeBron's outstretched, stupid fingers, and then his stupid eyes filling with stupid tears as he chokes on his stupid XIV mouthguard. It is the story we want to hear, the one we respond to, and the one we feel we are entitled to. The dimmest blogger or overpaid sports journalist, that guy who has all of two neurons and uses one of those to remember how to brush his teeth, can throw together three half-hearted paragraphs about the beauty of Spurs basketball and all past transgressions will be ignored.

Please, guys, make no mistake. None of those writers love the Spurs; they love the story. They are grateful to be given the chance to crown a hero, to predict history and sculpt such a beautiful, symmetric tale. They could care less about the characters - it is the crowning ceremony that they want to shape. And if they do it before any of the other plodding blogtards, well, that is just the cherry on top of the sundae. Their drive is the exact same one that led them to write off the Spurs for the last four seasons as an ineffective relic better relegated to the history books, and the response to these turnabouts should be similar to that shown to those premature eulogies.

The deluge of dominating victories has built an impenetrable barrier around the Spurs, just as 15 years of relevance has built a similar armor around the organization. Criticism of the supremely successful is impossible in professional sports, so apathy is the last resort for the stubborn few that refuse to abandon years of hate. (Mind you, that same perennial relevance as a contender/crusher-of-postseason-dreams has more to do with the Spurs's lack of fans outside of Texas than Bowen's flying kicks or Pop's obssession with defense a decade ago. No one hates the irrelevant.) And yet, I assure you that all of those writers are simply waiting for the tiniest chink in that armor. The first lopsided loss, the first plot twist that does not conform to the magical narrative of the Spurs' season, will set out spectacular feats of backtracking worthy of DC's most unapologetic retconning.

And you know what? The beauty of this game and of this season's magical run is actually the absolute lack of symmetry. Nothing says that we should be able to do this. In fact, we probably shouldn't. Duncan should not be throwing double-doubles around like he was still growing an awkward afro at Wake Forest. Nothing says our role players will show up for every single game and help us win ten more times. There are no certainties, and if there is something that Spurs fans have learned through the years, it is that heartbreak is always just one injury away.

This team is not the polar opposite of the defensive juggernauts of previous championships - we have not traded offense for defense as you would a pair of pants. The new Spurs are a balanced beast, with selective defense of varying intensity but still as good as almost any team at getting a stop in the last five minutes of a game. Likewise, the Spurs have not channeled the spirit of their once-almost-nemesis 7 Seconds of Less Suns, which was basically the work of one masterful playmaker at the summit of his powers. The 110 Points Or More (soon to be copyrighted) Spurs are a multipronged attack machine that is as unique as anything birthed in the cavernous confines of D'Antoni's mustachioed potato head. If you refuse to accept the lazy narrative that I read every day in the major sports outlets, the story that emerges is far more interesting. This is a team whose basic concept can only exist in San Antonio, under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich, right now. It depends on a coach completely in control of his stars, the most unselfish trio of hall-of-famers-in-waiting, and the infinite patience of an entire organization.

This is special and unique enough on its own. Skip the parables, guys - ignore Bill Simmons' disappearing asterisks and Gutierrez's blood feud against reason and good taste. Pay attention to Tim as he schools a new generation of athletic freaks at the ripe age of 36, enjoy him, and cheer as hard as you can. Because in real life, you have to earn the happy endings.

At least 10 more times.

This is fan-created content on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at Pounding the Rock.

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