Author's note: This is something I wrote on my own blog after the Spurs loss to the Lakers in April. It captures well how I've felt since Thursday night. Just substitute young, relentless, athletic, talented Thunder for my mentions of the Lakers frontcourt duo of Bynum and Gasol. Oh, and it's probably just my biased perspective, but it feels like the national media was just waiting for the Spurs to stumble so that they could begin crafting the story of how the league's future (read: Thunder) will overcome the old Spurs and finally break through to the Finals. God, I want San Antonio to win it all this year.
I’ve already mentioned on this blog my appreciation of the way sports can develop perseverance and faith in its fans. The San Antonio Spurs sorely tested that tenacity on Wednesday by falling at home to the Los Angeles Lakers, 98-84. I could stomach the loss, even though it came at the hands of a hated rival, but this game felt like more than a loss. The Lakers, absent shooting guard superstar Kobe Bryant, utilized their two seven-footers, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, to devastating effect against San Antonio’s undersized frontcourt. My worst Spurs’ nightmares—Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph of last year, the Laker trio of Bynum/Gasol/Lamar Odom, Shaquille O’Neal in the early 2000’s—resurrected once again. Bynum pulled down thirty of his own rebounds and Gasol buried every mid-range jumper. When the lead reached the upper twenties, I cracked and shut the game off. Unable to quell my despondency, I wasted the rest of my evening with meaningless Web surfing.
I hated myself that night because I’d lost my equilibrium during the game. My brother-in-law, Richard, and I had been talking about this the other day: the phenomenon of fan loyalty, which makes cheaters (Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Ryan Braun) even more popular in their hometown. Die-hard fans defend their teams like protective mother hens, preen over victories, and ache miserably with each loss, identifying personally with it all. Now, watching the Spurs lose to the Lakers, each successive, disorganized, frantic possession on offense by the Spurs mirrored my own insecurities in constructing a meaningful life. The Lakers’ smooth scoring reminded me of all the slick, polished, successful peers I knew in college.
Unable to control my emotions watching the Spurs lose, I spilled out frustration everywhere. I wasted an opportunity to write because I was too angry to compose myself. I went to bed late, even though I needed to wake up at 5:30 for work. I ignored my wife all evening. Yet again, I failed to cook anything, even though we're short on food. Clearly, my spirit exhibited none of the faith and perseverance I’ve described so glowingly.
You know what pissed me off most of all? ESPN.com featured the Spurs’ embarrassment prominently on their front page when last week’s Spurs’ road win over the Celtics had been relegated to the back page. There’s nothing like adding national insult to ego-bruising injury. Looking back, I can only hope that the Spurs had a bit more composure than I did in dealing with the loss.