I'm a professional tennis coach who works daily with young and old alike. I constantly stress the fundamentals of the game and try to get my students to do the little things better than everyone else does. Stuff like watching the ball (you'd think that would be a given, but it isn't), moving their feet constantly with the racket prepared to strike, or following through with their stroke each and every time.
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Usually I direct these students to a Roger Federer video. Federer does the little things so amazingly well that, even though he's probably past his prime, he still wins most of his matches simply because he does the little things so well. My students think he's boring and prefer watching Novak Djokovic imitate his opponents through mockery instead of spending time watching a consummate professional go about his trade meticulously and seemingly without effort.
Doing the little things correctly and better than the next guy wins matches, but that stuff takes thousands of hours to learn. It's really quite tedious and often boring, and invariably many of my students prefer to practice hitting tweeners (balls between their legs), drop shots, and the like. You know: the fancy stuff that makes the crowd erupt. Everyone seems to love the flashy guy or, as the young people like to say, the dude with the swag.
Cincinnati Reds All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips has swag. He's flashy. He's outspoken and demonstrative, and he is a lot of fun to watch. This past summer he was interviewed by FOX Sports on the subject of swag and his belief that baseball needs more of it in order to be successful. It's an interesting read, but what intrigued me the most was the following restatement from the interview:
In basketball, the dependable Tim Duncan has "no swag" - which, Phillips allows, is a sort of swag unto itself.
If there has ever been a backhanded compliment, that is it. I really don't want to make this into a Duncan vs. Phillips debate, because that would be comparing apples to oranges. While Phillips is a very good baseball player, Duncan is a living legend who is certain to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Phillips, on the other hand, probably won't get into Cooperstown at gunpoint, so what would be the point?
This is how he defined baseball swag:
"Baseball swag, to me, is a guy that goes out there and plays with emotion, plays with the passion of the game, not caring what anybody else thinks of them," Phillips says. "He doesn't play for himself. He plays for the fans. He plays for the city. And when he goes out there and he does his job, he lets everybody know: ‘I'm here. I'm doing this for y'all. I'm doing this for this team. I don't care what anybody else thinks.' That's baseball swag to me."
I don't want to put words in Phillips' mouth (he talks enough already), but his definition of swag implies that Tim Duncan plays for himself, not for the fans, nor for the city, doesn't do his job, and doesn't let people know he just did something big. I don't know if Phillips watches NBA basketball all that much, but none of the above seems to apply to Duncan. At least not the Tim Duncan that NBA fans and especially Spurs fans have been watching the past 17 seasons. I would also venture a guess that Phillips missed the game in which Duncan got thrown out for laughing.
The thing about Duncan that people like Phillips seem to ignore is that Tim has played his entire career for one organization. He plays hard for his team and his city. The Big Fundamental has led his team to the playoffs every season of his career, and four times, San Antonio won the entire shooting match. There certainly aren't too many professional athletes in any sport who can say that, and yet Phillips claims Duncan has no swag? Oops, sorry. Don't forget he did say Duncan's no swag is sort of swag. We don't want to get confused here, do we?
Why leave out the rest of the Spurs? They're pretty swag-less as well. Kawhi Leonard doesn't say a peep on the floor. Manu Ginobili doesn't go ballistic every time he hits a big three-pointer. Tony Parker makes a big play after big play and not only acts as if he's actually done the sort of thing before, it's as though he does it every single day.
Let's not forget about the Spurs' illustrious leader, Head Coach Gregg Popovich. Ever watch and listen to opposing teams commentators before Pop gets forced into one of those sideline interviews? They say things like, "And now, with the most unenviable job, here's so-and-so with Coach Gregg Popovich." Then they laugh after one of Pop's four-word answers and say, "Boy, did he say a mouthful". Nope. No swag there either. Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli, and Boris Diaw are all swag-less as well. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
Boring to the hilt and unworthy of watching are these San Antonio Spurs. There's zero excitement generated from this swag-less bunch of fundamentally sound professional athletes. They just go about their business, which is to win games and to do it in a way that reflects upon the Spurs organization, the city of San Antonio, the fans and, most importantly, the National Basketball Association. That's real swag and something that most professional franchises would love to have, but very few of them actually do!
It's time for you, my fellow Pounders and guests, to weigh in with your thoughts about this swag-less organization, and I look forward to reading your comments!