We Are Entitled
Wake up, amateur bloggers! Rise and shine, professional sports journalists! Smell the coffee, wash your face, dress up and leave behind the sweet embrace of warm sheets and half-remembered dreams. You know what time it is? It's time to start writing about the Spurs!
The Spurs are currently 3-0 ahead in a very tough Western Conference Finals. I'm as nervous as any other fan about our past collapses, but it cannot be denied that we are currently the most successful team of the 2013 playoffs. It's time for the talking heads to leave behind their usual platitudes and try to offer some real insight into how this band of merry men is playing so well on the back of a 37-year-old legend. We deserve better than having Magic Johnson believe Kawhi is a power forward. We deserve better than the myriad of variation on the themes of old age and insipidity.
Yes, I'll say it: We are entitled.
And no, Urban Dictionary, we are not free-loading assholes that mooch off the generosity of our betters. No, Prototypical Mediot, we are not expecting things that we don't deserve. We are owed intelligent writing from professional or semi-professional writers who have been around basketball for an entire lifetime. Dig into your bag of tricks if you must and write something worth reading, please. Believe me, it can be done. Some have succeeded already.
Some Twitter stars have raised their complaints: The Spurs don't open up, they are not interesting - or they are not interested in being interesting, which is not the same but it's close enough. The Spurs refuse to fit into one of the age-old tidy structures of sports narratives: there are no egos to soothe, no vices to quell, no larger-than-life personalities to admire from afar. All that is left is simply basketball and legacies - but writing about sports is not supposed to be about sports, dammit! Many sports journalists act like frustrated screenplay writers, secretly lusting after Woj's flair for the dramatic. I think it's that vacuum that the Spurs create, even in the face of potential scandal, that many resent.
Writing about basketball is supposed to be easy.
The sickness has spread to some of my favorite Spurs writers, who somehow believe that unbiased reporting means to highlight biased opinions of perennial naysayers. Objective writing should not turn a blogger into a permeable sponge that observes the game from all possible perspectives. A unique voice is the most underrated quality in a writer, in my opinion, and that's why despite all of Stampler's vitriol after tough losses (which usually bring forth knee-jerk reactions from me that are just as bad, to be honest) he is still a fascinating read, every single time. That is also why the Sports Guy created an empire behind his self-referential humor and pop culture reference. This quality becomes more and more important as the stakes are raised, and we look to our favorite writers to represent our inept, underdeveloped inner voices. This is somehow a far more controversial opinion than it should be: I want to read the Spurs perspective in Spurs blogs. (And yes, there is such thing as a Spurs perspective.)
By The Way
There is a myth circulating through the Webz: Spurs fans are whiners. Well, allow me to postulate an alternative theory: All fans are whiners. All of them. BOOM. Did I just blow your mind? I contend that the standard NBA fan does not vary greatly according to geographic accidents or differing loyalties. People are people, and those drawn to sports cover the spectrum between intellectuals to bum-scratching neo-neanderthals (I'm smack right in the middle). But the common characteristic that ties all fans together is a simple one: they care. They care deeply about the result of sometimes-unfair games, and thus they should not be counted on to provide impartial opinions about the quality of subjective refereeing. They have the limitations of those that love unconditionally.
That such an evident fact escapes some of the greatest minds the NBA media has to offer makes me wonder if perhaps they also have a vested interest in how we interpret these playoffs. Or maybe they are just idiots.
Writers who make of controversy their bread and butter invite the worst elements of every fanbase to come forth when they make a mistake. Do you think for a moment that Bill Simmons is surprised when some anonymous child calls him out on Twitter? Do you think Matt Moore needs your support when he engages his followers armed with condescension and righteousness?
I urge my friends not to pity them - something tells me they are all going to be just right.
Monday Morning Addendum
I forgot to bring something up last night: referees do influence games. That's a fact - it's not up for discussion. They have hundreds of ways to mold a game with their calls, the most obvious being fouls. When a star or a key contributor falls into foul trouble early in a game, he is effectively forced to the bench and the team's dynamic is thrown into disarray. Furthermore, foul calls are many times strongly subjective and as such they can be argued by fans, players and coaches.
Saying that the referees had an enormous impact on any given game should not be immediately interpreted as "we lost because of the referees", or as an indictment on their honor. Even though I have no experience as a referee myself, I can recognize how difficult it must be to make split-second decisions when giants crash into each other at breakneck speeds. However, sports journalists cannot ignore this aspect of the game simply because of how polemic it can be, or because the stink of "whining" is all over it.
Sometimes the usual "we didn't the lose because of the refs" catchphrase is insufficient. Sometimes it's just the easy way out.