Spouting off from the Cheap Seats
Greetings, Pounders. In case you aren't familiar with me, I host a weekly San Antonio Spurs segment on my daily sports show with your fearless leader, J.R. Wilco. I'm very comfortable in my role as a radio host and I'm stepping out of that comfort zone to write about the NBA. And I'm honored to be able to contribute to this amazine site.
I'm a Knicks fan. Actually, that's only part of the story. The hierarchy of my fandom goes like this: Mets, Jets, Rangers, Knicks, Celtics and Detroit Tigers, and of course there's a story behind each of them. I won't bore you all with the details, but suffice to say that the last thing I ever thought I would do would be to write for a Spurs site. Talk about stepping out of the comfortable.
So why do it in the first place?
One of the greatest lessons I've learned from my time on radio is that my listeners know more about any specific team than I do. And a radio host mentor of mine taught me to always remember that I'm on the outside looking in (viewing it all from the cheap seats, as it were) and as long as I keep that in mind my listeners will keep listening. Plus I love a good challenge and when J.R. and I discussed my writing here, I jumped at the chance.
About a year and a half ago I interviewed two St. Louis Cardinal bloggers and they talked about "The Cardinal Way." It's a standard that is taught to every single player in their organization. From day one, they're introduced to the respect required of those who wear the Cardinal uniform: respect for the organization, the manager, their fellow teammates, the fans and the game itself.
Insubordination and foolishness that embarrasses the organization simply isn't tolerated.
Team business stays in house and no one player is greater then the team. You do what the manager says when he says it otherwise you are gone -- even if it could possibly cost the organization the World Series. In The Cardinal Way, nothing is more important than the organization.
As I was listening to these guys, my first thought was that this is why they are so successful. My second thought was that NONE of my teams have anything remotely close to this. And my third was wondering how many professional sports organizations have what St. Louis has.
You probably know where I'm going with this now.
Last season Spurs fans and the rest of the basketball world watched in amazement as the Spurs dealt with a growing problem in their locker room; releasing Stephen Jackson, who was supposed to be a valuable member of the squad, especially in the playoffs. At the time, none of us knew for certain why he was released from the team. All we were left with was speculation, and that's exactly the way it should be. Team business stays in house until it can't stay there any longer. We later learned why and since I'm not completely sure to this day what exactly happened what I do know is that Jackson became a divisive figure and a detriment to the team. So he was gone.
I admired Coach Popovich for that move...not many coaches in today's NBA would have the stones to remove an important piece of a possible championship team. Jackson could have made the difference in the Heat series, and from my view from the cheap seats, dismissing Jackson cost him another ring. But Popovich doesn't coach like that does he? He plays the percentages and it's always a 100% certainty that you can't count on someone you can't trust.
Trust. It's crucial in team sports. The Spurs Way is one built on respect for each other and the organization. Manu Ginobli is a perfect example of a coach trusting a player. By his own lofty standards Ginobli didn't exactly light the league on fire this past season, but where was he in Game 5 of the Championships? Starting and shining like the future Hall of Famer that he is. I still remember the smile on Popovich's face after Ginobli knocked down one three pointer after another. Popovich never doubted that move for a second did he?
The last 24 seconds of game six was another perfect example of the Spurs way. The national media and fans worldwide all gasped when Tim Duncan wasn't on the floor. "Where was Duncan" seemed to be the universal cry? Why wasn't he on the floor? Has Popovich finally lost it? A missed rebound and missed free throw led to a heartbreaking loss and of course everyone blamed Popovich. As the finger-pointing continued, my first thought was that these folks don't watch many Spurs games, do they?
How could these experts not know that this is how he coaches? This is what he does, and had Kawhi Leonard brought down that one rebound he had both hands on, it would be champagne and parade time. But he didn't, so instead it was time to hammer Popovich instead. Of course you didn't see any of that hammering and finger pointing from inside the camp. Duncan wasn't pouting in the press. Parker didn't chide Leonard for not grabbing that rebound. They went about their business doing it The Spurs Way.
I'd like to hear from you, Pounders; the Spurs fans who watch the team all season long. The ones with the "front row seats" who are the most informed people when it comes to what the San Antonio franchise does in every situation. I'm absolutely sure you folks can fill up the comments section with plenty more examples of what you feel is The Spurs Way, and make fans of the other teams mighty jealous.