I am terrified.
Last year I tried to predict the NBA season's outcome by using the 10 most popular songs according to Billboard. In all honesty, I am a low down dirty cheater -- I only used the titles of the songs and inferred what that title meant to the Spurs chances. For example "Whistle" by Flo Rida obviously meant the referees were going to get in the way. This was a lazy way of doing things, as I didn't have to listen to any pop songs. I typed the whole article while listening to a Queens of the Stone Age album. This wasn't good enough. I predicted the Spurs were going to go all the way because the number one song at the time was titled "One More Night." Without going into details, we all know that prediction was wrong. Perhaps if I dug deeper I could have foreseen the actual outcome. Take this lyric from the number one song , "I stopped using my head, let it all go". That is an obvious nod to the horrible events that transpired in game 6. And that is all I got to say about that.
This year, in order to really make this whole prediction thing work, it is clear I have to listen to the songs in their entirety. And that is why I am scared. About ten years ago I gave up on pop music and haven't looked back. It has been a blissful ten years filled with actual music and the occasional death metal song that sounds like the kind of thing people listen to when they spray paint pentagrams on old bridges. So with a can of mace in one hand and a crystal ball in the other I am going to listen to the top 10 songs according to Billboard magazine and correlate them to the Spurs. The rules are simple. I will listen to each song while writing a paragraph about the Spurs and the NBA in general. The song will be on repeat until the paragraph is finished. May the force be with me.
Number-10- Berzerk by Eminem
Oh my god what is happening? Why is Slim Shady yelling at me? I am super close to having a meltdown and we just got started. Trying to decipher lyrics out of this hyperactive mash up of samples from old school hip-hop, 8o's rock, and the mating call of a pissed off scorpion is like trying to discuss the categorical imperative in the passenger seat of an F-16. However I did hear someone say something about a chess game. Which brings us to one of the main reasons why the Spurs are yet again favorites this season. It is the same reason why they have been contenders for 17 years straight. Fueled by the collective genius of Pop and the GOATPUFF the Spurs play smart basketball. Sometimes it is not sexy basketball, but it is nonetheless effective. This is not the iso ball that the highlights love, or the defense heavy ball that makes Zach Randolph look like Allen Iverson. It is the kind of basketball that causes one to say "dude they just outthought that entire other team." Sometimes things don't go according to plan, but if everything was easy then why would we watch? So look out for another year of smart ball.
Number 9- Capital Cities by Safe and Sound
That drum roll in the intro totally sounds like the intro to "The Land Down Under" by Men at Work. That song is about the Vegemite infested land of Australia. The Spurs have two Australians on the team who might break out this year. Patty Mills could fill the shoes that Gary Neal left in the locker room, and Aron Baynes remains a huge curiosity on the bench. But it is in fact not 1982, so Men at Work are not on the Billboard Charts. Capital Cities are on the charts and their song Safe and Sound, which seems like pop playing it safe, except for the James Harden beard on one of the singers in this video. The only thing I thought was remotely unique about this tune is the trumpet part right before and during the chorus. The trumpet is an unusual instrument, and when writing it I find myself confused and not sure if I should laud it for being cool or criticize it for sounding like the awkward love child of a trombone and a clarinet. This is the same dilemma faced when examining the Los Angeles Clippers. The team could be a major problem for the Spurs next year, or a non-issue like they have been in years past. Doc Rivers is a great coach and will certainly make an impact, but will it be enough? How good will JJ Redick be on a contender? Will DeAndre Jordan get more minutes? Can Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get it together in the postseason? The Clippers crashed and burned in the past two postseasons, and many critics blamed Vinny Del Negro's playbook which only contained doodles of sailboats karate chopping giant marshmallows. The ultimate question is, are the Clippers capable of beating the Spurs in a best of seven series? The answer is a resounding no for now. However I feel uneasy saying that. Much like the uneasiness I feel when looking at a trumpet.
It is hard to forgive Drake for unleashing YOLO on the world. Though how bad is that phrase really? Essentially it is just "Carpe Diem" converted to the 21st century's text-happy speak. So YOLO is not exactly something invented by a Canadian rapper, as it is a reoccurring catch phrase that gives young people an excuse for irresponsible behavior. "Hold On We're Going Home" is not offensive and all around a pretty good track. Did Daft Punk have a hand in the production of this song? If not, then their influence is pretty hard to deny. The song itself is about devotion. Spend enough time writing about the NBA and you figure out that every team has a passionate fan base. It is hard to criticize any of these fans. Geography has a lot to do with fandom, but so does random occurrences. I am a Spurs fan because of a Sports Illustrated article about David Robinson that I read at a dentist's office when I was a kid. What if I didn't go to the dentist office that week? This article could be on Celtics Blog or (gasp!) Mavs Money Ball. So when we are engaging in trash talk and banter it is important to remove the venom. We are not so different after all.
Number 7- Applause by Lady Gaga
That intro sounds like a jack hammer sprung to life from my nightmares. Oh wow that is not the intro, that is the entire opening verse. It is super hard to understand her lyrics in the verses. Thankfully the bridge and the chorus do not feature power tools. The hook goes "I live for the applause". Which brings up the interesting question of what the Spurs Big Three lives for? Timmeh is such a fierce competitor that it is obvious he lives to win. This is why during his tenure "home court advantage" has been a misnomer. Away or home when Timmeh is healthy, he is motivated to win. This usually means destruction and despair for the opponent. Early in his career Tony Parker might have been like Mrs. Gaga. (Side question: is Lady Gaga married? I have no idea and I was about to look up her Wikipedia page, but I don't want my computer to turn into peacock or something.) The Spurs poing guard certainly attracted the tabloids. Though that probably had something to do with his marriage to Eva "still a Spurs fan" Longoria. These days it seems that Monsieur Parker is avoiding the limelight. His press conferences are now identical to the rest of the team, and his presence isone of a coach on the floor, rather than a fame-craving superstar. What drives Manu is quite the question mark. I can't even guess. One gets the impression that he just enjoys playing with his friends. Which is cool. Whatever drives the big three, we are lucky to applaud them for one more year.
Number 6- Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Ray
Did someone just say "sizzling like a snail"? What does that even mean? ... Anyways, the Billboard charts sure believe in tossing salt on a wound eh? Last season was indescribable. Thanks to a certain team that rhymes with "salami on wheat", it was easy to slip into sadness this summertime. The song is beautiful and does contain this odd ray of hope in its melancholy. It's as if the song is trying to say "The overall outcome sucked but the ride to it was incredible". And that is the truth. It is hard to be too downtrodden about last season. The Spurs were the second best team in the league. They were a couple of plays from being the best. And this was against a team that was supposed to steamroll their way to consecutive championships. If that doesn't bode well for the future, then I don't know what does.
Number 5- Wake Me Up by Avicii
Wow my ears needed this. Say what you want about pop culture, but if a song like this is at number five then there is hope for this generation. There is a lot of NBA and Spurs related stuff here. It might be tempting to sleep through the entire season, and wake up when it is all over. However while the ride might be stressful it sure is fun, so don't fall asleep for six months, Spurs fans! "I tried carrying the weight of the world but I only have two hands" is a clear shout out to the "team first" philosophy of the Spurs. No one on the Spurs has to carry the world by themselves and this is just one reason why they are awesome. Perhaps the most Spurs-y lyrics here is "they tell me I'm too young to understand." Kawhi Leonard is 22 years old and clearly understands the NBA. He is guaranteed a starting five position on a contender and considering his age and draft position that fact alone is insane. Even more crazy is that he could be one of the best small forwards in the league. He went toe to toe with the undisputed best player in the league and his regal opponent barely squeaked out the win. While Kawhi has been phenomenal, one gets the impression that he has not yet demonstrated what he is truly capable of. If a Spurs fan is not stoked about what the young man from Riverside could accomplish, then I don't know what to say to them.
Did Jay Z just say make an MC-Hammer reference? Did he and a former N Sync member just sing a portion of one of the greatest songs of all time? Can I finish this paragraph and skip to the next song like right now? Kurt Cobain would be rolling in his ... whatever nevermind. I wish I could take the easy route and opine about the Brooklyn Nets, yet Jay Z recently sold his .0000000001 percent of the team to concentrate on being a RocaAgent. So, we'll focus on the line "one day you're here and the next day you are there." There is a fluidity to the NBA that is at times refreshing and at times maddening. There are only a select few teams that are consistently good or consistently bad. One team that is looking to make a jump from lottery bound to the playoffs is the Portland Trailblazers. They seemed to be stuck in the middle of draft purgatory. Then Damian Lillard happened. Next year he will only get better. Furthermore the Trail Blazers quietly had one of the better offseasons in the NBA. They drafted CJ McCollum because why not take someone who could be the next Damian Lillard and have him play alongside Damian Lillard? Then they went and signed Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson and Mo Williams. These players might not crack the Blazers starting five but they do make Portland's bench rather formidable. I can't shake the feeling that the Spurs will see the Trail Blazers in the first round. This is an unsettling prospect that makes me feel queasy. Or the queasiness could stem from the fact that I listened to Sean Carter scream "vanilla wafers in the building" for six consecutive times. The rest of this post is going to be hard to finish as I'm currently fighting off the urge to grab a spoon and scoop out my left eyeball.
Number 3- Royals by Lorde
This is a surprising song. One does not expect creativity when listening to songs this high up the Billboard charts. However, this song is unique. In the world of hyper-polished pop this song sounds like an acoustic track. The lyrics are also cool. The chorus goes "We will never be royals. We crave a different kind of buzz." I don't know why, but I immediately thought of the Philadelphia 76ers. Unless Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, and (chuckle) Kwame Brown have an incredible season, this is a team that will not be among the royalty of the NBA. They are going to be at the bottom. This is clearly by design and one has to admire the minerals that the new Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has. Trading an all-star point guard for draft picks is a bold move that just might work. This is because the Sixers are "craving a different kind of buzz". They want to win the "other championship" which will occur on lottery night. They are going to have a pretty good shot at landing the number one pick which would mean they get to draft a franchise changing player like Andrew Wiggins. The Sixers also have a nice pick from New Orleans that will more than likely land somewhere in the upper-middle of a totally loaded first round. The 76ers are not alone. They are one of many teams that will be more focused on scouting collegiate players than winning basketball games. Numerous teams will play ugly basketball this season. Thanks to ping pong balls and a talented draft class, that ugliness could transform into something beautiful.
Number 2- Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke
Two questions. This is a song about rape, right? Good to know I am not the only one who noticed this. Second question, how is a mediocre song that might or might not be about rape this high up in the charts? The song is not particularly catchy, and the instrumentals sound like elevator music. It is as if the Neptunes took one of their unused B-sides from ten years ago, dusted it off and sold it to the highest bidder. I do not mean to sound cynical, I just don't understand the popularity of this song. There are plenty of things I don't understand about the NBA as well. How are J.R. Smith, Carmelo Antony and Andre Bargnani playing for the same team? (At. The. Same. Time.) How does a talented team like the Wizards play so horribly? These and other questions constantly perplex many NBA fans. The wonderful thing about being a Spurs fans is that the Spurs don't usually inspire these kinds of questions. Basically the Spurs know what they are doing, and they have the hardware to prove it. And while sometimes it sounds like fun to blast a GM for a stupid trade, it is nice to know that PATFO is shrewder than the average pundit. I'll take predictably effective over dramatically confusing any day of the week.
Number 1- Roar by Katy Perry
Well talk about two different ladders going to the same roof. If I just used the song title to predict the upcoming Spur season, "Roar" would have been a hard one. I probably would have written something about Pop screaming from the sidelines. However the song's message and what it means to the Spurs is clear. "I let you pushing me past the breaking point". This a nod to the Heat beating the Spurs. "Already brushing off the dust" is what the Spurs started doing after Game 7 by signing two good players who should fit quite well in the team's system. Katy Perry then goes into a chorus that sounds sweet to any Spurs fan's ears. "I am a champion and you are going to hear me roar." The Spurs are four time champions and do you really think they are done? Not even close, and we are in for an awesome ride back to glory, Pounders. Sleep well, for tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day.