Howdy and Happy Playoffs, my fellow Pounders!
I don't know about y'all, but I am a very.....fastidious consumer. My wife would probably use the term "picky," but that word does not have the inherent woodiness I crave in my personal lexicon. When making a purchase, be it for a big ticket item or a mere mundane canister of laundry detergent, I tend to do my due diligence. How does the product stack up against its competitors? Is this a well-known brand or a cheap store knock off? Is the store knock-off actually a better choice for my needs? What return can I expect from the investment I am about to make?
In spite of my well-documented proclivity to be an optimistic cheerleader for my sports teams, I approach every postseason in much the same evaluative manner. While my default feelings are always a defiant "THE SPURS ARE GONNA TAKE IT ALL!!!" deep down, even the indomitable Trey Felder understands the impracticality of having a championship-or-bust mentality year in and year out, even for such an enduringly successful franchise as the Silver and Black. The phenomenon that gave me pause this year came when I ventured over to BrightSideoftheSun.com in the aftermath of their loss earlier this week to the Memphis Grizzlies, which eliminated the Phoenix Suns from qualifying for the 2014 playoffs.
I don't really know what I was expecting. Maybe my ventures as an admin and member of this and other sports sites have given me a sadistic appetite for the knee-jerk crying and gnashing of teeth that so often occurs after a heartwrenching loss, especially from passionate fans with the added benefit of internet anonymity. Perhaps blaming of the officials was in order? There was some of that, but that wasn't an overarching theme. Maybe the decrying and vilification of the opponent would be in progress? No, pretty much to a poster, the BSotS crew was classy and even complimentary of the bruising Grizzlies.
No, the PHX fans were appreciative of the effort their team had put into the season, going from an assumed lottery-bound organization at the beginning of the year to a playoff-worthy squad. Even though the broken system that is NBA Playoff seeding locked them out of showcasing their brand of ball while allowing a sub .500 Eastern team to compete, the bitterness I was expecting to see was muted and practically nonexistent in the purple and orange wave of gratitude that crashed over the site that night. Though the Suns have never been a team I have looked upon with any sort of admiration in the past (indeed, I've extracted much joy over the years from triumphs at their expense), I was impressed by what I saw--and humbled.
As Spurs fans, we are an incredibly fortunate bunch. You fine folks, of course, do not need me to expound upon how incredibly rare it is for a team to sustain itself as a contender for as long as the Spurs have. Indeed, even the national media, notorious among us Spurs fans for their perceived lack of respect for our boys, have lauded and fêted the Silver and Black with such persistence (especially as this season wore on), that by now nearly every opponent and fanbase we face these days has a remarkable measure of respect, even if that respect is grudging in some circles.
Contending for so long can jade one to success. No, it's not a terrible thing to want another June Riverboat parade so badly that it hurts, but that shouldn't stop us from marveling at how the Spurs continue to be elite despite many of Father Time's better effort. As far as successful units go, Gregg Popovich and the Big Three have raged against the dying of the light so staunchly and with such class, their success is seen almost as a given, rather than a surprise.
As previously said, however, there is nothing wrong with the want--nay, the NEED--for us as fans to see one final hurrah for our stalwarts before their respective suns of success and relevance slip below the ever-rising horizon of the future of this Association. I wrote before last season's Finals how much it was important to appreciate these waning years of Tim Duncan's and San Antonio's dominance. I meant what I wrote--so much so that I was a little surprised at how terribly it hurt to see the Heat go on to win a series the Spurs had in the bag. Yeah, it's melodramatic, and yes, it's just a game, but for those of us who take the time that we do on PtR and similar sites to write and read about, parse, and analyze every single detail of the season and offseason, for players who do not know us, without financial compensation, and with mostly complete internet strangers? I realized that it is absolutely alright to mourn a bit, and crave that fifth Larry like a Walking Dead zombie yearning for its next bite of living flesh. This year, more than ever, it is not a zero sum game--appreciating the magnitude of San Antonio's run to this point doesn't mean in the slightest that we can't pine for it to culminate with another successful entrance into the NBA throne room.
So, what return should we expect on the emotional investment we're collectively about to make this postseason? Just another wildly passionate ride! Whether this is the swan song or a footnote on the way towards another decade and a half of winning tradition, I say, go ahead, Spurs fans. Tell the playoff competition to "look at the flowers," like the last command Carol gave Lizzie in that post apocalyptic life-and-death scenario . We'll have plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of the fauna along the way, too.
Because Pop is the one who's about to pull the trigger.