Thursday night's Game 1 of the Finals between the Spurs and the Heat was everything that basketball can be: beautiful, harsh, fast, absorbing, intense and stupefying. From my office in my home, I watch nearly every Spurs game all year long, and it's rare that a play causes me to do anything more than tap a pen on my desk a little more strenuously than my wife would like. But last night was very different. I was actually asked to keep it down.
My best friend, whom I didn't speak to all night, knows me well enough to post this tweet earlier this morning:
@davedwilkins I made several sounds I'm sure were audible throughout Travis County area. Not sure that they reached LA, but it's possible— (@jollyrogerwilco) June 7, 2013
It's also possible that my response to Tony's mind-bending game-icing shot could be described as "hooting and hollering" even though I'd never specifically set out to do either of those.
It was just one of those nights.
Recently, as the Spurs have progressed through the playoffs, I've been receiving increasingly frequent requests to be interviewed for radio stations, podcasts and publications. I've kept in touch with some of these professional acquaintances (can't call them out specifically when personal opinions are being given as big corporations frown on that kind of thing) and one of them emailed me the following this morning:
Thought you might enjoy a little conversation I had pregame last night. Some friends were over, and one of them has little to no interest in basketball. We were watching the pregame, and about an hour before the game, she asked, "Is LeBron James the only one playing tonight?"
We all laughed, but she was serious.
"Doesn't he have teammates? Aren't the Heat playing another team? Are they going to mention any of those players?"
I responded, "You remember the Tim Duncan article you posted on Facebook for me?"
She said, "He's playing tonight?!?!? Geez, they should talk about him. That dude sounds like a boss."
I thought this was so telling, because the narrative of the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs is largely made up of questions about things like whether they're ignored, whether they're boring, or whether they're ignored because they're boring. And when PtR posts a story, like this one from Stampler during the Memphis series, it's not unusual for a national writer to take to twitter in order to respond to how thin-skinned those Spurs fans are.
So when a story like this one comes along (written by a Hawks fan, by the way) from a guy whose friend is a completely disinterested third-party and yet can see at a glance how far the coverage is slanted toward the Heat, then it's more than just a tad gratifying.
My word of wisdom that I pass along to you without any expectations of it being followed:
Feel free to disassociate yourself from extraneous broadcast coverage of these Finals.
I'll unpack that in just a moment, but first I ask for you to indulge me for a bit as I set the stage.
I watch sports of all kinds, not just basketball. Growing up, my favorite sport to play and watch was football (the American kind, my international friends) and it's still a close second in my heart, next to basketball, but I enjoy baseball, golf, hockey and all of the Olympic sports ... during the Olympics, that is. Oh, and UFC too.
I watch these sports for many different reasons: to see incredible athletic exploits, to enjoy the intensity of the competition, to witness something epic as a sport is played at its highest level -- these are only some of the reasons, but they're enough at this point to give you the idea. The point is that I watch in order to enjoy. When I sit down at my desk and power up my computer, or relax in my faded light-blue recliner in my living room and turn on the TV, I do so expecting a pleasurable experience.
I don't watch it to be disappointed, although being a fan guarantees that there will be some of that. I don't watch in order to get angry, and allow myself to be carried along on the crest of that righteous fury as a means of diversion. That's not enjoyable for me. I can even see the team I'm rooting for lose and (depending on why they lose) still enjoy it for a variety of reasons. But the point is that I intend to pass the time in a way that I can look back on with a smile.
For this reason, I have stopped watching the pregame, halftime, and most of the postgame coverage of the Finals. As the above anecdote showed so clearly, even someone with no dog in the fight immediately sees the lack of objectivity. When it's so stark that even an absolute neophyte has no difficulty recognizing it, then it's safe to say that it's not just something I'm seeing because of my own, admittedly, biased eyes.
And since that kind of coverage makes me angry, I choose to ignore it and go out of my way to find out, not when the broadcast starts, but when the game will tip off. And THAT is when I tune in. As soon as the half ends, I hit the mute button and do something else for the next 15 minutes. When the game ends, I listen to the player that's interviewed on the court, and then I switch over to the live coverage of the interview room on NBA.com.
If you find that Rose, Simmons, Magic and Wilbon bring you more pain than joy, then let me tell you that it's quite alright to NOT watch them talk about what you already know about if you spend much time at all on this site. You might just find that you don't miss it at all.
I can tell you that I sure don't.