So, gotta be honest, I have no idea how to start this after being away for so long. J.R. Wilco asked me to write a little self-introduction, which kinda cuts against my natural inclinations against drawing any sort of attention to myself whatsoever. But, the Editor-in-Chief gets what the Editor-in-Chief wants.
So... about me: my name is, in fact, Rick, and I've been around PtR off and on since before it was called PtR, but my last recap was early in the 2010/2011 season, during the dark days where we Spurs fans resorted to deluding ourselves that Richard Jefferson had taken a step forward during the offseason. Whilst our Spurs-y collective was grappling with that particular psychic trauma, my own real-world family expanded by one, thus dissolving any time I had for watching my team, let alone writing. I kept logging in, kept up with a few game threads, posted a few comments, and even started a recap or two, but never ended up producing anything I was willing to hit "submit" on.
Then, mid-March 2012, RJ was pulled from our team like a splinter from a heel, and in his place returned Captain Jack, one of the players I felt PATFO didn't work hard enough to retain after 2003. Jax's occasional attitude issues aside, he was fiercely loyal, a great competitor, and one of the most clutch shooters in recent memory: all things the 2012 Spurs were in dire need of. I believed in that 2012 team; Blair hadn't quite played himself into irrelevancy yet, Manu was (relatively) healthy for the playoffs, Kawhi was already showing a higher ceiling than Hill, Tim and Tony were both playing efficiently, and the offense was flashing tantalizing hints of what it could be. In short, with Captain Jack back, the Spurs looked like Champs-in-waiting, riding an 18 game win streak into the WCFs. Then games 3-6 happened.
I thought that was pain.
I denounced the NBA, David Stern, and every ref to ever don a grey shirt. I ranted to my (extraordinarily patient) friends and lofted Donaghy-esque conspiracy theories like I had just discovered that the shooter on the grassy knoll was in league with the 20th highjacker. I was so disgusted I didn't watch a single game again until nearly March. I thought I was done as a fan. I couldn't bear to listen to basketball news; it was all rigged, it was all about money, it was all about hype and producing the match-ups the League's front office wanted.
But, in due course, I was hanging out at a friend's place while a game was on, and I was suddenly back -- watching like I had never left. I've always loved basketball; playing it, and watching it. I sacrificed every major joint on my right side to playing with reckless abandon in my youth, and when I'm finally forced to walk with a cane, I'll still probably consider it time well spent. I understand Stockholm Syndrome works along those same lines.
It helped that it was the Spurs, and it helped that the 2013 team looked even better than the 2012 team. They were smoother, the younger corp was maturing, and the newer additions were blending like a perfectly measured recipe, despite how disconcerting it was to see a strangely inflated Boris Diaw playing for our side. Even so, I told myself, the Big 3 were still another year older, Manu in particular was starting to look his age, and OKC and Miami were both looming like behemoths over all the other would-be contenders. I didn't think there was any chance of making the Finals, let alone taking down the maturing Miami cartel.
If I've learned one thing about NBA basketball over the past decades, it's that I suck at predicting it.
The path to the 2013 Finals was cleared for the Spurs, as if karma had for once deigned to compensate our fanbase for the pain and injustice of 2012. The Spurs hit the Heat to open the series, and it quickly became obvious that it would be a close series... and that meant they had a real chance... and that meant I started to believe...
I thought I knew pain.
The end of the 2013 Finals has been dissected ad-nauseum already, so I'm not going to dwell on that now. Needless to say, I was traumatized in ways I didn't think were possible from simply being a fan. The world was suddenly inexplicably grey and sepia'd, food was bland and joyless, and not even sleep offered relief. I would wake up in the middle of the night, screaming "No... Manu... no MANU NO!!!". My wife would wake up, sigh, and tell me she understood.
I like to think I married well.
I eased back into watching the 2013/2014 season. I caught games when I could, but didn't go out of my way to reserve time for them. I found myself thinking the same thing I thought in 2013 vs 2012... they look even better this year. I fought against the thought, seeking to protect my bruised and wounded fandom from ever having to experience anything like Game 6 again.
Of course, by mid-March, I was a full-on rabid believer. You could see it; they were hungry, they were angry, and they were focused.
If anything here has been picked over more than the 2013 Finals, it's the 2014 Finals, so I also won't digress overmuch on that either. It's something that few fanbases truly have had a chance to experience; this team has plumbed the hellish depths and hit the highest of Olympian highs. Quite a few commentators spent time discussing how unlikely it is we'll ever see a season that compares in both narrative and substance to last year. Michael Erler (who will always be Stampezee to me) wrote about it being the perfect time to retire as a Spurs fan, and I've seen and heard sentiments echoing his scattered around the web and in conversation. Seriously... how do you follow that Finals? Even if the Spurs manage to pull in another title or two, it's not going to compare to the ambrosial redemption of 2014.
Still, I'm not nearly ready to retire as a fan yet. I've got at least another 5-6 years of shameless homer-ism left in me before my self-respect finally kicks in. As much as the past two decades have completely spoiled us as fans, I look forward to seeing how these next few seasons unfold.
I must admit tho... it's disconcerting how the media tone on SA has changed so dramatically over the past few years. I really enjoyed being a fan of the Bowen-era Spurs and mercilessly trolling every bandwagoning highlight-reel-only pseudo-fan who ventured near. There was a time that being a Spurs fan would turn you into an instant pariah on many an online forum. But now the quirks and idiosyncrasies that made this team so much fun to follow are suddenly popular knowledge; getting "Pop'd" has become a both a rite of passage and a red badge of honor for fledgling reporters, and HEB commercials are promoted by the League office as examples for other teams on how to market your stars locally. Studying the Spur's "culture" even enjoyed a faddish run in corporate boardrooms.
That crap wasn't happening four years ago.
And now that leaves me as the hipster PtR Spurs fan - I was totally here before all you guys, and now I need some ironic lensless glasses and custom organic artisinal flannel with a Dallas Chaparrals logo so that everyone else knows to bow down before my observationally-detached boredom while I calmly praise the opposing team's efforts in a subversive backhand compliment to emphasize how awesome the Spurs are.
Hate me if you want, but you turned me into this.