I sat on the floor with my back against the wall in the hallway upstairs in the AT&T Center, searching for something on my phone that might interest my six year old son. We had a half hour to go before they let us in to our seats, and at this point AJ doesn't really do half hour waits. I wore my Kawhi Leonard black jersey, and he had on his black Tony Parker t-shirt. When he put it on that morning, I had to get him to flip it around so that the SPURS was in front and the PARKER was in back. Sometimes he forgets which sport is which, for example referring to Tim Duncan as a great baseball player. This stuff doesn't really matter a whole lot to him yet, and maybe it never will.
It was Easter Sunday, and as we sat there the rest of the family was gathering across town at my parents' house. When we finally took our seats, each draped with an enormous black PLAYOFFS t-shirt, my mind was really only half there, the other half picturing my wife, my three-year-old in her Easter dress, my sister and brothers and nieces, the assembled dishes getting set out for the Easter meal.
The game itself bored him mostly, but throughout the experience, I directed his attention to the things I figured he would find compelling: the crush of excited fans with silver and black garb, the occasional misfit in Maverick blue, the dancers, the Coyote. Cotton candy. We had a great time. We only made it to halftime though when he had had enough. So I left with him, and we walked across the full parking lot to the car to drive to Meemaw's house. The Spurs hadn't looked all that good, and the game and, I thought, the series was very much in doubt. I am one of those people who never, ever leaves a game early. But I left this one. And I was happy as a clam.
In some ways this was a day of firsts: my son's first Spurs game, the first time I had been away from an Easter meal, the first game of the Dallas series. Heck, the first time I have ever gotten a free t-shirt at a game. But it was even more a day of second chances.
The boy himself is a second chance for me. If you have ever been through a divorce, or even just a bad breakup, you know how the end of a relationship can at the time seem utterly devastating. Maybe you have had some other kind of awful loss. We all know about losing. But you also know that the world indeed doesn't end, and if you give it enough time and do enough work, pound that rock, things grow from that loss. AJ is one of those things for me. If it weren't for my divorce, neither this unspeakably amazing child nor his miraculous kid sister would exist. Lots of other things that I now enjoy in the present would never have happened, either. Eventually you start to see that that time of despair was actually a turning point, the moment when all of the joys of a full life were unlocked for you. You realize that what you thought was the end was just a beginning.
And so I am a very lucky man. And so are we all, fellow Spurs fan, fellow Pounder. We are very lucky people. Because now last year's loss, one that many of us felt keenly as a devastating ending, can be seen as merely the beginning of an unimaginably satisfying season. Did it have to happen that way? No. These things are not destined. Sometimes a loss is just a loss. But it did happen, in storybook fashion. A year ago, no fan of any other team would have wanted to trade places with us. Today, we're the envy of the sports world. Game 6 has been converted, transformed forever into the beginning of Championship 5. The ultimate sports example of second chances has happened to us and to our team.
So enjoy this, my friends. We are lucky. Yes, we've paid our dues, but what we got in return is even better than we deserve. For the Spurs and their fans, it's Easter Sunday and everything's beautiful.
Summing it All Up
It's the greatest ride I have ever had as a sports fan, bar none. Even surpasses the time my high school won the Texas 5A state basketball championship in 1982. (Go Chargers!) I think I can safely say that no matter what happens for the rest of my life, I will never see another season like this one, with all the layers of story surrounding it. I don't know about you, but I feel like the happiest, fattest, most utterly satisfied sports fan on the planet right now.
I only hope that the Spurs players are having none of it, and are already getting back their hunger for next season. Who knows, maybe Boris will pull a Patty and come back in the best shape of his life. What would Pop say about that trunk?
But I'm not a player, just a lowly fan. And I'm still lazily basking. To try to keep track of it all, in between sips of championship Choco Tacos and champagne, I made the following back-of-the-napkin list of Spurs accomplishments this season, in no particular order. So, let's see if I got this all straight:
Hip checked Derek Fisher into retirement, and made him cry again in the process.
Earned universal respect and admiration.
Gave my son his first taste of the NBA playoffs when I took him to Game 1 of the Dallas series. Go AJ!
Convinced me that my son is a Spurs good luck charm.
Joined pantheon of greatest teams to ever play basketball.
Surpassed Magic-Kareem-Cooper trio.
Silenced all naysayers.
Made first back-to-back Finals appearances in franchise history.
Made Kawhi Leonard smile for more than three seconds.
Avenged worst loss in franchise history.
Demoralized two-time defending champs.
Fulfilled normally stoic leader's promise of a victory.
Turned cheerleader Patty Mills into vital contributor on a champion and a free agent prize.
Turned has-been Boris Diaw into an unstoppable force.
Made schoolboy friends into co-champions.
Crowned the most diverse basketball team in history.
Created greatest Father's Day ever.
Two words: Cojo Mojo.
Gave Tiago Splitter two poster moments in the Finals. In an oh-so-good way.
Turned Tim Duncan into a spotlight-loving, prediction-making, talk-show-gabbing media hog.
My napkin's full! But maybe I missed a few things. Please add to the list in the comments section, fellow Pounder. What made this championship season special for you?