A promise I made has been tested and I don’t know if I can hold on.
Last June, I vowed to God, my country and all witnesses that the 2014 Spurs championship would be and was the ultimate cap to my sports life.
My days of despair were no more. I’d made it to the top and drank the good wine. I was proud of this newfound redemption, too. I went and told it on the mountain to all my fellow despondent sports junkie friends.
With pride I cried out, "I don’t have to deal with what you’re dealing with!" Sing it out all ye who have been saved, "I’ve been redeemed. Kawhi set me free!"
Yep, because Tim Duncan was happy and "last year was okay…," I was okay, too. No more tossing and turning at night screaming in terror, "Fisher! And 1! Z-Bo! Harden! Ray Allen!"
The Cavs game last Thursday showed me how far I’ve come in my resolution. I was proud, so proud.
But then, a 16-year Finals rematch against the lowly New York Knicks revealed that I might be a galaxy far, far away from the sanctification I thought I had achieved.
It’s not uncommon for me to get extremely frustrated at Spurs games. It’s been a lifelong tradition.
But, I swam in unchartered waters while witnessing Kyrie Irving’s 57-point explosion live. Normally, the inability to stop the opposition and the Spurs’ corresponding collapse would have sent steam rising from my ears. Family and friends would have cowered in awkwardness.
But, the Cavs game was different. I was frustrated, absolutely. However, my source of frustration was directed at the Spurs fans around me, my wife included. I have brainwashed her, I guess. Sorry, honey.
I could not believe that the spoiled, entitled hooligans around me were not able to appreciate the moment. "How do you idiots not love this? You will NEVER see something like this again!" Were Knicks fans like this when Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 on them? (That wasn’t in New York, just painting a picture here).
After the dust settled, my wife asked me how big a deal 57 points was, and I explained that we’d never see anything like it again. I told her I had been to 100-150 games before and never seen anyone score over 50. It was rare air.
I was just glad that I got to witness something that basketball lovers all over the world were glowing.
At least, that’s what I pretended on the outside. Deep inside me there was a storm a-brewin’ - a storm so intense that only Lou Admunson and a bunch of Knicks I have never heard of could bring to full force.
I won’t go into specifics, but that utterly ridiculous loss to the Knickerbockers on St. Patrick’s Day infuriated me. I cursed the Spurs, this season and myself. I could tell that no matter how hard I tried to convince myself that 2014 was all I needed, it wasn’t true.
I want them to repeat. I want them to three-peat. I want them to win every year forever and have their sneakers marred with the blood of all their foes. Such is fanhood.
Daydreams are filled with images of Danny Green tracking down Steph Curry and blocking a layup in the WCF. I think of witty insults for my Rockets fans who I long might know the taste of the Spurs wrath. Then, I think of Cleveland, oh sad Cleveland as we rip their hopes out---
What just happened? See what I mean? I am right back where I was from 2008-2013. And I think most Spurs fans are too.
What a test this season has been on the Spurs fans who made those declarations to "never care again." A 1-6 in overtime record, a season full of crude flirtations with brilliance, plus witnessing in person daggers from Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, Nick Young and now Kyrie Irving and his Jedi teacher, LeBron James. It’s been rough.
I referenced in an article this summer that the Championship made me feel as if confetti was falling on me everywhere I went. I’ve tried so hard to keep that feeling alive. After each loss - each stupid, triple-overtime, Damian-Lillard-induced loss…I tell myself, "still the champs." I go on and brush it off my shoulders. But, how many Brandon Jennings buzzer-beaters does one have to endure before the falling confetti feels like falling feces?
Fans underestimated how hard this season would be for the Spurs. Our eyes became so big with the beautiful basketball put on display in last year’s Finals, I expected that to be the new normal. We have to be reminded that last year’s excellence was the pinnacle of a three-year hard march. It doesn’t just continue. Even recently, Manu Ginobili said that the team has to "forget about last year."
For too long this season the Spurs, Pop included, seemed to have an attitude that they needed to "get back" to where they were against the Miami Heat. I have been watching sports long enough to know that repeat attempts aren’t like that. They aren’t pretty and aren’t merely a continuation of the previous year. They’re new stories, new knockdown, drag-out slugfests.
And so it is with fanhood. Each year is a new decision to have your face kicked in for that small chance at ecstasy. And, yeah, it’s all worth it. Perspective needs to be maintained. There needs to be a an appreciation for the sport, otherwise you’re going to sit at games where Kyrie Irving scores 57 and not realize how significant that is. In no way am I condoning grown men acting like fan boys, I am just saying that if you’re going to let one year make or break your fanhood, well, stop being a fan.
If one year could truly cap your fanhood, there’s one of two things going on. One, you’re a bandwagon fan and in a few years you’ll be cheering for someone else; or, two, you just understand and love basketball way more than most of us. Yes, there are people like Zach Lowe of Grantland who truly are gifted at viewing basketball to the point where they can be completely unbiased. Most basketball journalists and writers achieve this eventually. Their love for the league and the game as a whole supersede their childhood tendencies to rise and fall with a team. Michael Erler of PTR has documented his attempt to not be a fan and be an unbiased coverer of basketball.
But, most people are not like that. I’ve grown to love basketball and the NBA because of the Spurs. There is no egg without the chicken, or what have you. I can’t cut off the source and expect there to still be water.
I have no desire to be a basketball writer; there are people who understand it a lot better than I do. Any time I have tried to be an X’s and O’s analyst, JR Wilco has kindly reminded me that I was unreadable. I just love the Spurs and want to follow them.
The Spurs seemed to have realized in the past month that they cannot just "get back to last year." They can remember it, be thankful for it, and it can’t be taken away. They have their rings and banner forever. But, if they want to hold 2015 rings and hang a 2015 banner, they’ll have to set their eyes forward.
So, what do we do? (Spoiled Spurs fans like us, that is.) If we’re to continue being fans, well, we must be the same way. I’ll wear my 2014 shirt till it disintegrates, but if I didn’t care anymore, why go to the games? Why watch? The AT&T center would be pretty boring if, in 2023, everyone sits on their hands, refuses to cheer and points up at the 2014 banner, exclaiming "we’re good!" Can you imagine how sad The Coyote would be if nobody joined in on the S-P-U-R-S jump?
If you still choose to be a fan, no matter how many resolutions you make…you’ll find yourself back in the throes of fanhood. And even though perspective and maturity are gained, you’re choosing to be right back in the thick of it again each season - back where it can really hurt.