The San Antonio Spurs and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are two of my favorite things. This year I was able to see both of them up close and personal. My first trip to San Antonio (from Los Angeles) occurred in early March. We saw my Spurs beat the "mighty" Sacramento Kings, as recounted here.
That game was Manu's first one back from The Injury That Will Not Be Spoken Aloud. Manu played great, the Spurs pulled away after a slow first half, and there was much rejoicing. Our stay on the Riverwalk was great - and my bride can't wait until next season so we can return to San Antonio for another game.
Ten days after our visit to see Manu and the Spurs, Springsteen and his crew (including my friend the Mighty Max Weinberg, drummer extraordinaire) came to Sports Arena in Los Angeles. I was there. Unlike the trip to San Antonio the week before, this was not the first time I saw Bruce and the boys in concert. Indeed, I first saw the band on the Born to Run tour, in Springfield Massachusetts -- in 1975. A long time ago.
To give you some idea how long ago that was, Tim Duncan was born in 1976. Think about that. Bruce Springsteen was playing to sold out arenas before Tim Duncan was even born. 40 years later, the year the great Duncan retired, Springsteen is still playing to sold out arenas, and still kicking butt.
Even though I have seen Springsteen play numerous times over the years, the best two concerts were that first show in 1975, and this one in 2016. And just as Duncan has been referred to as Old Man Riverwalk, this year's Springsteen tour was dubbed The River Tour. The band played the entire River album, followed by another hour of full-on Springsteen classics.
After the concert, a fellow Springsteen fan compared the band's long-term excellence to that of the Spurs. Among bands and sports teams, Bruce and the Spurs stand for commitment to greatness over the decades, giving maximum effort each time out. Of course, the band plays many more road games. Both the band and the team bring their "A" game night after night, city after city, year after year. Their leaders - Tim Duncan and Bruce - have set the tone by their single-minded, detail-oriented pursuit of excellence.
For the Spurs, this is embodied by the "good to great" philosophy. For the band, this is embodied by the months they spend on each album, song, lyric and chord. Indeed, Springsteen's performances over the years are akin to the Spurs' slogan - Bruce and the band are truly Pounding the Rock, concert after concert, in arenas across The Promised Land. They sing about people who have loved and lost, struggled and dreamed. With amazing lyrics such as "Tramps like us, baby we were born to run."
Some of those tramps have found success with the Spurs, including several of the stars. My man Manu - late second round pick. The Oui Frenchman -- late first round pick. Boris Diaw -- cut by the woeful Charlotte Hornets. Danny Green - second round pick, cut by the Cavs after his rookie year. Patty Mills - late second round pick, played in the Australian and Chinese leagues before signing with the Spurs. Many of them were not Born in the USA.
And if those ties (the ties that bind) are not enough, numerous Springsteen lyrics could have been written for the Spurs, especially the heartbreak of the first Heat Finals in 2013, which led to the Redemption Finals the following year. The lyrics tell the story of those amazing two years.
"Is a dream a lie if it don't come true? Or is it something worse?"
from The River
"God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of."
from Brilliant Disguise
"And your strength is devastating in the face of all those odds"
from For You
"When it comes to luck you make your own."
from Lucky Town
"So you're scared, and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore.
Well, show a little faith, there's magic in the night."
from Thunder Road
"Well, we made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender."
From No Surrender
"Walk tall or, baby, don't walk at all."
from New York Serenade
"But you and I know what this world can do,
So let's make our steps clear so the other may see.
I'll wait for you...
And should I fall behind, wait for me."
from If I Should Fall Behind
"We're gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
and we'll walk in the sun"
from Born to Run
After games 3, 4 and 5 against the Heat in 2014, because they Let it Fly (Pop's quote, not Bruce's), the Spurs did walk in the sun. It truly was Glory Days. And the Spurs could sit on the hood of a Dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain.
"Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny."
Do you know what else is funny? The picture at the top of this piece is me at the Staples Center for Bruce's River tour. I just noticed that the hat I wore to that show is one I bought on my trip to the Riverwalk ten days earlier. Go Spurs.