The NBA playoffs are contributing to my improving mood. Though I live in L.A., I’m a Spurs fan. I followed them only loosely in the early David Robinson years, but I remember the excitement the town felt at having acquired him. When Timmy came along, I remember having a crush on him. I followed the team more and more, and by the time I moved to Cali in 1999, the playoffs were in full swing. I can remember watching the final game in my new apartment, filled with unpacked boxes, one serving as the tv stand. I basically introduced myself to my neighbors with lots of shouting and jumping up and down.
Then came the next three seasons. My co-workers teased me so much. It was awful. I remember them telling me I should become a Laker fan. I asked them if they’d become Spurs fans if they moved to San Antonio. “Of course not!” Then I’d have to remind them that being a fan should be about more than the city you live in, and that I would remain a Spurs fan.
I didn’t have a huge problem with the Lakers until I moved to L.A. As I was exposed to more and more Laker “fans” and heard Kobe, Shaq and Phil Jackson in interview after interview, I realized, I couldn’t stand the Lakers. Shaq and Kobe would diss each other and their teammates in the media. Kobe would disrespect Phil Jackson. None of them ever gave credit to an opponent who had beaten them. They’d always whine about bad officiating or they were injured or 101 other excuses. It was never that their opponent was just plain better than them. When the Lakers have lost in the playoffs, I’ve seen Kobe just get up and walk away instead of being man enough to congratulate his opponent. When asked once about a missed call on one of his teammates, he pursed his lips and stiffly replied, “no foul”. The commentators had seen the foul. Even the league, the next day, announced that they had reviewed the tapes and Kobe’s teammate (don’t recall who) had indeed fouled Brent Barry and the ref missed the call. What ticked me off about Kobe’s denial was that either a) he saw it and knew it was a damn foul or b) he didn’t see it, but was still emphatic about it not being a foul. Either way, he was being dishonest. He’s what I call a punk.
And then there were their “fans”. I use quotation marks to distinguish those who truly appreciate the Lakers and those who only care about them when they win. Sadly, most I’ve encountered are in the latter category. There have been a few people I’ve encountered who were true fans of basketball and the team, and I could have reasonable conversations with them. We had mutual respect for each team’s abilities. Then there were the “fans”.
“Fan”: The Spurs suck
Me: No they don’t
“Fan”: The Lakers kicked their butt last night
Me: Yes, but it doesn’t mean they suck. It just means the Lakers were better last night.
Flash forward to a couple weeks later, when the Spurs would be the victors…
“Fan”: Well, if the refs had called the game right, we’d have beat them
Me: So, you’re saying the refs gave the Spurs the win?
Me: So, how many games over the course of the season do the refs give to the Lakers?
Me: Really? Bad officiating is that one-sided, all the time? Wow.
And, after Shaq left….
[Team Kobe] “Fan”: Man, that Shaq, he’s a jerk. Did you hear what he said about the Lakers?
Me: I seem to recall I called him a jerk when he said those same things about the Spurs while wearing a purple and gold uniform. You said he was just being funny. I see you didn’t mind the big dog barking when he was in YOUR yard, but now that he’s barking at YOU, you complain.
And then, during the 2004-2005 season…
“Fan”: Go Clippers
Then, there are my beloved Spurs. They don’t smack talk, they just play. If they lose, they don’t complain about it being the refs fault. They don’t disrespect each other to the media. They don’t try to play the badass in a bunch of commercials. In fact, they do mostly local commercials for the San Antonio market and support the local businesses there. As much as people like to complain that Timmy and co. whine to the refs, I’d like to point out that a) everyone whines to the refs…it’s a heat of the moment kinda thing. What matters more is, are you still complaining after the game? (I’m looking at YOU, Phil Jackson). And, b) I’ve also seen them man up to their fouls. I’ve seen Timmy and Manu raise their hands and nod saying, “yep, I did that. my bad”. I don’t recall seeing many other players on any team doing that. I’ve seen plays, missed fouls, that were absolute game-changers. I remember once, during the 2006 playoffs, Dirk Nowitzki fouled Timmy while Timmy was taking a shot. The refs didn’t call it, and within two minutes the game, and the Spurs season, was over. The Mavericks went on to blow it in the finals and the Heat were the champions. I remember my husband complained about that missed call. I resisted. I told my husband, “bad officiating happens on both sides, and only matters if the game is close. If the Spurs were truly the better team, they’d not have missed so many shots, would have been in the lead, and that missed opportunity at the line wouldn’t matter”. This ended up being grist for the mill when Dallas fans had the nerve to complain about officiating in the finals. If someone wants to blame one loss on officiating, that may be understandable. But the Mavs were up 2-0 and lost 4 straight games. They only needed to win 2 more games to take the championship and couldn’t pull it off. That was on them, not the officials. And guess what, when the Spurs lost to the Mavericks, they walked over and shook their hands.
I’d also like to tip my cap to the organization itself. Very well respected in sports. A number of their former players and assistant coaches have gone on to work with other teams. As much as I disliked Mark Cuban and the Mavericks, when AJ was their coach (the only Spur I’ve ever met….super, super nice guy), I couldn’t completely root against them. Now Mike Brown is the one soft spot I have for the Lakers.
And as for Spurs fans, I obviously can’t speak for all of them, but let’s just say, when WE win, we have a parade on the river. No cars are turned over or burned. No stores looted. No arrests (for Spurs players, either).
I’m going to be so sad when Timmy leaves. He’s always been my favorite, with Manu coming in a close second. I miss Brent Barry and Bruce Bowen.
I watched the ’99 victory in a nearly empty apartment. The 2003 championship game was marred by the fact that my beloved cat, Sneakers, died in my arms about three hours after the game. The 2005 championship game is a blur, as I got stinking-ass drunk that night and had to go into work late the next day due to my hangover. By the time the 2007 playoffs had come around, I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter. My priorities had changed, so a basketball game wasn’t *quite* as important to me.
This year, I find myself fighting my way out of the 20 foot hole, anxiety attacks and a mid-life crisis. The Spurs, who for years now have been labeled as “too old”, are making the playoff run of a lifetime. They’ll keep fighting, and so will I. Today they came back from a 24 point deficit to go up 3-0 on the Clippers. Everyone is talking about how good they are…even Shaq, now just a commentator, is saying they are unbeatable.
I don’t talk smack, so I won’t go on and on about how we’re going to kill everyone and other teams suck and blah blah blah. I’ll just say, if the Spurs keep this up, they’ll win it all, and that would please me. Immensely.