As I contemplate the end of the Spurs season….

…and sink into a mild depressive state, I have this to say.

 

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NBA Playoffs

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?

“Fan”: Yes

Me: So, how many games over the course of the season do the refs give to the Lakers?

“Fan”: None.

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.

UPDATE:

http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2012/5/20/3032319/kobe-bryant-blames-pau-gasol-lakers-thunder-game-4

Punk.

9/11 was a tragedy….

…the possibly premature end to a career in professional baseball is not.  But tell that to a sports journalist.  This morning, on my drive to work, the sports guy on the radio station I was listening to referred to the torn ACL and meniscus of Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, and how his career may be over at age of 42. The age of 42…not 24.  He’s had 18 seasons in the Major leagues, countless honors and awards, and is considered a lock for the Hall of Fame.  I’m not saying it’s not sad, and I’m not saying it’s not an ending that would take adjusting to, but calling it a “tragedy”.  Really?  The man has spent 18 years PLAYING A GAME and getting paid MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.  He’s respected and admired in his chosen profession.  And he’s still a young man.  Not by sports standards, I know, but by just about all other standards.  I adore Tim Duncan.  By basketball standards, he’s old.  He’s well-respected, received many awards and honors, etc.  And if he suffered a career-ending injury tomorrow, I’d be sad, both for him and for the Spurs, but I wouldn’t describe it as a tragedy.  Not by a long shot.

This got me thinking about the other words we abuse.  “Hero” comes to mind. The biggest misuse of the word again comes from the Sports arena.   With a great stretch of the imagination, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant (gag), or Dwane Wade could be characterized as heroes in the Homeric sense.  In that context, a hero can be defined as “a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability”.  I’m down with special strength and ability, but courage?  It’s not like they have to make a drive to the basket amongst sniper fire, people.  Welles Crowther was a hero.   To call a multi-millionaire basketball player, even my Timmy, a hero cheapens the word.

Another word we misuse, perhaps more than any other, is “love”.  Among the definitions of love are:

  1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.

These days, we use the word “love” to describe our feelings towards our cars, shoes, smartphones and, sometimes, family.  I had to stop myself from using the word to describe my feelings for the Spurs and for Tim Duncan, though at least I’d be referencing human beings.  I do have affection for the Spurs and Tim Duncan, for their sportsmanship and humility, their skills and their loyalty.  I don’t know how profound, tender, or passionate it is, except maybe during the playoffs, when it’s a tad more passionate (“Manuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!”).

I’m gonna head a bit deeper into the pool and share this from The Guardian.

We are not born with our values: they are embedded and normalised by the messages we receive from our social environment. Most advertising appeals to and reinforces extrinsic values. It doesn’t matter what the product is: by celebrating image, beauty, wealth, power and status, it helps create an environment that shifts our value system. Some adverts appear to promote intrinsic values, associating their products with family life and strong communities. But they also create the impression that these values can be purchased, which demeans and undermines them. Even love is commingled with material aspiration, and those worthy of this love mostly conform to a narrow conception of beauty, lending greater weight to the importance of image.

Let’s not forget.  Tragic is a child dying of cancer, or thousands of people murdered by planes turned into missiles.  A hero is someone who risks or sometimes gives their lives to save someone else, and love is what we should feel for our spouses, our children, our parents, and our friends.

Now I’m off the to Apple store.  Tragically, my iPhone, which I looooove, has died, and I’m hoping the tech will be my hero and restore it.

Corruption everywhere

My favorite TV show is Leverage on TNT.  Just so good.

There’s a scene in the second episode of season one (The Homecoming Job) that includes this exchange:

Sophie Devereaux: [pretending to be a defense contractor] My company’s focused on meeting Senators, but, um, I’m thinking Congressmen.
Charles Dufort: You know the great thing about Congressmen? 50, 100 grand well spent will get one elected. But then, once they’re in, the incumbency rate is over 95%! So you can get on an average 18, 20 years use out of one of them. In these uncertain times, buying a United States Congressman is one of the best investments a corporation can make!
Alec Hardison: [listening in on surveillance] Oh, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. I’m a professional criminal and I find that disturbing.

With all that’s going on in politics these days, it’s hard not to think those words are true.  In California, there are people railing on and on about how Democrats are beholden to the unions that put them in office.  On the other side of the aisle are complaints that Republicans are in the back pocket of Big Business.  We’ve got a city, the City of Bell, that’s going through a major upheaval due to the corruption of its’ city council members.  For those that don’t know, the city administrator paid himself around $442,000, more than the president of the united states, to administer a town with less than 37,000 people in it.  And we’re not talking about Beverly Hills (34,000), we’re talking blue collar to the core.   It’s so disgusting.

I’ve read of outrage that President Obama puts his feet up on the resolute desk.  “How could he!  So disrespectful!”  These are people who seethe at the thought of liberals.  Those same people have nothing to say when shown photographs of George W. Bush doing the same.  I see it all the time….democratic voters complaining about a republican politician engaging in the EXACT SAME BEHAVIOR as the democrats, and vice versa.  People only define certain behavior as “bad” when the person they DON’T support politically engages in them.  How many republicans seethed over Clinton?  What did they have to say about Newt?

People are corrupt.  Wait, I’ll quote another movie…that Tommy Lee Jones/Will Smith classic, Men In Black.

Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it

A person, maybe you, may not be corrupt, but people are.  Think about how much money our politicians make?  There’s been a big story lately about politicians on both side of the aisle engaging in what is essentially insider trading, stuff that will get you and I arrested, but they are allowed to profit off the information they receive as leaders of our government.  They are supposed to service us.

I see it in my job. Clients and prospects sometimes ask us to break the rules, sometimes the law, to help them.  We tell them “no”, and have even “fired” clients who persist, but what always gets me is the fact that these same people would PITCH A FIT if a carrier tried to break the rules/the law and it hurt our client.  I’ve seen carriers behave in obviously greedy ways, demanding a larger increase in rates than is warranted, but I’ve also seen prospects expect to get insurance that they previously hadn’t wanted to pay for but now insist they should be allowed to buy because suddenly they’ve broken their leg and need rehab.

Think of insurance as a pool of water.  The people in the village (those insured by carrier A) all put a little bit of their water in the pool, and it’s there for them should they ever experience a drought.  But there’s a handful of people who don’t want to contribute.  They want to keep their water to themselves.  Then suddenly their pipes burst.  Now they think they’re entitled to drain the pool even though they’ve put nothing into it, leaving everyone else who sacrificed their water to stare at an empty pool.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think your health should be determined by the amount of money in your bank account, but with the system we live in, that’s how it works.  We’re in love with capitalism and it invites corruption.  On every level.

The reason I bring all this up isn’t to engage in a political discourse….it’s to comment on a)why I don’t get involved in politics and b)that this is just how people are, and it makes it that much tougher to trust ANYONE.   I believe this world will never change due to politicians.  We have to be the change we want to see in the world. It’s heartbreaking to shed that idealistic view that I think most people carry with them, maybe through their 20’s.  I kinda wish I could still see the world as full of people who are basically good.  Or at the very least, be able to keep my heart just open enough to let a few good people in.

These days, when someone is really nice to me, I feel downright uncomfortable.  I really need to work on that.  Ohhhh, I’m like Parker, on Leverage!  Yeah.  She calls ’em like she sees them.

Parker[as a flight attendant, speaking before takeoff] In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. But let’s face it, if this thing goes down in the water, more than likely, the impact will kill you. Please take a moment to locate the nearest emergency exit. Because if this plane’s on fire, you’re gonna wanna get out quick. Jet fuel burns at over a thousand degrees! That’s hot, folks.

Okay, I’m done rambling.  Wait, one more thing.  Tommy Lee Jones is a distant cousin of mine.  Really, really distant.  Like, 150 years ago our kin was kin.  And he lives outside San Antonio.  And he’s a Spurs fan.  It’s kismet.