No bloom is a late one

Is it just me, or does it feel like the Finals should be already spreading glop across the world? A break was nice, I guess, but this last day is a poor excuse for suspese-building. I also don't think that the NBA gets that they've transformed the postseason into a viewing war of attrition, by the end not all that different from watching the regular thing. Yes, we want to see teams rise and champions born, but the fatigue that sets in just doesn't exist with regard to the other notable second seasons. Factor in the cynicism that's floated over the Finals in last half-decade (Lakers killing people, The West killing people, Spurs/Pistons) and it's hard to not see how the hype dissipates over the month and half, rather than build the way it does with the NFL, for instance. The Superbowl is an event that virtually transcends sports; with the Association, it's the early rounds that generate the most apparent precipitous crossover buzz.

So since Brickowski never got around to explaining why my version of basketball consumption is morally fucked, I thought I'd hit you with its latest mad scientist creation: NO SHAME IN THE BANDWAGON!!! It's been occurring to me in fits and starts that I really, really like these Mavs and would have a nice day were they to capture the most perfect treasure. This is not the same March Madness-like shit I derided when I saw it happening with the Clippers; that was a totally generic application of self-interest to an unknown quantity, and this is at least a team I've been well-acquainted with since the jump. You can't pretend, though, that they haven't really hit their stride in these Playoffs, making them suddenly all the more easy to love than they were back in April. Partly it's getting to understand them in a context that really puts the stamp of wisdom on action, seeing the truth brought out in them, and watching them respond to split-second adversity; this doesn't mean Dirk objectively becomes the best player in the league, but it's a perfectly good excuse to welcome him into your heart.

I'm torn as to who gets blamed for this: does the team all of a sudden emerge in a burst of self-actualizing fury, or are people like me just slow to have the lightbulb flicker up atop our skulls? Either way, though, what's garrulously intact here is the presence of choice, the option, taste, whatever you want to call this "fairweather" impulse that spits pebbles in the face of traditional fandom. For reasons I have yet to fully comprehend, people treat their teams like family: totally unconditional commitments that persist through thick and thin, no matter what the changes in personel, style, or overall philosophy. In short, they are family, not friends. Now, I realize how ridiculous it is to presume that man would want no family. But let me ask you this: would you want all the other people in your life to be tethered by kinship, without the option of exercising any preference or reserving the right to cut ties? There is a time and a place for lifelong marriages arranged by those who know better; it's called the land of college football, and it is a society far too primitive and stubborn for me to call my own.

Responsible bandwagoneering simply asserts "I see you." The past matter not; what the Mavs were or were not earlier in the season, and whether I did or did not acknowledge them as such, is irrelevant to the fact that now I really want to kick it with this proud band of characters. You can't teach yourself to feel fondness for another; it sneaks up upon us, and is at its most sweet when it takes root in the soils of familiarity. That this should occur at a time of heightened sensitivity only proves that there is a rhythm to all seasons, natural or otherwise.


At 6/07/2006 7:02 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

I never said your version of consumption is morally fucked, because I don’t think it is. In fact, you’ve had a huge impact on the way I watch and appreciate the sport. I do, however, think it’s pretty apparent that you don’t understand conventional fandom. You emailed me less than 14 hours after my beloved Duncan’s were extinguished in GAME 7 OVERTIME, and asked what I liked about the Spurs now that they weren’t winning.

Muthafucka, what the fuck?

Might as well ask me why I like the air I breathe.

There are very specific things that I like about THIS Spurs team (who else could erase a 20 point lead against these Mavs and come within ONE STUPID GINOBILI FOUL of a another trip to the Finals? That’s truly some remember-the-Alamo level valiance), but I’ve been bound to less-likeable SanAn squads in the past. Your family analogy seems pretty on-point. I didn’t choose my parents and I didn’t choose the Spurs.

As I’ve said before, my Pops bought season-tix for Robinson’s rookie season (89-90) and I attended the majority of home games. That season the Admiral engineered the biggest single-season turnaround in Lig history, and did it with style to boot. He was a 7-footer throwing down 360s and windmills, blocking a ridonkulous amount of shots (it wasn’t even a surprise to see dude throw up a pts, rebs and blocks triple double) and starring in his own fresh Nike campaign. And the rest of the team was downright Darko-worthy (I said it!) with erratic (read: crazy) guards like Rod Strickland, Vernon Maxwell and David Wingate, goofy Euros Ewe Blab and Zarko Paspajl, and Strong Veteran Blacks (SVBs) Terry Cummings and Caldwell Jones, to say nothing of a certain Frank Brickowski. They made a surprising playoff run before bowing out to Portland in a wild 7 gamer. I was 8 years old, and I was committed for life.

And frankly, I couldn’t have chosen a better team if I tried. They’ve been insanely good to me since then, to the point where I have serious concerns that they’ve ruined me as a fan. They’ve missed the playoffs ONCE since 1989, and that netted them Duncan. I know that no team can consistently provide such success, especially not a small market team, and I worry that, like the high school football player, life will never be this good again.

But I still get to choose my friends. I can still love Josh Smith, and Gilly, and Amare and Artest and Darko like you do. What’s wrong with also having a family to come home to?

At 6/07/2006 7:07 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with a little bandwagoning, but the Mavs? Really?

Admittedly, I’m beyond biased, but I can’t for the life of me see what’s compelling about this team. Cuban is way too prominently involved. Still Dirk, Still German. There aren’t any nasty dunkers, and the novelty of Devin Harris had to wear off at some point in that Suns series. Stack is nothing more than a nice mid-range jump shooter, and Josh Howard was wearing braces as recently as 2 months ago (which is actually pretty endearing but certainly NOT GULLY). I’ll concede that Marquis and his death tatts are pretty fucking gully, but he barely gets any run. It’s one thing if you’re just saying that they’re the most likeable team in the Finals, or if the enemy of your enemy is your friend, but you’re starting to sound like you think this team is on par with some of the great FreeDarko teams of yore. Say it ain’t so.

At 6/07/2006 7:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

it should be said that in 1990, i wore a spurs baseball cap all the time and sent the admiral a card to sign plus the fawning letter. that shit came back in barely over a month. dude may have been a moral barrister, but his game was un-fuck-wittable.

that's in some ways what i see in this mavs team. they're hardly gangster, and some of them are cats who have mellow with age/seen the light. as a unit, they're nothing if not responsible. still, they've got a highly professionalized swagger going; they find time for bursts of pure chaotic energy; and, in a way that the pistons never did, make it bad-ass to play smart basketball. best of all, i honestly don't know if it represents a victory for FD or the other side of the war.

the SVB archetype is absolutely crucial here. . . do we really know if stackhouse is a disgrace to his former self or a disgrace to "veteran basketball?" and how sure are we that josh howard, not stack and terry, is the veteran rock of this team?

At 6/07/2006 7:55 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

oh, and that email was a little raw. but like you said, the spurs have spoiled their fans, and i honestly think that they're thought of primarily as a winning machine. as much a breadwinner as a life partner, if not more so.

it comes down to this: the cavs still have the majesty lebron, the wizards, the riddle of arenas, and the pistons DEETOTIROT basketball. what do the spurs fans have to stare at by the fireplace for these intervening long months?

i probably should've waited a minute before asking you all this, though. like the way you have to give someone about a month before they can start to reflect intelligently on their failed long-term relationship.

At 6/07/2006 9:29 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

it should be said that in 1990, i wore a spurs baseball cap all the time and sent the admiral a card to sign plus the fawning letter.

my mind's blown.

what do the spurs fans have to stare at by the fireplace for these intervening long months?

i'm sure i'll get clowned for this, but for me it's Duncan. in this New NBA where we get Diaw v. Odom in the post, Dirk launching fadeaway's and Sheed chucking threes, it's a joy to watch someone willing to plant himself on the block and go to war in the paint.

it quickly became clear that Bowen, Horry, Van Exel, Rasho, Nazr, etc. couldn't compete with the fast, cheap and out of control mavs (though I still think Pop took Avery's small-ball bait way too quickly...nullus). parker and ginobili got neutralized by howard and terry, and Duncan basically realized he had to carry the team by himself if we had any hope of advancing. and he would've succeeded if it wasn't for that dumb Manu foul and some atrocious officiating.

i admire his toughness. he had diop, damp and mbenga rotating fouls on him the entire series, but he kept banging. if you're dropping 30+ in the post you're undoubtedly catching a ton of elbows and forearms to the arms, kidneys and lower back. most dudes can't take that. duncan called for the rock every possession. And I can’t tell you how comforting it is to have a guy who doesn’t get fazed when down 3-1 or behind by 20. It always sucks to lose, but I find a lot of comfort knowing that we went out like champs.

Call me crazy, but I still think he's the best player on the planet.


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