Big Time in Handyville
AKA Liberated Fandom Pt. 235982.
Sure, the term has been tossed around a lot on these parts, but to be totally honest, I've never been 100% comfortable with the concept. Following and obsessing over particular individuals scattered around the league doesn't quite work for me. As much as I love Zydrunas Ilgauskas, for example, I hate most of the rest of the Cavs team and don't want to have cheer for Larry Hughes in order for Z to do well. Same goes for Udonis Haslem, James Robinson, and Devean George. Love those guys, despise most of their teammates. Of course it's much easier to engage in liberated fandom with players from crappier teams, like, say Joe Johnson, because the teams are in complete disarray and nobody really affects anyone else's play...it's every man for himself.
What's more, with KG and the Timberwolves having existed as a mental cove for me for the past 10-12 years, liberated fandom was never my M.O. I had an allegiance from which I needed no liberation. To be quite honest, with KG gone now, things have changed. IN NO WAY WOULD I EVER JUMP SHIP AT A TIME LIKE THIS...i am as excited about this deranged Timberwolves team as I have been about any team in the past three years. The Timberwolves are always going to be my team and with Big AL-Jezeera leading the way probably even more so. I'm just saying, KG's departure has made liberated fandom more of a possibility, as I no longer feel the presence of the 7'1" dragon watching over me.
So, what is the compromise between pure liberated fandom and pure home-team allegiance? Adopting a team, as I imagine people in Montana, Kansas, and Louisiana are often forced to do. With no regard for the fact that many of my good friends are from Wisconsin, I am arbitrarily thinking about proclaiming the Milwaukee Bucks as my honorary favorite team this year, and following them with the same zeal that Shoals would follow Gerald Wallace, or Gilbert in his pre-Nevermind days and with the same dedication that the Brown Recluse, esq. would follow any number of Tar Heels.
Now, Milwaukee itself I have a lot of mixed feelings about. Actually, screw it. I don't like Milwaukee, and that's based on N = 1 experiences. I've heard tremendous things about Jake's and a lot of other hangouts that I evidently missed during my stay there...but the only time I went to Milwaukee, I ate a terrible sandwich near Marquette, spent most of my time at The Rave, and one of the guys I was robbed for $300. Consider this the second chance I'm giving Milwaukee. There's something about this Bucks team that just gets me.
They don't care. They know what they want, and they go get it. They make the players they want play for them. From the ridiculous Yi Jianlian situation with the Bucks' brass and Senator Kohl writing letters to the Chinese government, to overpaying Mo Williams, to giving the more recent Charlie Bell situation, where Milwaukee matched the Heat's offer sheet for him despite Bell begging them not to. They always seem to have five centers and five point guards on the roster. Desmond Mason is back. Bogut is nuts. Michael Redd is on a mission from God. Plus, I saw Dan Gadzuric chillin out at the Barrington Levy show at Chicago's Caribbean Festival a few weeks ago.
I can't even say whether or not Milwaukee is Freedarko this point (although Yi certainly has potential to be "Darko"). I don't even know if I actually like the Bucks or if I could ever forgive them after they did Terry Porter so dirty a couple years back. I just know I feel affected by them...and I want to know if I can feel any sort of sensation or emotion when Milwaukee wins or loses. Whether I rush to check their boxscores or if I devote significant League Pass hours to them when the Wolves aren't playing. This is an exercise in self-exploration and knowing the boundaries of self. Let the experiment begin.