Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Team Revisited

My main man Ajay Patel and I have developed the habit of swapping e-mails that tend to have more insight than our respective blogs. I have been meaning to translate this to you guys for a while now, until our most recent exchange brought upon a rant that just had to be shared.

AP: Would you rather be in your situation with the Sonics, having gone through all the glories and success (not being measured in championships here), but having it taken away from you, or would you rather be more in my boat, a [die hard Clippers fan] who is on a perennial loser at this point until we get rid of our owner?

I do not really know what glory and winning is, because I've tasted it once, but it was too short; it's like giving a hungry man one bite of delicious food, it just leaves him hungrier than he was before.

I know this is a biased question, in the sense that I expect an answer along the lines of 'of course I'd want the Sonics, I am a Sonics fan through and through,' so I don't really know what I'm trying to get out of this question. I guess I'm asking you to take a step back from your current state and try and look at this in an unbiased frame of reference.

VM: In regards to the Sonics/Clippers dilemma, I have mixed feelings. Allow me to explain…

Working at the Clippers, you get this new feeling of indifference that everyone else has in the front office. Aside from the occasional Steve Novak game winner, Mike Taylor dunk, Eric Gordon getting hot, and the sheer shock and joy during an upset of the Celtics, the people who work for the Clippers really do not care about the outcome anymore. You know how you are rooting for teams to win or lose every series? I cannot do that anymore. I simply do not care if say, the Spurs or Mavs win their series. But I certainly enjoyed the show that Tony Parker put on last night. Apply this feeling to every series. I am enjoying them, but I cannot heavily invest myself or find a rooting interest. I am not sure why this has happened. Perhaps it is the Sonics demise. Perhaps it is the fact that I am getting older and have pretty much seen it all in basketball having watched closely for nearly two decades already.

It is an odd feeling. It is sort of like watching '24' this season and not caring about Jack Bauer's health because you know he is going to survive somehow. But we still enjoy the dramatic and thrilling twists and turns along the way. Or like in 'Friday Night Lights,' you have to know that Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins, and Lyla Garrity are not going anywhere. So instead of getting wrapped up in the emotion of the story and the "will they really leave the show?" subplots, you start to overanalyze the writing and appreciate the brilliance of it all even more.

So this indifference does lead to a better perspective. Having seen every team courtside this year, having talked about basketball nonstop with fellow sports geeks, having sucked the knowledge and insight out of the top journalists, commentators, executives, and coaches, the perspective that I have on basketball is at an all time high this year for me. You and I are pretty smart basketball players and observers, but this year I find myself noticing things that I never noticed before. The guys who I watch and chat with during playoff games have been making fun of me because I will often make an observation only to have the color commentator say the same exact thing moments later. This has been happening repeatedly every game. I no longer watch basketball as a fan, I am watching games as someone who is…well, very close to the game.

Now, as a fan. In the season finale of the Clippers, ironically a 41 point loss to the Thunder, there was a whole mess of green in the stands. That is, there were more Sonics colors in the crowd than Thunder colors. I made friends with a group of them. There is a certain nostalgia factor that comes with having your team completely gone. We appreciate our history now that we do not have a present.

One thing that I will forever miss is that nervousness that comes with great games that your team is involved in. I distinctly remember running around my living room not being able to sit still on Sunday afternoons whenever the Sonics were in a close game on NBC. Some of the most enjoyable days of my life was when the Sonics beat the Lakers. I recall the year the Sonics swept Shaq’s Lakers. Just imagine the pride I had at that point. The Celtics and Bulls have just opened their series with two of the best games ever to open a playoffs. I loved seeing Ray Allen redeem himself and take over Game 2, but I felt bad that, well, I did not FEEL the emotion that should come with a game like that. You have seen me when I watch the Seahawks play some of their ridiculous games, often against the Rams. The emotion that comes with those ups and downs, hopes and fears, joys and despairs…simply cannot be replaced by anything else.

Sure, I understand, appreciate, and learn about the game more, and a lot of it can only come with indifference. But perhaps it is better to be ignorant to these things, and enjoy the bliss that comes with being a passionate fan.

Note that for the final several years of the Sonics’ existence (wow that is painful to say), they might as well have been the Clippers. The front office was a mess, owner was useless, our star players were gone, and we only made the second round once. But the Sonics run in the 1990s are the main motivating factor for whatever passion I have for basketball today, so I would not trade that away for anything. Even during the last few years, there was always hope that we would return to the glory of winning. And that hope was rightfully justified. I do not recall a team with such a bad record that everyone thinks has such a bright future like the Thunder do right now. Problem with the Clippers is that the hope there is NOT justified. Even with a couple young promising stars, this same core that won 19 measly games is pretty much going to be the same for the next couple years. And you can say that for most seasons they have. Of course I would rather have a team, even if it meant a losing one, but only if they were in fact MY SEATTLE SUPERSONICS. But the Clippers? It is just so demoralizing, that if I had to do it again for another year, I fear that I would die even more inside.