Archive for May 2007
(Apologies to Sean LeBlanc, but I have get this one out.) Last weekend, at a family dinner, my brother-in-law said to me: “You’ve got to watch that Golden State series. It has a college game atmosphere, except with NBA studs.”
Now, as I’ve mentioned in this blog, I haven’t had TV in my home since 1996. So to watch the games, I head down the street to my father-in-law’s and commandeer his big screen for a few hours.
First game I watched was last Sunday, Game 4. I was hooked. Next was Game 5 on Tuesday. Game 6 is tonight. Watching that game tonight is my highest priority of the day (after family stuff).
Why? I’m not a fan of any teams. I don’t even much care for professional sports anymore, though I still suffer from a low grade addiction to the NBA, NFL, and MLB. This addiction manifests by having me check last night’s scores on espn.com, and heading over to my father-in-law’s to watch the championship games.
But why has this otherwise manageable addiction of mine suddenly blown up, and become a full-on obsession? — and it’s only the first round of the playoffs! Why?!
I think the answer is: My love of America. … OK, I can hear you saying: “Huh?”
It’s true. And furthermore, the Golden State basketball team is the current embodiment of the American spirit. “Huh?!”, you say.
It goes like this. America is the land of the underdog. From the religious outcast Pilgrims who came here, to the colonist renegade landholders who fought the Revolution, to George Mason who made sure this country did not get started until the Constitution had a Bill of Rights (those clauses which champion the underdog) — the underdog informs our national DNA.
But America is not the land of every underdog. Rather, it is the land of the underdog who is pure of heart, full of energy, and filled with brotherly love. This nicely describes the Founders of this great nation.
Now we come to the Golden State baskteball team. Like the 2001 Patriots of the NFL, and the 2004 Pistons of the NBA, the 2007 Golden State Warriors fit the following criteria:
- the team had been “down and out” in recent memory (this means many losing seasons)
- many, if not most, of the top players came to the team as misfits, rejects, and outcasts (this means the player’s former team traded him for far less than he proved to be worth, and/or the player was selected low in the draft but proves to be much better than most selected above him, and/or the player was bouncing in and out of the league like a stray cat, and/or his salary is far below his “worth” in the league)
- the players play the game the “right way” (e.g. they help each other, and nobody acts like a prima donna)
- they are deeply and sincerely fond of each other
Teams that fit the above criteria are relatively rare in professional sports. When they arise into the consciousness of the sporting public, it is a great surprise to almost everyone, especially the sports writers. And as a surprise, it is a most wonderful one.
This is because the emergence of such teams is a redemptive experience. For the players on the team, this is their moment in the sun when they demonstrate their purity of heart, their boundless energy, and their brotherly love. In this glorious demonstration they are born anew as men. And thus born, they glow, and light the night sky of the subculture known as American sports. (Well, they do so at least until winning has become commonplace and expected, and then the Tom Brady’s of the world are next seen flipping the pregame coin at the Superbowl.)
But this dynamic is a redemptive experience also for us sheep who watch these men. We watch as this team of outcasts performs far beyond our collective expectations. Our love of sports — yet another thing ruined by the money — is born anew. We are reminded why we played sports as children. And we forget the banality of professional American sports (at least until the next free agency signing deadline).