Many people think of the Spurs as some army of darkness preparing to march all over the face of the Earth, like R.C. Buford is that traitorous American guy who drinks from the wrong cup in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Popovich is an infinitely less attractive version of that deceitful Nazi chick. And much of the time the disdain others have for the Spurs only drives my passion. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved being the lone defender of the faith in a bar packed with people rooting for the Hornets last night. But its time, not just for Spurs fans, but for NBA fans, to focus on a bigger challenge. I am throwing down the gauntlet. For the good of the country we must defeat the L.A. Lakers.
I am sure this is a rallying cry many will reject, but my appeal is not to the nation as a whole, but to the ignored and the belittled, the underestimated and the unnoticed. This is an appeal to the fans of mid-market franchises.
I have always felt a special bond with the fans of teams who get little to no love from the media. It makes my blood boil every time the Eastern Sports Programming Network leads off with coverage of the Yankees, even when they are last in their division. Would the Baltimore Orioles ever get such generous coverage? I despise it when the people who call the “Byrd” years in Boston a dynasty even though the 80’s Celtics never won two in a row are the same people who say the Spurs aren’t a dynasty because they haven’t won it back-to-back.
The Spurs, like the Hornets, don’t get coverage because the league or the media slathers them with praise every time they successfully tie their shoes. They have had to earn it. But four rings later, they continue to push fallacious criticisms about our “boring” brand of basketball, despite the fact that Ginobili and Parker are two of the most dynamic players in the game. We could be a modern day manifestation of the Harlem globetrotters, but as long as we make our home on the Riverwalk, we’re not going to be an attractive franchise to corporate sports media.
Why the hell does the media drool all over the Celtics’ defensive-minded basketball, but quietly push the notion that the Spurs are “unwatchable?” The Celtics could be a .500 team and still get better coverage than the Spurs.
Or take the Knicks, for example. Awful seasons by Memphis and Milwaukee got no press whatsoever, but the turmoil in the house of Thomas was front page news 24-7. Minnesota only got press because of its long-standing relationship with Boston’s newest star. And Gasol’s trade to L.A. might as well be the only instance Memphis made it onto Sportscenter.
This is why I have always appreciated the Detroit Pistons as well. The color of their jerseys doesn’t automatically ensure them an SI cover; they earn every ounce of press they get. And how long did it take the country to wake up and notice the unbelievably astounding play of Chris Paul. Do you think it would have taken as long if he donned Laker Gold?
These conference finals aren’t just about two sets perennial rivals battling for bragging rights. It’s about conquering the best attempts of the NBA and ESPN to anoint the Lakers and the Celtics as teams of “destiny.” It’s about standing united in the face of a media apparatus that is ready to abandon New Orleans the minute it’s no longer chic to focus on its post-Katrina hardships*. It’s about every die-hard sports lover from the heartland who feels indignant because franchises supported by aloof bandwagoning fans get a leg up from the powers-at-be at every possible point along the way. This isn’t just about championships. It’s about respect.
*Ed. Note: My reference to Katrina is in no way meant trivialize the plight of the people of New Orleans or suggest that somehow basketball, much less Spurs basketball, has anything to do with the potential for a rejuvenated Crescent City. But in my frustrations I couldn't help but come across the fact that I find the entire corporate sports world's recent "support" of New Orleans to be disingenuous and condescending, and it saddens me to realize that such a beautiful city may go by the way side while the leagues and media pat themselves on the back for their generosity and successful P.R. campaigns. Just imagine how thorough the FEMA response would have been and how strong the relief effort would continue to be if a Hurricane hit a city in the Northeastern corridor.