I'm a cynic on these days--holidays when earnest reflection is typically exceeded by token sentimentalism. I know these days are important. I'm happy we take time to mark our calendars with the most significant events of our history. But still, I'm a cynic. Hallmark Cards, the tiresome prattle of pundits, and the counterfeit care of the news anchor tear all strike a deeply disingenuous tone to me. I prefer gifts out of season to a carefully scheduled parade of gift-wrap. I'm a cynic, but I'm not completely callous. I can be touched. But the honest atheist who will not celebrate Christmas (as Christmas) earns more respect from me than the man who fakes his fa la la way through.
"Honestly, it's beyond expectations,'' Mason said. "The most impressive thing that I've seen Pop do is, before the election, he had us watch a video on the civil rights movement. For me, you know he has the X's and O's and that he's a great coach, but stuff like that, you don't see that.''
On Monday, with San Antonio off to an uncharacteristic 0-2 start, with back-to-back games against the Mavericks and Timberwolves looming, Popovich devoted about 45 minutes before practice -- on the eve of a historic presidential election -- to a topic that had nothing to do with his players' place and moment in time, and everything to do with it.
"It was Dr. King. It was a bunch of current events on the struggles that a lot of African-Americans went through in the civil rights movement,'' Mason said. "It completely threw me off. But when I went home and reflected on it, I was like, Man, he's a special guy.''
Whether a father realizes it or not, the sincerity of his actions creates a culture for his children to live within. If he is unnecessarily absent, the sincerity of his absence creates a culture of longing and loneliness in which the children grow. If he only pays lip service I Love Yous, children will acquaint themselves with a culture of shallow, feigned affection. This kind of thing is inescapable, and adapts to scale. It's true for parents. It's true for teachers. It's true for presidents. It's true for coaches.
"Spurs culture" is something of a nebulous expression. But whatever it is, it aims to be sincere, and it seeks sincerity from its contributors. Gregg Popovich was able to connect with Roger Mason through 45 minutes of sincere, unscripted reflection on the triumphs of the civil rights era. I'm convinced these sort of moments have played major contributing roles during the Spurs' decade of dominance. One can not quantify the power of a culturally defining moment, and, drastically scaling down in terms of significance, neither can one quantify the relationship between a certain type of culture and winning.