On the eve of the 2013-2014 NBA season, I find myself at a sort of bizarre crossroads that I had long expected and that I wished to avoid, not so much for the nature of the situation, rather because it would force me to write—that dreadful and lovable activity which controls my subconscious for most of the day.
Being a fan of sports is an interesting thing. To put oneself through the emotional investment of fanhood is irrational at times. We look towards sports as entertainment, an outlet where we can forget about our worries and troubles, and yet, if we devote enough of ourselves to it, it takes on a life of its own and we’re left to reconcile another level of reality, principles and problems: sports principles and problems.
A little history…
I fell in love with the NBA in the early 90s when I was first introduced to the NBA. I didn’t grow up in the US. My family did not have long drawn out allegiances to the majestic Lakers, nor were they proud martyrs of following the Clippers. I was left to my own devices with no advice or forewarning as to the life-long implications and repercussions of my team choices.
All I knew back when I could hardly speak any English was that there was once a team that ruled the earth, and they wore purple and gold. They were often referred to as the “Showtime” Lakers and my friends were split between choosing them and Larry Bird’s Celtics when it came to video games.
While I respected my friend’s team choices, no one ever took the time to explain to me what was so great about the Lakers. How could I ever develop an infinite bond with a team I hardly knew? At the same time, NBC and some fella named Ahmad Rashad were constantly talking about some other fella named Michael Jordan.
It was the time of His Airness and I was hooked. Jordan and the Bulls became my team (bandwagon and all), and from that point forward, I knew I could not switch regardless of when the reign would end. You all know how the story goes: MJ wins 3 championships, retires for about a year, comes back and wins 3 more in a storybook ending (I refuse to acknowledge the Washington years—you can’t make me!).
The Bulls then chose to take a break from basketball, just because they were tired, and didn’t resurface until Derrick Rose joined the team (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
In between all of this, we all grew up and learned to think—differently, perhaps more, and in some cases less. I left LA for a few years for college and then came back when it was time to fend for my own.
I started watching the NBA once again, largely devoting what little free time I had to catching Bulls games, but also keeping up with the Clippers and the Lakers.
As #NBATwitter entered my life and access to information became ubiquitous, my eyes and mind opened up to lot more than what I previously enjoyed about basketball. Networks gobbled up live sporting events to compete for air time on features most people wouldn’t DVR.
Sporting events, especially the NBA, began to take on a new life and with personalities like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the cream of today’s generation giving new life to a sport I once loved immensely, I was once again hooked—this time older and (hopefully) wiser.
The shift towards LA
Although my allegiance stayed intact, and as life would have it a work schedule that doesn’t always permit me to watch EST time games, I began following both LA teams a lot more closely than my Bulls. I realized that if I wanted to carve out a tiny pothole in the road of great coverage and writing from all of those I admire in the NBA blogosphere, I would have to focus on “covering” one team.
There are seemingly an infinite number of news items, posts and angles floating around out there for every team. There’s no possible way I could actually hang with that level of rapid fire posting were I to attempt to be team-neutral. Instead, I chose to focus on the forgotten team of LA (forgotten until Blake Griffin came to town).
I couldn’t go with the more famous of the two, as tempting as that may have been from a prestige perspective. It was blatantly obvious that the Lakers had, and still have, a tremendous phalanx of writers, journalists and bloggers covering their every move.
I thought to myself: Why not show some love for the underdog? Besides, a good portion of Lakers Nation didn’t always display the best sportsmanship, often deriding and ridiculing the poor Clippers and their small fan base—something that continues to this day and which has intensified due to the arrival of legitimate talent and minds like Chris Paul & Doc Rivers which seek to transform the legacy of a downtrodden brand.
It was decided. I was happy to devote my ridiculous tweets to covering the Clippers while Lakers fans wailed on “us.” Along the way I picked up some Clippers followers who have been, according to themselves, die-hard followers of the team for quite some time. To their credit, a lot of them tend to be season ticket holders, something that definitely takes gravitas.
Relationships developed and in a parallel fashion, my Twitter game grew (a little; not too much—I’m still a jackass on Twitter). As I became acquainted with more serious writers and bloggers, I quickly rid myself of some of the disdain I had developed from negative experiences forged by bad apples in purple and gold.
Instead, I focused on the story lines, the news, the tweets, everything about LA basketball regardless of team. The colors I loved (red and black), and the colors I chose to cover (red, white and blue), were now joined by the melodrama of the purple and gold. This dual coverage, thus, is what has been causing some interesting reactions on Twitter from people who would prefer that I choose and stick to one team.
I can see how it can be confusing, I totally get it. Fan lines are very strongly drawn on the ground and the tribal mentality of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” is often the norm and the easiest way to gauge who you will and will not follow.
There is social currency to the avatar you rock, which is why when you check out my profile, you will see that I have a picture of Michael Jordan and not a Lakers or Clippers logo. MJ and the Bulls are my roots and the reason for me falling in love with the NBA. As a tribute to that history and my inability to relinquish my fanhood for Chicago without feeling fake, I remain logo-less (at least until I get a logo for this here blog).
So why do I tweet about both teams—neither of which was my childhood team?
I’ll tweet about the Lakers because whether you like it or not, they are a historic pillar of basketball importance, both locally and nationally. So many legendary names have rocked the uniform that even those who don’t do it justice become ingrained into the veins of Los Angeles lore (we’ll never forget you Smoosh!).
I’ll tweet about the Lakers because Kobe Bryant is extremely important and possibly not human. A transcendent superstar with a vice for championships. A relentless individual that refuses to go gently into the good night, and ultimately a walking deity for a generation that witnessed Kobe become what Michael Jordan became to me.
I’ll tweet about the Lakers because I enjoy making fun of Stu Lantz and the homerific tendencies of those that unconditionally protect the brand from any tarnish that may come its way.
I’ll tweet about the Clippers because maybe it’s their time. They’ve suffered long enough under the tenure of Donald Sterling and his mistress, Misfortune.
I’ll tweet about the Clippers because Chris Paul is as focused and devoted to the game as Kobe, but with a more comprehensive understanding of what it is to be human. I’ll tweet about the Clippers because CP3 inspires people and drives them to be at their best, and because when things aren’t clicking, he becomes a magician on the court, single-handedly willing his team to victory.
I’ll tweet about the Clippers because Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan live above the rim. They made basketball fun to watch in spite of falling short in the playoffs. They invite us into their life of fun and sillyness—something that makes them great to follow even when they’re not playing. They remind us that basketball should be fun.
I’ll tweet about the Clippers because I want to tag along for the ride: when they finally get to the top, it’s going to be something special!
I’ll continue to cover the Clippers in my own very basic of ways because I do want to see those acquaintances I’ve made through Twitter rejoice in the ultimate of stages—they deserve it, and it would make me extremely happy to be able to congratulate them firsthand when the clock hits zero and red and white streamers fall from the heaves.
My love for the game, my appreciation for basketball talent, and the silly and dramatic stories that make the game worth watching extend beyond a single jersey. If you truly love the game of basketball, a single set of colors will not define your level of appreciation for the work other organizations, athletes, writers, bloggers, and fans go through to support an entity that is only ours in our heart.
I hope you all can see that, even if you never make it this far down on this post (I know it’s super long… like Bill-Simmons-talking-about-his-dad kind of long).
If you stick around, know that I’ll cover both teams because this is where I live and I love LA basketball—with all of its championships and all of its lobs.
It’s a wonderful place to live and it’s an incredible time to be part of the scene. I hope you stick around, even if it’s just for the jokes and soliloquies rather than for the imaginary tribal tendencies that often divide us.
Count it! #andthefoul