Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Delicate Art of Becoming a Warriors Fan

Perhaps the fact that I was never any good at basketball as a kid is the driving force behind my long-lived disinterest in basketball.  I tried to learn to play – I really did.  Being uniquely ambidextrous (write with my left hand, throw balls with my right) has made it so that, to this day, I still haven't figured out which hand to shoot a basketball with.  Not that I excelled at many sports in my childhood, but basketball was definitely my weakest.
Or maybe it's just that I don't have enough love inside of me to spread it around four different teams.  I expend so much energy rabidly rooting for the 49ers, Giants and Sharks that there just isn't much left for Dubs.
I've been to a good handful of Warriors games and I watch them on TV pretty often, but there's just not that same fire – I’m more of a casual observer with a rooting interest than I am an avid fan.
The tendency to "root," however, is still inside of me, so I've caught myself pulling for the Warriors a lot more lately.  A new fanhood for the Warriors may actually be coming on inside of me.  The disappointment involved in losing is still much less than what most Warriors fans feel, but a degree of it exists nonetheless.  The other side of this phenomenon, as it turns out, is that I fall into silly thought patterns involving the Warriors that most veteran Golden State fans are probably able to avoid easily.
The Warriors had a lead, albeit a tenuous one, over the Trailblazers with about two minutes to go last evening.  Riding a three game winning streak and being just moments away from a fourth, the Warriors seemed to have a legitimate chance of changing my typically skeptical mind state. At that moment I let flights of fancy take hold -- 4 wins in a row would be legitimately streaking, right?  It wouldn't hit national news stands the way the New York Knicks have been lately, but maybe this team was finally getting up a head of steam.  Perhaps the Warriors could catch fire and make that push for .500 – Maybe even more!
I had to settle myself down.  Two minutes is an eternity in basketball and I've seen the Warriors choke on slim leads like this many times.  I had to save judgment until the score went final just in case they should fall on their faces.  I walked away the television to do a few things and by the time I returned, the Warriors had lost by two.  My momentarily lofty opinion on Golden State came crashing back earth – a few precious points was the difference (in my mind, at least) between going on a legitimate run and just playing more of the same, middle-of-the-road basketball.
I should have known better than to get all fired up.  Remember when the Warriors went on a tear to start the season last year?  Remember when this season started, and the Warriors few wins were against the cream of the crop in the NBA?  But then remember how last season ended.  Remember what the Warriors record is right now.
More often than not, bad breaks and close calls are the reasons behind the notches in the Warriors’ loss column.  "If only" seems to be the most commonly used phrase in a Warriors fan's arsenal; they should have it locked and loaded at a moment’s notice for post game discussions.  That is the fragile nature of being a Golden State Warriors fan.  One missed shot, one poor decision by Mark Jackson, the absence of one big man – these are the singular factors that decide the Warriors fate.  Last night’s loss should prove to be the difference between packing some swagger in their suitcases for a long road trip or hopping on an airplane prepared for a roadie marred in frustration.
The Warriors’ history has boxed me out from truly embracing this team. They are buoyed in no man's land – not good enough to be the 8th seed, not bad enough to land a top draft pick – and thus I am terrified to give them my heart.  I know that even when they lose they're still exciting.  Their brand of basketball and especially their ability to heat up in the late stages of games gives Warriors fans a reason to get excited.  But poor coaching, untimely cold streaks and mind-boggling mistakes make them incapable of finishing most of the time.  This is enough to keep the fire alive with many people here in the Bay Area, but while I stand on the outside looking in, it’s clear: I’m not quite ready to give myself to that kind of disappointment yet.
But this is all part of my education, my inauguration into what will eventually become Warriors fandom.  In the meantime, I have to train myself to expect near misses every time they hit the court, or else this relationship with Warriors basketball will never succeed.  I have to be prepared to lose, or perhaps more appropriately, ALMOST WIN.  That seems to be the only way to stay sane.
But then I bet you could have told me that, because if you're seasoned Golden State fan, you understand better than most the definition of the word "almost."

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