Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Me And Cornelius Down By The Schoolyard

It never takes long for a blogger I talk to to work up the nerve to ask the question. No, not "Are you and Corn really lovers and is the Paroxi-wife just a front?" Though the Paroxi-wife will ask that question approximately 700 times throughout the course of the season after every post-big game phone call that starts with me blubbering like a school girl because Rudy Gay has a triple double or something.

No, the question I get asked is "So who's your team, anyway?"

So far the guesses for my fandom have been: Suns, Bobcats, Raptors, Grizzlies, Clippers and one dude that thought I was a Lakers fan. That didn't last long.

We rarely discuss ourselves here, but as the season approaches, I wanted to give you some insight into how we view the league and who we root for. Let's start with Corn.

If you ask Corn for his sports team, he'll invariably say "Duke. F*ck you. Duke." Though he attended North Carolina, he grew up loving Duke, before they were any good. For his NBA fanhood, though, the man was Charles Barkley. He was always anti-Jordan, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was his attendance of UNC (of which Corn himself is a graduate). That and he's a contrarian sonofab*tch. So he turned to Barkley just as he made his way to the desert. It only made sense as Corn's sister moved to Phoenix at that time as well. He followed the end of KJ, Thunder Dan, Wesley Person. He lost his way in college as he was traveling abroad, and, you know, drinking heavily. When he returned to the game, he found his favorite team has adopted as style of play that was, as he described it, "Corn ball." (Wocka-wocka-wocka!)

All offense, no defense, who cares if you win a championship as long as you are remembered. Well, okay, he did want them to win a championship, but they didn't. And they won't. But they still fit. So that cemented him, and he's committed to them, through and through. Even through this dark time known as the Shaqtus era.

He still holds a place in his heart for his home state Bobcats, but the fact that they are not only partially owned and partially managed by Jordan, but that they have been so terribly makes it that much harder. He also doesn't believe in attaching himself to abject failure. In order for him to ever become a true Bobcats fan, the Suns would have to somehow make worse roster moves than they already have. I for one, think Steve Kerr has that in him.

As for this season, he'll be monitoring the Sixers, Magic, and Hornets most closely. All of those teams made the playoffs in 2008 and are expected to make them again in 2009.

As for me? The closest team in terms of geographic distance when I was growing up was Dallas. Try and imagine how many times they were on television then. I lived in a black hole of NBA teams. There was nothing. Which is why I became so player centric early on. It's strange, because my sports history is firmly rooted in the team concept. I'm a third generation Kansas City Chiefs' fan (thanks for your condolences ahead of time). I stick with that team and that team only. If they never win another Super Bowl outside of SuperBowl III, I will still follow that God foresaken team to the end of the Earth, because my family is from the area. I have a history with them. But in the NBA, I didn't have that. Don't get me wrong, if the Kings were still around purple would be my favorite color and it would be me and not Ziller calling jihads on anyone that questioned Kevin Martin's status as an All-Star. But they're gone, and thank God because it gave us Ziller. I have a love in my heart for the Rockets championship team, because they were my first. They were what got me into the league. Ironic, that Robert Horry was a central part of my attachment to the NBA, no?

That's why last Friday was amazing. I tried repeatedly to get a FanHouse column together on the Dream and what he meant to me. But I couldn't do it. He may have been the best player I've ever seen, given my age. The Dream Shake on Robinson? Unbelievable. The Knicks' Finals series, which was infinitely more entertaining than any of the subsequent Finals until Miami-Dallas in 06? True drama. Seeing Olajuwon go into the Hall was something special for me.

But that still doesn't give me a team. The Rockets got me into the league, but I couldn't adopt a team that won a championship and lived in Texas. I'm not a bandwagonneer, in fact, I loathe bandwagon fans. This in no way impacts my feelings on the majority of Lakers fans. At all. For the record. I contemplated the Suns, because like Corn, I loved Barkley's intensity and I was a huge KJ mark. I tried to choose between the Suns and the Rockets, but I couldn't. I liked them both equally and found myself rooting against and for them alternately when they'd play each other.

So instead I drifted from team to team. I was obsessed with Alonzo Mourning for about ten years. Obsessed. The first jersey I ever owned as a kid was Zo's home Charlotte jersey. I didn't get to watch them enough to form a real connection, though. Same when he went to Miami. I was still teamless when college hit and I did as most college student do. Drink heavily.

Getting back into the league, I fell in with the Suns just before the real start of Seven Seconds or Less. I was even a Marbury fan, which is funny to consider now. Matrix held immediate appeal to me, being a fool for athletic superfreaks. I even considered committing fully to the Suns. But again, I found I'd be front running. I could pull for them, but I could never really be a fan of the team. Steve Kerr then killed any possibility of a reconciliation.

I often wonder about adopting a team. About just being like "screw it, I like that team enough, let's do it." The biggest option is the Grizzlies. Seeing as how part of Memphis is in Arkansas, the home state, it's closest to my hometown, they're rebuilding, and I kind of think Rudy Gay is the dopest, it makes a ton of sense. I'm even willing to stand OJ Mayo and root for him. I like Iavaroni. It makes a ton of sense. I even have a hat picked out and everything.

But I can't.

No, instead I'll wait. It's why I have rationalizations for every reasonable negative criticism towards the idea of expansion, and keep constant tabs on the situations in Las Vegas and elsewhere. My dream scenario? Stern finally gets enough separation from the Vegas All Star Disaster of 07 to add Vegas. But he can't go back to the awkward 16 teams in one conference, 15 in the other. So he has to add another one, just to justify Vegas. There's a lot of discussion and competition, but finally, KC's empty Sprint Center makes the cut. And we're rewarded with a brand new expansion team, hopefully with a name and logo that doesn't make me vomit.

When that happens, I will make an entire room dedicated to the team, get a logo on my left butt cheek and start an obsessive NBAKC blog that will rival the most pathetic out there.

I was faced with a crisis internally, though, today. I was thinking about ways for KC to get a team and I started thinking about what if it was a situation like OKC. It's one of the reasons I'm more sympathetic with the OKC fans than other people are. We're a lot alike. A small market town with a strong basketball history that just wants a team to root for. But I thought about possible relocations. I mean, the Bobcats could move and I don't think NC would be overly devastated, given their history and their college passion. But I kind of hate their name with a violent passion, even though I kind of like the team. But then the real fear hit me. What if someone threw gobs of money at Sterling, and he finally said "I'm done with this." Then the new ownership moves the Clippers to KC. I thought about what I would say to my friends who are Clippers fans, who have suffered through the enormous frustration and depression of cheering for such a hapless team with zero luck that never catches a break. I thought about taking that team from them, the team that even though it was terrible, at least it was theirs. And I felt really bad about it. Same thing with Memphis. Same thing with Minnesota, Milwaukee, or any of the other small market squads. Honestly, when the discussion of the Hornets moving started, of course I was excited. I mean, come on! Think about waking up in a year and one moment you've got no basketball team and the next you have Chris freaking Paul! But man, can I imagine doing that to New Orleans now? No way. I was relieved when Shinn came to the agreement with the city.

This is all moot because most likely, Stern will just relocate a team to Vegas and be satisfied. The odds of him approving a relocation over Vegas are slim, and even then, KC might not be the front runner. Combine that with the very slim odds of him opening up for expansion stateside when he's clearly focused on international exploration, not to mention the vast roster issues with depth that everyone immediately shouts at me when I bring up expansion, and you've got a near impossibility that the Sprint Center will be filled with chants of "D-FENCE!" or obnoxious halftime shows. I'll continue to drift aimlessly, lost in a see of celebrating wins and mourning losses from the outside, like a ghost, or that kid that no one likes but was on the team anyway.

So I'll be pulling for Memphis this fall, along with Charlotte, the Bucks, the Nets, the Hornets, the Magic, and the Suns (well, Nash, Hill, Bell, and Amare anyway). But I don't have any allegiances to speak of, no real biases to withhold me. It's liberated fandom, which is simultaneously awesome and lonesome.

We'll be back after while with some more thoughts on the teams we're following this fall and why. Season's comin' folks.

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