April 5, 2011
Being an NBA fan can be a fun and exciting experience, especially if your favorite team has a chance to make a run at a title. Recent draft picks, player acquisitions, or a new coaching regime can turn a team around in the blink of an eye. But sometimes these triumphed moves don’t pay dividends as expected, and the season becomes a long, drawn out exhibition. It doesn’t mean you have to suffer, though! There’s still value to be gained from a lost season if you follow these guidelines.
Take Advantage Early
One of the benefits of professional sports is the new slate every team gets at the outset of each season. No matter the previous season’s outcome, a new season brings optimism that this could be the year. What if all the offseason moves come together like a puzzle and bring the city a title? That rejuvenating feeling, though, is often temporary. Chances are your team’s hopes and dreams of a championship will not come true – but all is not lost!
Take advantage of the new season before it sours. Attend a few games early on. Catch the games on TV while they’re still competitive. Buy merchandise while it doesn’t feel like a waste of money. Support the team while it’s more pleasurable than grueling. Because we all know those waning months of a season going nowhere can be torture to a fan, as well as to the players and organization. Look at the Cleveland Cavaliers this year: after LeBron James’ departure, experts predicted this season to be abysmal for the Cavs. Those experts were right, but the team had their moment in the sun with a surprising 4-4 record in the first eight games of the season. Enjoy the early blast off before the season is forced down to Earth.
Rebuilding Doesn’t Mean Quitting
When the season does begin to take a turn for the worse, instead jumping ship, try to accept it. The rebuilding phase is an inevitable part of a professional sports organization (unless you’re the Lakers or Celtics, that is). Instead of grading the team on wins and losses, assess the development of the individual players. Pretend you’re part of the front office. Analyze the potential of the current players and make decisions on who should be part of the future, and who should be shipped out. The group assembled may not be great at the moment, but there are pieces on every team that could become superstars or major role players with the right surroundings.
Have you ever spoken to someone who remembers seeing Michael Jordan play as a rookie? And how cool it sounds? And how jealous it makes you (and by you, I mean me)? While there will probably never be another Jordan, a superstar in the making may be developing right in front of your eyes. Don’t miss the opportunity to see players like John Wall, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love mature into their full potential. And if there isn’t a future superstar on the current squad, there could be another Luc Longley, Steve Kerr, or Robert Horry in the making.
Promotions and Giveaways
It’s natural for a fan to lose interest once the losses pile up. The opening game sellout can turn into a comparatively vacant area if the team doesn’t start performing quickly. At the end of the day, however, the NBA is a business. The unsold seats represent lost revenue for a league struggling financially as it is, so they create various promotions and giveaways to re-entice fans.
Check to see what your local team has to offer and put together an outing. This year alone, the Washington Wizards have done ticket giveaways, family fun packs, pregame theme parties inside sections of the Verizon Center, and pregame bar-hops around the arena, to name only a few promotions. And similar promotions exist all around the league. Even if the game doesn’t go as pleased, the surrounding events make it for a solid group outing.
When Stars Comes to Town…
Although your favorite team may be wasting away like rotten vegetables, that doesn’t mean there isn’t good basketball to be seen. Every team in the NBA plays each other at least twice a season. When the schedule comes out, make a note of when the top teams and players are coming to town. Get tickets early or wait for a deal later in the season. Snag some last minute promotional giveaways.
The Wizards have been in rebuilding mode for a few years now, and it hasn’t been the most fun for the fan base, but I’ve been able to see Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Dirk Nowitzki, and Derrick Rose in person without breaking the bank. I’ll admit those three games weren’t exactly competitive, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
There’s Always Next Year
The misery will only last so long. It sounds cliché, but there’s always next year (or the year after that for those teams in serious disarray). Two years ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder were a lowly 23-59 – another lost season for the franchise formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics. But last season, they surprised the NBA by making the Western Conference playoffs and pushing the Los Angeles Lakers, in between their two back to back titles at the time, to the 6th game of the first round – a series widely accepted to be a cakewalk for the best team in the league. The Thunder had a solid young core, not unlike many others around the NBA. Next year your team could make a similar jump.
Plus, the way the NBA is currently arranged, the more losses a team accrues, the higher the odds they’ll earn a top draft pick. A deep playoff run is favorable, but the consolation prize of a potential star isn’t bad.
Transform your anger and frustration from seasons past into excitement for your new draft pick, offseason acquisitions, or coach. Because this could be the year that your “what if?” comes true in the form of a championship – a truly just reward for the years of misery.
March 23, 2011
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Chad Ochocinco is trying out for Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC. Ochocinco has never shied away from publicity, and MLS needs all the publicity it can get, so the tryout itself can’t be looked at as anything but positive. The potential for controversy really comes down to the decision the team will have to make at the end of the tryout.
Maybe he’ll legitimately earn his way onto the team. There’s no denying that he, like so many pros in any sport, is an exceptional athlete. He’s faster, stronger, more agile, more fit, and has better hand-eye coordination than 99.99% of the athletes in this country (when you include amateurs), so there’s no doubt in my mind that he has an infinitely better chance of making the Sporting KC team than I or any of the guys on my softball team would have. But is freaky athleticism enough to secure a spot on a professional soccer team when you haven’t played organized soccer in a decade?
Michael Jordan was one of the greatest athletes the world has ever witnessed. But even “His Greatness” wasn’t able to successfully make the switch from basketball to baseball. Recently retired pitcher John Smoltz was one of the best hurlers in baseball of the past three decades. His outstanding skills, however, have not yet been enough to launch a second career in golf. Had either of them given the same time and focus to their “second” sports that they gave to their “first” sports, is it possible that Jordan would today be mentioned in the same breath as Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, and Ken Griffey, Jr., and that Smoltz would have spent the last two decades competing with the likes of Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods?
Multi-sport athletes are certainly not new. Jim Thorpe, who competed well before the time of anyone reading this, is a legend in baseball, football, basketball, and many track and field events. In more recent history, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders put up very respectable baseball numbers while also playing professional football. But few have been able to truly excel at more than one professional sport. Even for the extremely gifted, it takes so much time and effort to compete at the highest level in one sport that there just aren’t enough hours in the day or energy in the body to be similarly elite at another game.
Did you know that Tom Brady was drafted by the Expos? Daunte Culpepper was drafted by the Yankees. John Elway played in both the Yankees’ and the Royals’ minor league system. Pat Riley was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, Danny Ainge played a few seasons for the Blue Jays, Tony Gwynn was drafted by the Clippers, Dan Marino was drafted by the Royals, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage played minor league ball for the Cardinals and Reds (Oh, yeah!). Each of these guys made a choice to concentrate on a single sport in an endeavor to excel, recognizing, I’m sure, that he couldn’t reach the level of greatness that he eventually reached if his efforts were divided between two sports.
Is it completely a matter of divided efforts, though? Or are some elite athletes just better suited for certain sports? Did Dan Marino turn down the opportunity to play baseball because it was clear to him that his skills gave him a much better shot at being a stand-out football player than a stand-out baseball player? A former college football playing buddy of mine often questions the choices he’s made. “For all I know,” he’ll say, “I could be the greatest pickle ball player, buffalo chip tosser, or Marco Poloist in the world, but I haven’t ever attempted any of them.” Maybe every elite athlete is built specifically for a certain game—athleticism can make him/her very good at many things, but only truly exceptional at one.
Whatever the case may be, the Ochocinco soccer tryout makes a great story. Can he achieve greatness in a second professional sport? I highly doubt it. But I marvel at his athleticism, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I can’t wait to watch the story unfold.