I am not a basketball fan by any means. I did enjoy watching the game back in the late ’80’s – early ’90’s when it seemed that every game ended with a score of 135-131, usually on some miraculous buzzer beater. The last decade has been boring as hell for basketball. If the Jordan era was the era of big offense, the last decade has been the era of big defense. I suppose that from a purely technical standpoint the defensive play is a lot better. Technically better doesn’t equate to more fun to watch though; a well executed half court press pales in comparison to an offensive fast break that is capped off with an alley-oop dunk. These plays are still made, of course, but they are usually just in the garbage portion of the game when one team has already benched all of their starters and back-ups, leaving you reaching for the team roster to see if the guys now on the court are actually even on the team.
Growing up in Oregon, basketball was the one professional sport that our state actually had a team in. But rather than support them, I actively hated them. It was my (misguided) belief that if we didn’t have the stupid basketball team we would be able to have a football team, and football was always my favorite sport. Since I felt a need to hate the Trailblazers (and what a ridiculous name that is), I needed to choose someone from their conference to root for. My mother lived in Arizona at the time so I picked the suns, and at a damn good time.
Shortly after I started following the Suns they started what would become their “glory days”. Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle (the fact that I can spell that name is a testament to how much I respect the guy), Danny Ainge, Kevin Johnson, Cedric Ceballos, (what was his first name) Dumas, and others went on a tear that ultimately ended with them losing in the NBA finals to none other than Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls (for my money that was the greatest NBA finals of all time, of course I have only actually watched about four of them so I might not be the best judge. But one game in that series went to triple overtime, and it seemed like they were scoring about 150 points each every game -though a quick google search just revealed that the games were much lower scoring that I remember them).
Perhaps I am a bit cynical, but I really think that so much of the game now is about posing for the sake of posing that the game is virtually unwatchable. The latest high school draft pick needs to get himself a good poster shot that really showcases his signature pair of high-tops. The game, the score, the technique be damned, he needs a good panoramic photo doing a dunk over some nameless white guy in a game that he will ultimately lose 100-47 because he doesn’t know what defense is -and I mean that quite literally. He has really never played defense since he has always stood at half court waiting for one of his teammates to pass him the ball; he has a new 720 Tomahawk slam to try out, after all.
But I digress.
After the run of success that the Suns enjoyed in the early ’90’s, they went on a dry spell for about a decade. In that time there wasn’t a single person here in AZ that was actively following them, and if they claim they were they are dirty liars. As recently as midway through this season, sports commentators here in the valley were all talking about how the Suns were going to fall apart and miss the playoffs completely. Not just one or two of the sports commentators or the fans either, this was everyone. That talk didn’t stop until the Suns had actually clinched the playoff berth, and even then most of the talk was about how they would fall apart in the first round.
I really wouldn’t have cared one bit about whether the Suns won or lost, were it not for the fact that Kobe Bryant said (and I must paraphrase since I can’t find the actual quote) that it was good that they drew the Suns in the first round because they were the weakest of the top four teams (which I didn’t disagree with one bit, but I’ll be damned if I wanted to see that smug fuck win after that statement). I thought that my hatred of the Lakers would be done with once Mr. Ass-Bulldozer O’Neal left (how many thousands of people did he knock down with his huge ass and never draw a foul? He would just back into them and push until they fell over, hell it was Shaq, that was all he could do), but apparently I also hate Kobe (and all rapists for that matter. Before you send me that flaming email, I do know that he was not convicted. I also know that he was not acquitted. The fact that his accuser would not testify doesn’t mean that he didn’t do it; if he really didn’t do it he would never have paid her “and undisclosed sum” in an out of court civil settlement.) So I wanted the Suns to win the first round, just because I hate Kobe and his smug, rape-anyone-I-want-to attitude.
What I was getting really sick of, though, was they way every sportscaster in the state of Arizona was trying to make it seem as though they had been behind the Suns all year; knew they were going to the playoffs; never doubted that they would come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Lakers. I know Arizona is a republican state, but we aren’t all that stupid. You can tell the same lie a billion times and it won’t become the truth (George W. Bush would be well served to learn that lesson), and, like it or not, you are on tape saying exactly the opposite thing.
I will use a local radio station as an example (because I know they have audio on their website, you could actually download some of the stuff from earlier this year to hear them dogging the Suns). 98 KUPD had been ripping on the Suns since the very beginning of the season. They were saying things like “well, this is a throwaway season since they don’t stand a chance with Stoudemire on the D.L.” and “Nash is an old man, he has a retirement home in Phoenix”. While the second one may have been said jokingly (at least partially), it was clear that the DJ’s had made up their mind that the Suns sucked outright and had no chance of making the playoffs.
Fast forward to the start of the playoffs.
“I knew the Suns were going to make it. This is the strongest team they have put on the court since the ’93 finals.” When asked point blank about what they said earlier in the season, the DJ’s went into evasive maneuvers, saying things like, “I never said they weren’t going to make the playoffs, I just said that Nash would have to have a standout year and someone would need to make up for the lack of Stoudemire’s 25 ppg.” Which was such utter bullshit that it was laughable. I know that there is a bandwagon that forms when a team starts winning, but can’t they at least be honest enough with themselves to admit that they are just jumping onto it? Apparently not.
To end this how it started: Suns lose! Suns lose! And not a moment too soon. If I had to hear someone say “Sun-sational” one more time, I was likely to climb a clock tower and take target practice on anyone in a Suns T-shirt.