Let's talk about basketball for a moment, shall we?
No, not because I want to brag about my NCAA tournament bracketeering skills. When it comes to Fantasy sports, I have to say that I excel so mightily at Fantasy Football that it would appear I've sucked all sports knowledge available to me out of the atmosphere, leaving none for my hapless NCAA bracket. Judging by the looks of that thing, I'm about as skilled at choosing winning basketball teams as Bennett Salvatore is at officiating for them.
And goodness knows, that's nothing to brag about.
Plus, even though I went to Texas Tech, and was there during the whole Bobby Knight arrival and subsequent Knight mania, I'm just not that into college hoops. We all gathered in the Tech stadium for a while, hoping to see a chair thrown, or at least to hear someone get seriously cussed, but once we realized Mr. Knight's halfhearted fury, we kind of petered out. Some of us got our feelings hurt, too - it was like finally getting a date with the infamous but super hot star athlete, only to have him hand you a copy of He's Just Not That Into You. Kind of anticlimactic.
So we're not gonna discuss the NCAA madness, or my days as a pseudo-basketball fan at Texas Tech. Instead, allow me to introduce you to my true love: the Dallas Mavericks. And before you get up on your high horse and accuse me of being a bandwagon fan, allow me to present you with this compelling piece of evidence:
Yeah, that's a Mavericks vs. Spurs playoff ticket from 2001. When the Mavericks were still playing in Reunion Arena, that crappy stadium I still kind of love. I moved to Dallas when I was an 18 year-old freshman in college, straight out of high school in a little town. I had the whole city available to me, and as cute, young (but legal!) college girls, we pretty much did whatever we wanted. And what we wanted was to go to the Mavericks games.
There's just something about the ambiance of the stadium - the smells, the sounds, the energy; it makes it impossible not to absolutely love being there. You feel like you're right in the middle of something big, and it honestly doesn't matter if the Mavericks are playing someone awesome or someone awful. Just being involved, you feel lucky. The best way to explain it is to use another Texas Tech example. Tech is in Lubbock, TX, for those of you who don't know. And Lubbock is slap in the middle of the Texas panhandle; the only mecca of civilization within a hundred miles in any direction. There are no hills, no trees, no refuge from the wind, and certainly no escape from the dirt the wind will blow all over you. And the result of such lovely living conditions is that everyone who lives in Lubbock REALLY wants to be there. Anyone else hightailed it out of there a long time ago. And it's funny, being somewhere that everyone surrounding you loves, it kind of creates this massive sense of loyalty and devotion to the thing. That's how a Dallas Mavericks game is. That's how a Dallas Mavericks fan is, and a game is just a huge arena full of people who would just about kill in their unfailing devotion for the team.
So it should come as no surprise to you that in 1999, when we heard the Mavericks would be playing the Los Angeles Lakers at home, my college roommate and I decided that we honestly could not think of one thing that sounded better than getting dressed to the nines and trying to con our way into Mavericks floor seats, using our $18 nosebleed tickets as a starting point.
We made it, by the way. And it only took us until the 3rd quarter to find ourselves sitting directly behind a very handsome Kobe Bryant, who was wearing a pinstripe suit and watching the game with his injured hand taped in what looked to be a very haphazard manner. HDTV's got nothing on that kind of detail.
It should also come as no surprise to you that when I found myself on vacation in Orlando during the Mavericks 2006 playoff run, all I cared about was getting to the nearest sports bar so I could watch, in excruciating minutia, every heart-attack inducing second of the games. And it should come as no surprise to you that when the Mavericks lost that year, in the finals, I felt cheated. And I felt it, shall we say - STRONGLY.
And it should come as no surprise to you that even though my dad (and he certainly isn't alone in this theory) contends that the NBA is rigged, that the players have no heart, that there is no authenticity to the game, I still continue to watch. Because it's impossible to watch Jason "The Jet" Terry hit a super clutch baseline jumper, to watch Avery Johnson scream until his voice goes out and then still find reserve energy to spur the team on, to watch Brandon Bass take the hardest hit you've ever seen outside of the NFL and still come away with the rebound, to hear that Dirk is planning to play THIS THURSDAY, even after his "lower leg injury" was widely speculated to be season-ending - it's impossible to watch all of that and not feel that the Mavericks are more than authentic.
Because they're a lot more than merely genuine. They're the reason the NBA is still going strong. You can feel the raw emotion in the air as soon as you enter the stadium. They're the team with all the heart, and you can't fake that.