Friday, April 18, 2008

Not since I was a kid growing up in Pittsburgh in the 70’s, when the Steelers famously dominated the NFL, winning four Super Bowls in the process, have I had a team I could truly call my own. I lived in San Francisco for a decade, but it never felt right to me. Then I was off to the East Bay, first it was Alameda, then later Oakland that became my adopted hometown, and for better or worse, The Golden State Warriors my team. The similarities between “Da Burg” and Oakland are many; amazing architecture, including deco masterpieces inexplicably sitting empty with fading "For Rent" signs in their windows, dominate the downtown landscapes, and rich musical histories, from Billy Eckstine and The Marcels in Pittsburgh, to Sly Stone and Tower of Power out here, to name but a few. But nothing unites a city like a team, especially if it’s a scrappy bunch of perennial underdogs that are all heart, who play every game as if their very lives depended on it, and that describes Golden State perfectly. As my cousin Cassie (a much more recent transplant from Pennsylvania) observed, “They are the Bad News Bears.”

About a year ago the Warriors shocked the world when, for the first time in history, an 8th seed knocked off a 1st seed in the first round of the playoffs. “We Believe” united this town in much the same way The Steelers gave hope to a faltering steel town on the verge of economic collapse, with unemployment numbers at all time highs. You can take away a lot of things from people, but pride is a funny thing. Sometimes the harder you get kicked when you’re down, the more resolve you actually have, and when the Warriors with their 42-40 record finally made the playoffs after a 13 year drought, the city exploded in a frenzy that made national headlines. They measured the sound at Oracle arena with decibel meters, where the crowd frequently pushed the needle past the threshold of pain. We had finally tasted success, and we wanted more… badly.

This season, a younger, and in many ways improved, GSW squad had an even better record; an impressive 48-34. In any other year, that would have easily put us in the playoffs, possibly as high as a 5th or 6th seed, but this year the West was so completive, it just wasn’t enough to make the post season. To put things in perspective, if we were in the Eastern Conference, we would be the FOURTH seed, finishing with a better record than the much more media scrutinized LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but out here we find ourselves on the outside looking in. I’ve always been a “glass is half full” kind of guy, so rather than sulk about it, I’m thinking about the positives.

First of all, we still made history, as our record ties for the best ever for a team not making the playoffs, so even in loss we win. But most importantly, during the regular season, I watched breathlessly as the Dubs beat virtually every team in the Eastern Conference, including powerhouses like the high-flying Boston Celtics, the Orlando Magic and the aforementioned Cavs, and with the sole exception of the Utah Jazz, every team in the extremely competitive West, including the Lakers (twice actually, including a victory at the Staples Center where they hadn’t won in years,) The Rockets (twice,) The Spurs (twice,) The Suns (twice,) The Hornets (in New Orleans no less,) The Nuggets, and last years evil foes, the Dallas Mavericks. So no matter who is holding up the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy at the end of this NBA season, I’ll be thinking “Yeah, but The Warriors beat them” and, as Timmy Lupus famously said, “Just wait ‘till next year.” In the end, sports are entertainment, and there is no team out there that could hope to entertain me more that The Warriors did this year. So thank you Baron, Jack, Monta, Kelenna, Andris, Mickael, Marco, Matt, Austin, Al, Patrick, Brandon, C.J., D.J, Troy, Chris and Kosta, it’s been a hell of a ride.


Bradley said...

You should have this photo framed. Friggin classic!

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