Fraternizing with PtR, Episode 6: A Spurs Fan Who Can't Watch the Spurs?

Stephen Dunn

Our series-long running conversation with Pounding the Rock's SpursFanTN continues as we talk about beautiful basketball, the pain of losing, and what adjusments come next.

This is part six of a long conversation. The previous installments can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

SpursFanTN:

As a Spurs fan, I get to see a lot of beautiful plays. But I pretty much have to watch them in real time as Sportscenter is much more enamored with the most recent Lebron dunk. Last year was the most beautiful run of highly choreographed, dominating basketball on the offensive end of the court that I've ever witnessed. But it is hard to pick a play, or a moment, from years of greatness. So I'm going to going to go with two plays, neither of which had any meaningful impact on the game, but both stick in my memory.

The first is the most unexpected, and the second was just plain amazing. So, um, Hi, my name is Steve, and I'm a Matt Bonner fan. I've been sober 18 months, but sometimes I just get an urge to take just one more sip of Matt Bonner kook-aid. I can't help it. In a lot of ways Matt Bonner reminds me of my brother, you know, if my brother was a foot taller and a sandwich connoisseur from New England. I think a lot of the criticism leveled at him is warranted, and I would even say that for a few years, he was content with his game. But I think he really worked on his game and conditioning in the off season, and during the regular season even, when he wasn't seeing a lot of minutes. Anyway, he's a great guy, with a great attitude, without a shred of athleticism, that has found a place in a very athletically competitive industry. And I like to see him be successful.

The second is just Manu being Manu. I love Manu. He's been my favorite player for years, and it is difficult seeing him at the tail of his career with a body that won't do what his heart wants to do. Ginobili plays on the edge. He does risky things that result in turnovers, or awesome, game changing plays that get the fans involved, that elicit involuntary exclamations, that make you come up out of your seat, or shake your head marveling, or in the case of the clip I'm going to show you, makes you think, "What just happened?", followed by a euphemism of some kind, you know, like, "Holy cannon-fire, Batman!", or maybe something more conventional.

Game 2 is over. And it was closer as we expected. Z-Bo said that after Game 1, he couldn't sleep. And he didn't turn on ESPN or any other sports channel because he didn't want to hear them talk about the game. I saw Henry Abbott interviewing some Spurs super-tweeter. He said that when the Spurs lose, he is so frustrated he hits things sometimes and it takes him days to recover. Man, I totally get it. I feel the same way after a loss. I am a Spurs fan. As far as I know, "fan" is short for "fanatic". I guess that's me because there is no other way to explain my behavior. I am emotionally invested. Losing hurts.

When I used to play, I would do a Kobe (minus the media circus and grandstanding), and would follow up a loss with an extra hour or two of free throws and shooting around. That made me feel better. I could DO something productive with all of that upset energy. I have been known to do the same after a Spurs loss, as if my improved shooting would somehow help the team. It didn't, but still made me feel better. I'm not a screamer and I don't hit things, so when I can't do a shoot around, the emotion I'm feeling stays pent up inside and I'm agitated, irritable and even short with people for a few days, until it bleeds out. I'm a voracious Spurs news reader, watch video, listen to podcasts, but I do NONE of that when the Spurs lose. I can't stand it. I don't want to hear about it. I just wallow in despair and frustration. I have no idea how those other PtR guys write game recaps. I couldn't do it. It's crazy. Maybe it is emotionally immature, I don't know, I'm not an expert on such things. But that's the way it is for me.

I can watch football, baseball, golf, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and have a blast, appreciating the play of both sides. I can watch other NBA or college basketball and really get into it and just have fun. I can even enjoy hockey and as long as they have that highlighted thing on the puck, Otherwise, I feel like I'm being played, like they are all just pretending that they are hitting something around. Kind of like that commercial with Kevin James, Adam Sandler, David Spade and Chris Tucker, or Rock. I don't know, I get them confused. You know, the one where they are tossing around the imaginary ball? Yeah, hockey is not my thing, but in the right context, I can even enjoy hockey.

But the Spurs are a completely different story. I'm an emotional wreck. My fingernails take a beating. My stomach churns. I yell encouragement at the screen during the game. "You can do it guys!" "Just flippin' DUNK THAT, Splitter!" "You left him alone, AGAIN?!?!? You weren't even in position to help! Bleepin' stay home!!!" "Can we get a freakin' call?!?!?" You know, stuff that helps us win. But it is even worse than that. It's not just losing. I can handle the occasional loss if we played really well. Maybe once or twice a year that happens. When we start playing badly though, it is too much for me. Literally. I'm a happier person if I don't watch - so I don't.

2011 playoffs? I think I stopped watching after Game 3. Wife says, "You should go to a game since it is in Memphis." I tell her I don't want to go watch the Spurs lose, that they are not playing well. I couldn't even watch it on TV. If the Spurs had pushed it to 3-3, I would have watched game 7, but as we all know, that didn't happen, and I was glad I didn't watch the beat-down. 2012 WCF? I stopped watching after Game 3. I was so upset. I just couldn't bring myself to watch games 4-6. I know this sounds completely ludicrous. How crazy is it to not be a fan of football, yet enjoy watching it, but be a fan of the Spurs, and NOT be able to watch them play important games???

So, after that long, horrible, incriminating confession, now you know how I'm feeling today. What's that you say? Spurs won? Well, that's good news, but it still doesn't feel like it. Feels just like a loss. Anyway, you told us about your pre game rituals. How do you handle a loss? How are you able to start writing a recap within minutes of the game ending? I'm still staring into space, muttering things, or stalking around the house mumbling responses to my wife that don't make any sense because I'm still completely consumed. I'm afraid that if I had to write a recap after a loss, especially a bad loss, I would hurt my keyboard pounding it so hard. Does it bother you like that? Do you have coping mechanisms? Help me out here, because I apparently am ill suited to handle this.

Kevin Lipe:

It used to bother me like that. In 2012, during the playoff series against the Clippers, it 100% bothered me like that, to the point that I wasn't even sure I wanted to write about basketball anymore. I was so frustrated and so viscerally angry that I was (1) completely blocked and (2) unable to articulate clearly what it was that was bothering me so much. It was horrible. The worst experience of my life was being at Game 1 of that series, where the Grizzlies blew a 27-point lead and then Rudy Gay clanked a last-second potential gamewinner. It sucks.

This year, it's different, but it's different because I'm writing so much more. I have to write the recap that I'm signed up for. There is no one else to do it. I can't bail. So it's up to me to be able to channel that frustration into words and figure out how to condense it down to its essence, to poke it with a stick and see what it does. At times, it inspires me to write some of my best stuff. Other times, it's all I can do to edit out most of the curse words before I click "Approve & Publish."

Sometimes I'm not able to start minutes after the game. A couple of times I did a "next day recap" where it looked like I was intentionally taking longer to work on the piece, but the reality was that I was just too mad to actually sit down and think about it.

Channel it into words. That's all I can say. That's what made the difference for me--someone who has been exactly the kind of fan you describe: so emotionally involved that I can't even watch. It helps that the Griz won 56 games this season. The losses didn't happen near as often, but... there were certainly some bad ones.

The conversation continues over at Pounding the Rock, where SpursFanTN and I talk about the things we'd tell Griz and Spurs players heading into Game 3.

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