Welcome to the third edition of Eric Perdiguerra and Brian Chung's Weekly NBA Chats. This week we take a look at a controversial game last week between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons. It was controversial for more bizarre reasons outside the actual game.
Last Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers blew out the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills by a wide margin that began early in the third quarter. What was the talk of the such ESPN shows as Pardon The Interruption and Around The Horn the day after the blowout was how many Laker fans were not only present at the game but were chanting "MVP!" for Kobe Bryant as he shot free throws. What was even more shocking, perhaps, was how half the stadium rushed to the exits late in the third when Will Bynum botched a wide open dunk. "PTI" and "Around The Horn" both chalked up the "MVP!" chants to bandwagoners, which I don't doubt. But that coupled with fans not sticking around until, at least, the fourth quarter makes me wonder: Are Pistons fans REAL fans? Were Piston fans "unloyal" by leaving? Or is this exemplary of "consumer rights" as they voice their opinions as angry customers and consumers by leaving early? And what does this all mean to be a real fan?
Brian: I'm not surprised about the "MVP!" chants for Kobe Bryant, we see that all the time any superstar comes to the Oracle Arena. There tends to be more fans for the opposing team whenever a playoff contender comes to town, especially if its the Lakers. So that doesn't make me think any differently about Piston fandom. But I have to say I was a little surprised that Pistons fans left THAT early in the game. There was more than 20 minutes left in the game, but you would have thought it was the last 2 minutes of a Warrior game at the Oracle where the Warriors are getting BLOWN OUT by the way fans rushed for exits. Maybe they were all rushing to return their Will Bynum jerseys they just bought after that missed dunk.
Eric: Haha all Will Bynum jersey owners including Will Bynum! For years now, season ticket holders would sell their Lakers tickets to ready and willing Lakers fans who've either been transplanted from Southern California or become front runners some where along the way. I'd like to think the Oracle crowd is just that type of crowd that must get its money's worth. There always seems to be hope for that miraculous comeback, which will always seem possible as long as a drop of run and gun runs through their veins. One of the greatest things about the crowd at the Oracle is that the diverse fanbase is made up of fans from all over the country. You get a random collection of Warrior fans that are A's fans, Giants fans, Raiders fans, Niner fans, Yankee fans, Eagles fans, and sometimes they aren't Warrior fans at all. For some reason these ‘other' fans seem to enjoy basking in the glory of their team beating the hometown and more often than not woeful Warriors. I'd probably be more confident in heckling back if the Warriors could somehow stop the guys they chant MVP for. The incomparable Jeff Van Gundy was talking about the over use of the MVP chant, as its being used too early in games or its being used for players that would never have a shot at the MVP. Personally I don't think its used enough. We should open it up to guys who would never have a shot in the world to get the hardware and all they have is the chant. When Brian Scalabrine gets a career high versus the vaunted defenses of Brandon Wright and Jeff Adrien, he should get an MVP chant. Anytime Jeremy Lin gets a single double, he shoud get an MVP chant. Jeremy Lin should just get an MVP chant as long as he's in the big leagues.
Brian: Yes, lets totally do that next time we catch a game together at the Oracle! Though I'm sure people already believe Lin to be the MVP for how he got a standing ovation for hustling to get a jump ball. It's a surprise he's not on the All-Star Ballot, isn't it, considering that Yi Jianlian was on there his rookie season?
But you bring up a great point about Warrior fans. Are Warrior fans great fans because we love all sports and have "cosmopolitan" tastes versus myopic regionalism? Or is that just bandwagoning? If we're supposedly the best fans on earth, is it because we are fans of everyone?
Warrior fans are fiercely loyal as they constantly mention on every national broadcast. We rarely leave games early. We buy up new jerseys, backordering them instantly. Heck, we even idealized Speedy Claxton for a short period of time.
With that said, I can somewhat commend Pistons fans for not sticking around past Bynum's blown dunk. That's like the equivalent of "quality control" if possible when it comes to being a fan. It's like saying "I'm not taking this crap no more. Nor am I watching your crappy dancers and their horrible routines." I think fans' intense loyalty perhaps was the detriment to the Warriors organization pre-Lacob and Guber.
Eric: I dig what you're saying. For the longest time, many Warrior fans said the only way we could get the ownership to improve the team was to boycott. My boy Fre' probably isn't the only one who's broken up with the Warriors throughout the years. Shoot I won't name any names, but I know some of y'all even cheated. Going to Warrior games wearing Lebron and D. Wade jerseys. But as long as booties were in seats, why change a thing. Course you get the flipside, a la the Oklahoma City Thunder. I'm sure it wasn't the fans fault, and without a new stadium the move had to be made. But now Oklahoma City has a legitimate contender apparently for years to come, and Seattle, well, they have a hard time watching He Got Game.
Brian: "He Got Game" (1998) may be the greatest Spike Lee movie from 1995-2000. But that's a conversation for another time. So, Eric, which kind of fan are you? Which kind of fan do you think should be a "real fan"? The extreme case of being a Warrior fan -- loving the Warriors franchise as much as loving, to quote Monta Ellis, "the gift of a superstar" when they come to visit the Oracle -- or the other end of the spectrum of being a Pistons fan, which is not standing for the anti-highlights. Being the cheapo that I am, that means staying until the end and getting my monies worth, even if it means getting watching the Warriors get blown out. I think there is something about the Thunder case that is interesting in that the owners straight blindsided fans.
And I feel like the same goes for the Chris Cohan-era Warriors. The Warriors as a team was just bad. But the fan experience of going to the Oracle was pretty bad too, especially in light of going to other stadiums like the Palace of Auburn Hills or the Staples Center. And it kind of felt like Cohan really didn't care or understand how to keep fans interested beyond the game itself. Granted, I bet the possibilities were constrained by the actual tight and narrow structure of Oracle itself. But there's not a whole lot of places where fans can hangout at and congregate. The Palace of Auburn Hills had some Absolut Vodka "Garden" that ALL fans could cop drinks at that was brightly lit and in the middle of all the action on the main concourse. The Smirnoff Lounge of Oracle is like the most "exclusive" club in Oakland that nobody outside of a game would want to go to. It was definitely harder for me to stay interested in recent years given how, sometimes, "un-fun" my 35-50 dollar ticket could buy me at the Oracle.
Eric: Haha its funny you put it that way. I'd like to believe I'm one of the loyal fans out there that stays till the end, stays in the loop with the team til the last game of the season, and supports as many of the Warriors as I can, stars and role players alike. One of the funniest part of games is seeing the Cummings jerseys, Joe Smith jerseys, Spreewell jersey and Jamison jerseys sprinkled in with the Baron Davis jerseys, Ellis jerseys and Curry jerseys.
Being a season ticket holder for the first time last year was also a new experience. Although it wasn't exactly due to the pampering by the Warriors brass, it was incredibly fun seeing the ‘regulars' game in and game out, even if the regulars on the floor were struggling to get some Ws. There is definitely something special about sharing an excruciating season with a bunch of, well, fans. From massive high fives on arrival, cheering through player intros, pizzas and the occasional season ticket holder of the game (where they pick out a Warrior fan to talk about the years they've put themselves through such torture and what was their favorite Warrior moment), to booing bad referee, opposing super stars and in most instances the inevitable gut-wrenching disappointing outcome, a bond is formed between you and every other type of fan that signs up to experience it with you. At the end of the season, the reason I had deduced to convince myself to try and continue the tradition another year was simply because so many other Warrior fans in that crowd had endured way longer than I had, through seasons much worse than this, with a collection of players less talented than these, figuring one of these years has to be the year that makes it all worth it.
I mean it took the Giants like 50 years to get a ring in San Francisco and look how fun that run was. But at anytime during a Warrior game, during a Warrior season, it could all turn around. So naturally, you stay. Of course there are new types of fans evolving every day. Ones that fully enjoy the experience and the run and gun, ones that feed off new age statistics like True Shooting Percentage and Plus/ Minuses and fantasy points, and even ones that only come to see the superstars of the league come into our arena and punish our team and its ownership for not having a superstar of our own. I have no idea what its like to be a part of any other team's fanbase (much less the Hollywood laden fanbase of the evil empire), but being a part of this one is an experience all unique in its own and as excruciating as it is, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Brian: Damn Eric, that might be one the most poetic explanations about what it means to be a fan. And you're totally right, high-fives are one of the greatest things about attending a game and the sense of fandom shared with others is pretty awesome... as opposed to my more individualistic idea of merely cheering for the sake of my own personal pleasure.
And what's interesting that you mention is this idea of tradition even if that tradition is traumatic. If losing is part of that tradition -- as is suffering -- why not embrace it and appreciate all the little things that are equally part of the bigger picture? Well, I think we'll leave at that for this week just because I think your notion of fandom brought a smile to face.
With that said, what does it mean to be fan for you? What kind of fan are you?