Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why Do We Watch?

Thanks to Herm Edwards, we know why they play the games, but why do we, the fans, watch the games? Is it for the athleticism that is turned into artistic grace and poetry, as espoused so eloquently by Graydon Gordian (48 Minutes of Hell, Hardwood Paroxysm)? Is our attention drawn because we grew up watching, as our fathers did before us, so it has become ingrained in us? Do we watch simply to root for laundry, as Jerry Seinfeld once quipped when discussing the prevalence of player movement in the modern era? Do we watch for the purpose of gathering and calculating statistics? Is it merely a team's geographical proximity to our current location? What is it that drives us to become fans of a player, a team, a sport?

Obviously, it could be any one of those reasons or even all of them. Loyalty is developed in different ways for different people. The reason that I am currently pondering this question is because of the cynicism that the Grizzlies fanbase has adopted in recent years. Right now, on the Grizzlies' Fan Boards, there is plenty of discussion about "smokescreens" and conspiracy theories. On many well-known websites and blogs, there have been comments made about the Grizzlies' reluctance to pursue any of the big name free agents, despite their position as the last remaining team with any significant cap space, is a "detriment to the league" and is proof that they "do not intend to be competitive". All of this has been eaten up with a spoon by a large percentage of the fanbase, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

If you truly believe that your favorite team isn't making moves to better itself in the future, with the goal of a realistic shot at a championship in the viewfinder, then why would you continue to root for that team? If financial considerations are not only the primary concern of a team, as Chris Vernon has stated, but is, in fact, their only concern, then what would motivate you to continue rooting for that team? If you truly believe that your team's owner, GM, coach, et al, have resigned themselves to losing for the forseeable future, then why would you stay on board a sinking ship?

Is Michael Heisley focusing on losing less money than he has in the past -- and possibly even making some for a change? Absolutely. Does that mean that the Grizzlies are guaranteed to flounder at the bottom of the standings? Nope. The issue I have right now is that it seems that everyone wants to lump both questions into one answer. Even if Heisley is more concerned with the bottom line than a position at the bottom of the standings once again, that doesn't mean that the Grizzlies won't get better. This isn't an either/or situation. In fact, that's something that I believe that Heisley is counting on.

If the team becomes competitive over the next few seasons through Chris Wallace's management of personnel with trades and the draft, then Heisley has a valid reason to spend money on a quality free agent that could put the team in a position to make a serious postseason run. Of course, if the team has done that with "homegrown players" like Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, etc. then they will have to sign them to extensions, which could take a big chunk of that cap space that everyone is talking about right now. If that occurs, then Heisley still has an out for not spending, since the team, which currently has 8 players under the age of 24 that are expected to contribute, could be solidly set at all 5 positions, meaning there isn't a necessity to spend money on a big name free agent. I'm not saying any of this to support Heisley's "Three Year Plan" or the practice of putting finances above wins. However, this is a reality that everyone should consider when they look deep within and ask themselves why they watch.

I watch, because the NBA = entertainment. I watch to see the best athletes in the world, night in and night out. I watch because the jersey says "Memphis" on the front of it and the team plays 20 minutes from my house. I watch because I expect great things from young players. I watch because I truly, honestly believe that this team will continue to get better, whether or not the current owner gives approval to signing a big free agent this offseason or next. I watch, because for better or for worse, I am a fan, even as I view the future of the team with a critical (but not cynical) eye.

Tell me why you watch in the Comments.

BallHype: hype it up!


MemphisX said...

For me it is 100% vanity. I want my team to be good. I want my team to be seen in a positive light. I want to root for a winner. I can care less about the owners problems because owning an NBA team is a choice and the only reason he can't sell the team is because he is asking to much.

So I do not sympathize with Heisley. I understand his problems though. However, I am a MEMPHIS Grizzlies fan. I expect/hope the Grizzlies are here long after Heisley is gone. So I will criticize the organization when I think they are making mistakes and I will blast them when I think they are making grave errors.

Also, the motion that the Grizzlies need to "save" for their young players extension is a very naive look at how to run an NBA team. There is no way you can predict player's development down the line and for me, it is irresponsible of management to sacrifice the present for sake of some undetermined future. If you sign the right players to contracts (like Gasol), then you will always be able to trade them for salary relief. The other side of the coin is what if the person you sign this summer, turns out to be the best player of the core?

Also being a harsh critic does not equate to cynacism. I fail to see the entertainment of watching the team I am emotionally invested in getting blasted 50+ games per season. I can't think of any market, big or small, that supports an organization that has been as inept as the Grizzlies save the Cubs.

The NBA is a business and just like any other business, it is the owners responsibility to provide a product that customers want to consume. The Grizzlies for the most part has failed to do that and the three year plan has made this failure policy.

Chip Crain said...

I watch because I love the NBA. The fact that my hometown has a team only furthers my desire to see games in person but I have scheduled vacations around NBA games in other cities to see the Mavs or Bullets (I still can't say that other name) play.

I am always optomistic my favorite team will play better but I also understand that seeing a great play made by an opponent can be exciting to watch as well.

A great game can happen on any night regardless of the team's records. I don't want to miss a game like the 2nd San Antonio- Memphis game last year because Memphis wasn't winning prior to that game. I was at the Portland game that went down to a last second shot and was very exciting the whole night even though both teams had losing records at the time.

You never know when something memorable will happen and I want to be there when it does reagrdless of who the owner is at the time.

jacob said...

i watch for the love of the game... not for the love of a balance sheet or income statement...

Nicky said...

i go to the games in hopes of seeing grizzly dancer nipple slips...well, that and the t-shirt cannon.

Timothy said...

Just about my whole family was born in Chicago except for me. Because of that I spent my whole childhood a Bulls fan and of course that was great being it was the age of Jordan. But I never really felt a huge connection with any of the Chicago teams. I even became a Vikings fan in football so I could be kind of the Ante-Bears fan within my family.

However in high school everything changes when we got the Grizzlies. I became a huge fan the 2nd the landed in the city. I finally felt I had a team I could cheer for and actually care about.

In the past few seasons I have been laughed at by many people b/c I spend so much time paying attention to the Grizzlies. And people always ask my why I care so much about a bad team and I simple say, "Because they are my bad team and Memphis is my home." And then I punch that person in the face. Just kidding, but i wasnt trying to get to sappy but I just love being a Grizzlies fan and could actually care less if they are good. Its become almost an addiction for me to follow them and if they become that will be great but if the struggle, that is fine with me too.

Anonymous said...

I watch the games because I love the sport of basketball, and NBA plays at the highest level.

I love the game because inside it is every metaphor for life -- the preparation it takes to perform at a high level . . . how sometimes, no matter what you do, things just don't go your way . . . and how nearly insurmountable odds can be overcome with sheer determination and hard work.

As for the Grizz, I fell in love with the team, like many, during the 50-win season. I was having a bad run . . . underemployed, down on my luck, no money, etc. I felt like an underdog.

Along comes this underdog team led by a dinosaur of a coach. NOT very talented. NO real stars. Expected to lose every night. But Hubie got them believing, and more importantly WORKING. And those who remember, that scrappy team that everyone counted out would just flat-out outwork and outhustle their way to 50-wins. It was a thing of beauty, when, in the fourth quarter, with the powerhouse Kobe/Shaq Lakers already breathing hard, our guys found another gear and sped up the game with swarming defense and hustle plays. LOVED IT.

I'm always a sucker for an underdog story. That's why I believe this team of underdogs will overachieve this season.

That's why I'm a fan.


Anonymous said...

Only in sports are the consumers(fans) criticized for not blindingly supporting a bad product.

Black said...

I watch because the real games are an extension of my fantasy world that is video games. I became a grizzlies fan when they were still in Vancouver, because they were the worst team and it was the only way I could make it even when i played my friends.

I talked so much trash and defended that team that they became part of my identity. I am a huge basketball fan and never had a Real team, i was a bandwagon fan for the Bulls in the Jordan heyday, and then when I got tired of him I pulled for Barkley.

But the Grizz, are the only team I have ever rooted for. I watch about 75 games a season on NBA League Pass. Wins feel good, loses have no affect. I just enjoy watching the team. I would rather watch the Grizz play an exhibition game, then watch the Lakers-Celtics finals.

I am a Griz fanatic