How Jerry Krause Changed My Life: Part III
Have you ever thrown out your back? It’s pure agony I tell you. Last night, while doing nothing more than the simple act of attempting to fall asleep, a disk in my upper back decided it wanted to take a vacation. I was flat on my stomach, pillows tightly gripped between my arms, and I flinched the slightest bit, prompting a chain-reaction of unbearable pain and blood-curling screams.
One trip to the doctor later finds me hopped up on meds – vicodin and muscle relaxers, heeeeeeeeeeelllllllo MAMA!!! – trying to pound out a column while wondering where life went wrong for my back. Somehow, the answer always ends being three years of college rugby. Go figure.
Since I’m unable to walk and thus, go to work, I figured I might as well take a break from using my XBOX 360 for NBA 2K10 and Netflix purposes and write a column. The weird thing is, that while in my current position of pain and suffering, another chapter in my journey to Clippers fandom seemed like the perfect topic. The irony bites.
It’s a strange, sad metaphor for Clips fans everywhere.
Part III: King’s to You, Fernand.
When we last parted ways, I was putting the finishing touches on my life as a Bulls fan. Jerry Krause essentially wired my basketball heart with explosives, left to get a Dagwood sandwich, ate said sandwich and then returned to trigger the explosion.
Just like that, I was done. I wanted to stick with the team, I didn’t care about the forthcoming dry-spell in the win column – as evidenced by my existence as an Oakland A’s fan – but like a spurned ex-wife, I couldn’t bear the thought of living in a Krause-run household another day.
I fled from the scene quicker than the Road Runner.
But then came the hard part. Where was I running to?
I lived in central California, rooted for the A’s, 49ers, USC and had a back-burner affinity for the Dodgers, so giving a Northern or Southern California team a chance seemed to make sense. But you can’t just jump head-first into a team when you’re old enough to theoretically know how to color coordinate your clothes while dressing yourself. It should be more like trying on a new pair of sneakers before you buy. Sure they might look pretty slick in the store, with a big name attached to the brand, but it’s a long-term commitment people. There are at least three rules to consider when picking a new team:
1.) What kind of statement does rooting for your team send?
Unless you’re a stone-cold gangsta, (a Yankees fan) switching to a perennial front-runner, screams: LOOK AT ME! I’M A TOOL!
So while location-wise it worked, especially since I planned on going to college in San Diego, that rule eliminated the Lakers. And the Spurs for that matter, which was a bit of a shame as I really appreciated Tim Duncan’s game.
2.) A guy can only take so much Oakland in his diet.
Already had the A’s, sorry Warriors.
3.) You’d better stay in-state, to save face (goes hand-in-hand with rule No. 1 ).
As I mentioned, at the time I was still living in the Central Valley so I decided to try the up-and-coming Sacramento Kings on for size.
They sent a decent statement, not perennial winners, but also not totally inept either; didn’t call Oakland their home but were an in-state team and were fairly close to my home town (roughly two and a half hours away).
The Kings were also young and exciting. Chris Webber, Jason Williams (not the murderer or the motorcycle guy, but rather the flashy point guard with the moniker, White Chocolate. Yeah, milk was a bad choice alright.), Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac and Doug Christie all helped draw me in. Heck, I even bought a black and purple J-Will jersey.
So I engaged in the circle. Rooted for them, followed them and even continued doing so when I moved to San Diego for college. I even found a group of fellow Kings fans and constantly went to sports bars to watch games with them, war-of-words with Laker fans all the while.
But throughout it all, it never felt right. Honestly, for a guy who kicked his NBA franchise to the curb, the Kings were too successful. I felt guilty pulling for them.
Sure there was Game 6 of the 2002 playoffs against the Lakers, and while I was incredibly ticked like any other Sacramento fan, it still wasn’t enough misery. So I withdrew my name from their registry and vowed to punish myself adequately with my next team.
Remember, I was living in SD at the time so my options were fairly limited.
I spent the 2003 season as a man without a hat, no team to my name. I halfheartedly still rooted for Sac-Town, but it was over. That relationship wasn’t meant to be. Strangely though, I didn’t really search for a new team. I just figured after trying and failing once before, when the timing was right and the team was as well, I’d just know.
And strangely, I did.
It was to be the Clippers. It just had to be. As a dysfunctional NBA fan, it was my destiny.
I adored Southern California and had no plans to leave (Go ahead and laugh at the fact that I’m in Washington now, I’ll be back. In due time people) the warm weather, beach paradise. In addition, the Clippers sucked. Just a terrible franchise. Underdog factor? TO SAY THE LEAST.
But the Clips, as rough as their history was, were attractive. I mean c’mon! How many NBA teams had a pasty white center, molded from a WWF superstar gone wrong?!? Hulka-Kamia, YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT BROTHER!!!!!!!!!!
L.A. was also home to the then underrated Elton Brand (Pre-2008 injury, he was actually good. You’ll just have to trust me on that one), a player any fan could be proud of (again, I know what he’s like now, you’re just going to have to trust me. At one point in time Brand knew what basketball was).
So let’s check our three rules, to make sure the Clippers hat fits:
Liking the Clippers told other NBA fans that I had problems; that I perfectly accepted being part of a dysfunctional culture; was a laid-back, flip flop-wearing beach bum; and content living in the shadow of the more popular, flashier Lakers and their fans.
Essentially, rooting for the Clips sent this statement: Hello, I’m a second class fan.
So Rule No. 1? Check.
Los Angeles is a FAAAAAAAAAAAAAR cry from Oakland.
Rule No. 2? Check.
My new team was in Cali.
Rule No. 3? Check.
The Clippers were a perfect fit. A fundamentally scarred team for a disenfranchised basketball fan. Bingo. Mr. Match.com couldn’t set-up a better pair of freaks, more perfect for one another.
And as you probably guessed, with the Clippers in the picture, my life would never be the same.