In the seats: So much for a streak
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
DENVER – As a kid, I went to dozens of sporting events and, more than anything, to New York Knicks games at Madison Square Garden. I went often enough that not one stands out. I remember my brother and me trying to get the statistics that were handed out at halftime to the press, going out for fried clams afterward in Little Italy, falling asleep in the car on the way home – but I couldn’t tell you if I was at a game in which Clyde Frazier dropped 40 on the Lakers or if I witnessed a Knicks-Celtics contest that threatened bloodshed.
I figured my daughter Olivia, a die-hard Nuggets fan, was lucky in a way. We live four hours from the Pepsi Center, not 20 minutes from MSG. She’s certainly going to remember each game she goes to. Sure enough, last year, in the first game of her career, she witnessed history: The Nuggs’ Ty Lawson hit three-pointer after three-pointer after three-pointer. At the end of the third quarter it was announced he had set a league record for most consecutive three-pointers made, with 10. No way she’ll forget that (especially with me recounting the story on a weekly basis for the past year).
I figured that’s the way it would be. OK, maybe we wouldn’t see our favorite player set an NBA record every game. But if you go to one game each year, it’s going to make a lasting impression.
Seems our own streak has stalled at one. We were in attendance Sunday at the Pepsi Center, witnesses to what would have to be called a forgettable game. After jumping out to a 10-2 lead on the Memphis Grizzlies, the Nuggets slumped the rest of the way. They shot 40 percent and turned the ball over 23 times. The game was close; Memphis, which had a recent five-game winning streak to its credit, was hardly lighting it up. But with a chance to tie it up in the final seconds, Andre Miller fumbled the ball away. We didn’t even get the thrill of a final-second, potentially game-tying shot. No Nugget scored more than 15 points. The team’s standout performance came from Rocky – the mascot, who was celebrating his 22nd birthday. Lawson, who has elevated himself to near-star status lately, didn’t score till the fourth quarter.
Olivia responded in what might be considered appropriate fashion. She read her book between plays, waiting for the Nuggets to go on a run. Which never really happened.
Driving back from Denver, I got mildly sad. Losing is a hollow experience; a ho-hum game is emptier still. Yes, Olivia got her picture taken with numerous Nuggets (including the electrifying rookie Kenneth Faried – memorable!), but we had witnessed failure, and not of a particularly noble brand.
Which got me thinking about sports, devotion to a team and losing. (I was reading “The Whore of Akron,” an acid portrait of LeBron James written by lifelong Cleveland sports fan Scott Raab, so my mind was already on the subject.) Which brought me around to the perennial losers: the Golden State Warriors. The Charlotte Bobcats. The kings of them all, baseball’s Chicago Cubs. My God, how do they do it? Who buys season tickets to a team that has delivered nothing but failure – for decades? Say what you will about the Nuggets (never won a championship, never even been in the NBA finals), but they’ve been in the playoffs eight straight years and have an active string of four 50-win seasons. They had a superstar in Carmelo Anthony. (Even better, they traded Anthony away.)
That cheered me up. Not just the fact that some fans have it so much worse (Cleveland Browns, anyone?), but I learned something about the nature of sports fandom. Like the song says, you root, root, root for the home team. And if they don’t win, it really is a shame. But a true winner picks the remote control back up, sits his ass back down on the couch and starts root, rooting again.
And next year, when it comes time for our annual hoops outing, I’m confident we’ll see another episode of raining three-pointers, a career game by our favorite Nugget and a thrilling finish. At the very least, a Nuggets victory.
This is what makes a sports fan: faith. And a selective memory.
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