When I was a kid, I saw a couple of paragraphs labeled "The Fan's Creed" or "The TRUE fan" or something similar. Time has removed the title from my memory, along with where I saw it - possibly on a program at a state tournament game, or on the back of the program at a high school basketball game, or something like that. The one part I remember clearly, though, went like this: "A real fan cheers good plays by both teams."
Even as a youngster, I knew that was completely ridiculous; when an opponent makes a good play, the best most of us can do is an angry silence. As an example, watch this video (note: has swears, for obvious reasons) of Maple Leafs fans reacting to their Game 7 collapse against the Bruins. Not one of those fans is applauding Boston's epic comeback. That's not the way sports work, for most of us; fandom is about Us vs. Them, not about aesthetic appreciation or the glory of competition.
Thursday's Game 7 of the NBA Finals, though, was so epic that for one of the few times I can remember, I started cheering for both teams. I had been pulling for the Spurs, due to Gregg Popovich's endearing eternal grumpiness and the Heat's general dislikeability, but by the time I got to the TV for the fourth quarter on Thursday, all that had changed. Game 6 was one of the greatest games in NBA history, and both teams were exhausted by the end of Game 7, and I found myself willing both teams to put the ball in the basket, willing the series to be defined by positives, by plays made rather than mistakes made.
It didn't happen, of course - Manu Ginobli ended up driving to nowhere in particular and throwing the ball away, the final knot in the noose for San Antonio. I suppose that will be the enduring memory of Game 7, not like Game 6, defined by Ray Allen and LeBron James hitting three-pointers to bring the Heat back. Still, though, it was fun to rise above the muddle of true fandom for a quarter, and to cheer good plays by both teams. As a true fan, not the Platonic ideal from the paragraphs from my youth, I can tell you: it's not going to happen often.
*On with the links:
*Howard Megdal at Sports on Earth looks at Francisco Liriano's resurgence in Pittsburgh - including a look at a mechanical change that seems to have rejuvenated the lefty's breaking pitches. (Paging Rick Anderson.)
*I think my favorite Finals post was from college football writer Spencer Hall, who broke down the Spurs roster based on San Antonio being the NBA's 'dad team.'
*At Grantland, Charlie Pierce reviews just how far we've come with Tiger Woods, now that Woods is finishing 13 over in the US Open.
*And finally: Chris Bosh may be an NBA champion, but he still can't beat confetti, his real nemesis.