A few times during game threads I've been asked how an Aussie became a Jazz fan. I've given a quick answer but I think I've got enough to make a fanpost from, so... *deep breath*
I hail from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, the triangular island state below the mainland of Australia. Most people know of Tasmania as the home of the cartoon creation Taz, who is actually based on a real creature, the Tasmanian Devil. Tassie, as we locals call it, is a beautiful place, full of World Heritage listed wilderness and native creatures and not overburdened by people - only 600,000 odd Taswegians live in the whole state. Life moves at it's own pace here, and for years we (unfairly IMO) copped the 'backwards' tag from 'mainlanders' - but in this post-modern world where everyone is an internet connection away that's rapidly changing.
I grew up playing the traditional Australian sports - Cricket and our unique game of Aussie Rules Football. Basketball was a fringe sport here in the 80's. My neighbourhood friends, however, were into this Basketball thing in a big way; the kids all played it, the parents played it, even the Mum and daughters instead of Netball! So it was natural for me to get exposed to Ball in the course of normal after-school and weekend neighbourhood hanging out. Then the ABC(national government-owned broadcaster, like the BBC in the UK) started showing an NBA game once a week on Friday nights, and the Hobart team in the fledgling NBL started getting more popular, so soon Basketball became my sport of choice. It also helped that I went from being one of the shortest kids in Grade 5 to one of the tallest (at nearly 6 foot) in Grade 7.
So, one Friday night I stayed up the road at the Beattie household to sit up and watch the NBA with the crew. It was pot luck, we never knew who was going to be on (we did get an awful lot of TBS Atlanta games at one point, I can still hear Skip Caray announcing "Rick Barry and Skip Caray...at the Omni, in Atlanta" and I was sad to hear of his passing) but we were starting to see some Hoops publications in the newsagents, albeit months old, so we (thought we) knew all about the League by now, and most of the guys had allegiances (Detroit, Portland, Chicago, New York) but I was yet to find a team. My Dad always used to say "you pick a team, or it picks you, but once that happens it's like a marriage, it's for life son!" so I had to choose carefully,
This Friday night in early January I was treated to a Jazz game, in the Salt Palace, against this Michael Jordan bloke and the Bulls. Everyone else suddenly became excited, because it was His Airness and Da Bulls. Me, I'd got the Streets and Smiths season preview magazine for Christmas, and had POURED over it, trying to strike some light of fandom in me, and was massively excited to see this John Stockton guy I'd read about for the first time.
Let the records show that the Jazz won that night, and John Stockton got 17 assists. Also let the records show that a young man who was learning to be a Point Guard fell in love... with a style of play, with fundamentals done well, with team oriented play, with a logo, colours and name that made little sense. I wore out the VCR recording of that game - it was the only Jazz game I got to see for another year. The Jazz chose me that night and I've lived and died by them ever since.
I hate to sound like an old fart, but we truly don't know how lucky we have it these days. Back then the only daily exposure I had to the NBA was a tiny writeup of the previous days scores in The Australian newspaper, which I read every day in my School Library, and the Game of the Week. Luckily about that time the popularity of Basketball exploded in Australia, so over the 90's we gradually got more exposure and got better and faster coverage; pay TV started here so we got more NBA games to watch, a weekly Basketball newspaper started up with actual boxscores and full stats, and then finally this Internet thing happened in the late 90's. But back when I started following the Jazz the only things we had were those bits in the paper and Friday nights at 10:30, so it was tough. Even merchandise was impossible to get; for years all that made it out here was stuff for 3 or 4 teams, and it wasn't any of the small market ones (hell, it was easier to get expansion team stuff here than it was to get anything Jazz!) So for years all I had was this purple Jazz baseball hat and a replica home Malone jersey that didn't have a player name on the back. Christmas 1996 was a watershed one, because through some sorcery only known to her one of my sisters managed to get me road Malone and Stockton jerseys (I still have and treasure them and I squealed like a schoolgirl when I opened the paper on the gift.)
I lived through the Finals, too - my best mate (still is to this day) is a hoops junkie and a Bulls fan (he's not jumped off, and he was going for them before they won anything, to his credit... he's still an arsehat Bulls fan though) so he kindly taped all the Jazz Playoff games for me and then we watched tapes of the finals together... except for Game 3. I refuse to watch it to this day. I said I'd watch it after Jordan retired, but I lied. I can't bring myself to watch it. He did call me at work after the end of Game 6 of the 98 Playoffs though... I was that upset I went home. And cried. I honestly thought it was our year.
So, here I am now, League Pass enabled, watching every Jazz game, getting news and tweets from fans, journalists and players alike and seemingly an even bigger Jazz fan than ever. I've finally found a Jazz online community that I'm happy to stay and contribute too (have another idea for a Fanpost about some striking similarities between my AFL club, Essendon and the Jazz) - in fact I'm happy enough here to admit that I cried when I watched Stock's Hall of Fame speech.
Mathew, AKA TazzJazzFan
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