So there I was, lined up at half court with all my classmates facing me. I was one of 6 captains picked out by my P.E. teacher that stood parallel to the rest of the class. Each of us was given the great responsibility of picking 3 other guys to form our own basketball teams with. I was the 2nd captain on the row, meaning I would have a pretty good selection of peers to construct my team with. I stared at the ground to avoid the many kids making eyes at me, trying to get me to pick them.
I vaguely heard the name of the first kid picked by captain number 1. I knew which kid he was. He was probably the 3rd best ball player I had seen in the class. The first two were already picking as captains. That seemingly lucky kid was paired with one of his friends, who was probably the best baller there. They would make a formidable pair. They were both about my height at 5’6 with bodies that were built for ball at our young age. Agile, full of energy, quick, and had the skill set to match.
I was just admiring the kids shoes when I heard my name called and was instructed to make my first pick. That’s when it hit me. I was stuck in a situation that I really didn’t want to be in. Not because I didn’t enjoy being a captain or that I was worried about the other teams, no, it was because I was too competitive.
I looked up into the horizon of faces and was met with the eager looks from some of my closest friends. They were guys apart of a group that I spent time with a on a regular basis. They all had a calm, excited smirk on their face. They knew I was going to pick them. How could I not? We were buddies. I had to pick them….. or did I?
The problem for me was, deep down, way deep down, ok, maybe not that far deep down but somewhere in the middle level of deep, I had to accept the fact that my buddies were not the most coordinated or best basketball players. They weren’t very tall, weren’t very quick, and their hand eye coordination was better suited waving at the cheerleaders than for a jumpshot. I had a knot in my stomach. I didn’t want to lose this basketball tourney. I didn’t want to upset my friends either though. I was smack dab in the middle between a rock built from my competitive nature and a hard place formed from the fierce loyalty I had to my friends.
How does this apply to our Utah Jazz you say?
Well let me explain. Over the course of the few seasons I’ve spent on SLCdunk and now following Jazz fans on twitter, I’ve come to realize that we REALLY love our teams. We love the players. Even the ones we hate, we love. All we want is for them to succeed. We want the guys on our team to somehow figure out how to grow together and win a championship together. Once they are a Jazz player, they are our friends. The last thing we want to do is trade a player, release a player, or hear other teams talk bad about our players. We are the freakin Utah Jazz. Screw everyone else. We are a team. We are family. We are bigger than the sum of our parts.
At least, that’s how we like to think about ourselves. We drastically over romanticize our team. When we lose it’s like someone just drop kicked a puppy into a toddler who just had their sucker stolen by Hitler. When we win, well, it’s like heaven on earth. Noting else really matters. We won and we can take on anybody, anytime. We are the greatest ever. That’s just how it is.
Sometimes though, we can’t always be with our friends. Sometimes, deep down, deeeeeeep down, we have to admit to ourselves that our friends aren’t as good as we think they are. Sometimes we have to realize that we have to choose between losing with our friends and having a chance to win it all with strangers.
We can’t overvalue our friends. We have to realistically assess them. Is this guy as good as I think he is? Am I so caught up in what he could be that I am not willing to see what he is? Is he really better than that I guy don’t know as well?
Maybe we convince ourselves that if we play with our friends we will have more fun. That somehow being all together will make the experience better. I can attest to the fact that losing with friends is still losing and it sucks. There isn’t much joy to be found there. In fact, it usually gets a little more heated between friends than amongst strangers. It’s easier to point blame at a friend during a game than it is.
We as Jazz fans do this too. We blame CJ, or Bell, or Harris, or Al, or Corbin. Why? Cause they are our family. They are a part of OUR Jazz. It’s easy to be hard on our guys, easier than giving credit to a foe.
We find ourselves as a team, in much the same situation as I found myself many years ago in a High School Gym. Stuck between our friends and winning. Stuck between rationalizing away losses and convincing ourselves wins are a new direction we are taking.
Take a deep breath my friends, take a step back, and look at the situation with fresh eyes.
I glanced down at the floor and declared the first pick of my tourney winning team…..he was unfamiliar.