The Downbeat #1310: The Selfish Edition

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Fan attitudes on winning and losing, effort and lack thereof, patience, FanPosts, and more.

The last two Jazz games have provided an interesting contrast.

Saturday night's buzzer-beating win over the Magic caused a certain amount of consternation among the Utah fan base; we threw our arms in the air in jubilation -- at least I know I did -- when Trey Burke sank that moon-ball three-pointer for the victory. But whether we acknowledged it overtly or not, we all knew that win was counter-productive in the bigger picture of obtaining better draft position.

Our boy Trey had this to say on the subject (courtesy of DJ Jazzy Jody):

Point guard Trey Burke didn't mince words when asked about the concept of choosing losses over wins, something that reared its head around Jazzland after his game-winning 3-pointer Saturday.

"I think that's just selfish for a fan. We play hard, practice hard every single day. Why would we want to go out there and try to lose?" Burke said. "Wherever we do land in the lottery, that will be great for us, but to try to tank games and lose games, I think, is just absurd."

Burke's corner 3 with 1.6 seconds remaining Saturday helped the Jazz snap a six-game losing streak and win for just the second time in 13 games, so he had no conflict of emotions after the 89-88 victory over the Magic.

The competitive 21-year-old struggles to see how fans could have, either.

"You want to win. Obviously, every night you want to try to win," he said. "I'm sure if they were in our shoes and experienced the losses we're experiencing, they would want to win as well. I just think it's just absurd."

On the other hand, after the Jazz's dismal showing in Monday's loss to the Pistons, fans were none the happier despite the loss, prompting SL Trib columnist Kurt Kragthorpe to wonder if fans deserved better. (Amar covered this at length in Tuesday's Downbeat, and it sparked a long discussion in the comments; I won't rehash it here.)

So how does it make sense for Jazz fans to be "selfish" over wins yet frustrated over losses?

In a Tuesday post on the Ball Don't Lie blog, Yahoo's Dan Devine gave a nuanced examination of the matter from an outsider's perspective. I commend the whole article to you, but here's a relevant excerpt:

When the present is a bummer, fans will always look toward the future for a glimmer of hope, a reason to believe that one day soon, it'll all get better. Of course you shouldn't want to be booed for winning, Trey and Gordon, and if I actually believed that many Jazz fans - some of the league's most passionate supporters of the hometown team - were giving you sneering, sarcastic attaboys for making a game-winner, I'd support you telling them where to cram it. But as so often seems to be the case in "the tanking debate," what's really going on is probably a bit different than what's been railed against.

It's not absurd for fans to want something more exciting than the fourth-slowest pace in the league, Kanter sitting on the bench while Marvdawg provides more reliable spacing, and loss after loss after loss. If a lame-duck coach unlikely to stick around beyond this summer isn't going to provide it, they're going to look for something else, like the potential ecstasy of landing a top draft pick who can make thrilling plays ... like, y'know, mad-dash drive-and-kicks for game-winning 3-pointers. I didn't hear very many Energy Solutions Arena denizens booing that, did you? The organization's strategy is predicated on bringing in another one of those guys this summer. Fans are excited about that. The players aren't wrong for going all-out, but the fans aren't wrong for wanting something worth going all-in over, either.

Did you hear, either in person or on TV, how loud it got at the ESA when Trey hit that shot? That will ALWAYS happen. Sure, we might snark on Twitter and grumble about the big picture after the fact...but in that moment, we're all united. Because we all love this team.

And that love can manifest itself in many ways -- including frustration, as it turns out, or "selfishness," if you want to call it that. We all want what's best for the Utah Jazz, short-term, long-term and forever. Even at the end of this seemingly interminable season, it helps if I remember that. And I hope the players understand that, too.

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via i.imgur.com

...okay, so I am gonna rehash a little bit of the discussion of Kragthorpe's column from yesterday's Downbeat, because I'm interested in the concept of what sports fans "deserve."

Actually, I'm mostly doing it so I can quote another relevant section of British author Nick Hornby's fan-memoir Fever Pitch. (Yeah, I'm never gonna shut up about it, so you should probably go read it already. (Although if you mention Arsenal to me this week you're getting blocked on Twitter.))

Anyway, back on topic:

Football clubs are not hospitals or schools[...]as if the clubs had a moral obligation to their supporters. What
do the clubs owe us, any of us, really? I have stumped up thousands of pounds to watch Arsenal over the last twenty years; but each time money has changed hands, I have received something in return: admission to a game, a train ticket, a program. Why is football any different from the cinema, say, or a record shop?

The difference is that all of us feel these astonishingly deep allegiances[...]Over the years we have come to confuse football with something else, something more necessary, which is why these cries of outrage are so heartfelt and so indignant. We view everything from the top of this mountain of partisan passion; it is no wonder that all our perspectives are wrong. Perhaps it was time to climb down, and see what everyone else in the outside world sees.

This seems to be the crux of the whole issue. If the relationship between fan and team is purely a business transaction, then we are owed nothing -- or rather, we receive exactly what we pay for, and if we are dissatisfied with what we receive, we do not repeat the transaction.

But of course, the fan-team relationship is NOT purely a business one. It's emotional. And what's more, the team COUNTS on the fact that the relationship is emotional. They count on it because they know that connection will ensure those transactions are repeated even when the product is less than satisfactory. (As Amar's other post from yesterday showed, losing does indeed affect attendance, but the Jazz still fill the ESA to 90% capacity, even in this dismal season.) And they count on it because without emotional fans -- fans who care enough to show up and cheer and even boo -- they wouldn't have a product.

Look at this year's season-ticket slogan: "44 United." You think that's not a deliberate appeal to a fan's emotions?

Here's Hornby again:

Part of the pleasure to be had in large football stadia is a mixture of the vicarious and the parasitical, because unless one stands on the North Bank, or the Kop, or the Stretford End, then one is relying on others to provide the atmosphere; and atmosphere is one of the crucial ingredients of the football experience. These huge [fan sections] are as vital to the clubs as their players, not only because their inhabitants are vocal in their support, not just because they provide clubs with large sums of money (although these are not unimportant factors) but because without them nobody else would bother coming.

If you can't be bothered to dig through the English soccer jargon, the point is this: If the transaction becomes emotionless, strictly business...well, eventually there won't be any fans left. "Fan" is short for "fanatic," remember? And without any fans, the team won't make money. And then there won't be a team.

So, yeah -- fans DO deserve something more than the ticket they paid for. As Dan Devine said above, they deserve hope. And if the team can't provide hope, then they shouldn't expect the emotional connection required to keep fans in the seats.

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via i.imgur.com

This is why I dislike the argument that fan frustration (however it manifests itself) is somehow a "betrayal" of the team. Teams don't, or shouldn't, get to take advantage of the loyalty of fans, only to sneer and belittle when the fans --because they truly care so much -- express dissatisfaction. You can't have one without the other.

Now, I should hasten to make this clear: I do NOT think the Utah Jazz mistreat us as fans, and I don't think we've gotten less than we deserve. Because we have plenty of hope for the future: young players, draft picks, cap space to spare, and a strong organization. That's as much as any fan can ask for.

Geez, this is way too long already. FanPosts!

I'm actually just gonna feature one post this week, because it's actually three-in-one: Beeblebrox42 has done a three-part analysis on future coaching candidates for the Jazz, looking at current NBA personnel, international coaches, and those working at the college level. Here's his intro:

I've been looking into potential coaches recently. I don't claim to know what the Jazz plan to do with Corbin this offseason, but if they decide to go in a different direction, I wanted to get an idea of who may be coming to SLC.

I've broken my list down into three categories: NBA coaches, international coaches, and college coaches. This post will just detail some candidates who are currently coaching college teams (plus one assistant coach whose name comes up regularly). I also want to point out that I don't follow college basketball, so I've highlighted these coaches because I've heard good things about them. If there are any other college coaches you want me to look at, tell me about them in the comments.

Really good stuff, my man -- thanks! Show your love, Dunkers, and click through.

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via i.imgur.com

Speaking of SL Trib columnists stirring up trouble...

The Pistons arrived at EnergySolutions Arena for the fourth and final game of their road trip, having lost 13 straight roadies and five straight games overall. And the Jazz, coming off a home game played Saturday night followed by a day of rest, made a bad team look like title contenders. Detroit hit better than 55 percent of its shots, taking advantage of slow defensive rotations and a general sort of malaise. The Jazz shot just 41 percent. The Pistons killed the Jazz on the boards, outrebounding them by 20.

Uninspired?

An unfit word for print would work better.

For the Jazz, the whole thing should have been embarrassing. Ultimately, it's good, on account of draft positioning, for the franchise and the team to lose games this season. But not like that. Not by utter regression. Not by getting kicked around on its home floor, in front of its home fans, by an opponent that couldn't win the Peruvian League. It's one thing to get beat by the San Antonio Spurs, it's another to get throttled by outfits like the Pistons.

It's happened far too often. And it's beneath the tradition of the Utah Jazz. Isn't it?

Somebody must be held accountable for that.

Ty Corbin must be held accountable for that.

It's a coach's burden, fair or unfair.

That's Gordon Monson on Ty Corbin after Monday's loss to the Pistons.

On one level, it's a bit too reactionary for me. Like, okay, you're gonna kill Coach Corbin over the team's lack of effort on Monday, but not credit him at all for Saturday's win? Yes, it took a heroic shot from Trey Burke, but you can't say the team wasn't trying.

Then again, Monson's point is the team doesn't give that effort consistently enough, making losses like Monday's far too frequent. I get that part. I'm not sure it's entirely Corbin's fault, but at times like these, I revert to the Bug's Life Leadership Maxim:

What do you guys think? Is it fair to blame Coach Corbin for the team's poor effort? Do you also credit him when the team plays hard? Or does he have less to do with it than Monson implies, and it's mostly up to the players? Curious to hear your thoughts.

Amar mentioned Rudy Gobert in yesterday's Downbeat. Here's what he tweeted yesterday:

Aaron Falk followed that up with this article on the giant Frenchman and his place on the team:

After averaging eight points and five rebounds a game in the French League last season, Gobert's first NBA campaign has been marked by infrequent playing time and two trips to D-League Bakersfield.

"Of course it's not easy," the center said. "I think it's what I expected. I kew it wasn't going to be easy. I just have to work and get better."

Also from Falk's article:

"I mean, who you gonna play him in front of?" Jazz coach Ty Corbin asked a reporter when the question of Gobert's playing time was posed Tuesday.

While Corbin has extolled the virtues of getting rookie point guard Trey Burke extended minutes, allowing him to learn from game situations, those opportunities have been sparse for Gobert.

"Putting a guy in a bad spot, where he's just on the floor looking bad, it does nobody any good," Corbin said. "Because the guy knows it. Everybody around him knows it. And people in this league, they have an advantage, they're not going to pull back from the guy. They will embarrass a guy, bury him. I don't think that's good for any young guy to put him through. ... I don't think Rudy's that way. He does some things on the floor to help himself and help us. I just want to make sure I put him in a spot where he has a chance to be successful."

Corbin said the young Frenchman needs to get stronger and is still working to understand his role within the offense.

"Actually, I think in some ways, he's ahead of where we thought he would be," Corbin said. "He was so raw, especially offensively. He does somethings defensively that can help, but you've got to play both sides."

The coach added, "I like him. I like what he's done. I like his growth this year. He has a lot more growing to do."

(Edit: I should add that the "other reporter" Falk mentions was Jody Genessy, and his account gives a bit more detail about how prickly Ty Corbin was over the question.)

This has been a pretty common refrain from the Jazz this year and in years past: not wanting to put players in positions to fail. And I get that -- we've seen enough Jazz players lose their confidence to know how important that can be. On the other hand, sometimes failure can be a pretty great teacher.

I'll open this up in the poll below:

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