More than anything else, more than the Jazz, basketball, or even #BoomBitches, this is a meandering bout of thoughts about what it means to be a sports fan today. What it means to write about my team. What it means to offer a voice and hash of opinions to other fans. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. And those of you tired of the Al debate, enjoy a little sigh of relief.
It's not anywhere in this post.
I live in a quiet neighborhood, bordered on one side by the suburbs and on the other side by farmland. I walk a half-mile every day to school—the school my kids attend and the place I'm a teacher. We have neighborhood activities that everyone attends and quiet little parks filled with kids. I know pretty much everyone.
My Dad often makes fun, calling it Mayberry.
And yet, it's not. About 20% of the homes have been sold since I've been here in the past four years.
In today's world, people move. They change employers (and sometimes and even professions) every five or six years. We don't have homes today. We have starter homes, then family homes, then big homes for when the kids are teenagers.
I thought about this as I also thought about Jazzmen, current and former. We want our favorite guys to stick with our team, our hometown, forever. We desperately want loyalty, and all those classic, wonderful, Stan Musial traits.
But, in general, we don't live that way anymore. We don't stay in our neighborhoods. We don't stay with the employer that gave us our first shot out of college. We move on. We start in one place, work hard, and then look around—ready to try something different. At first we work with whoever hires us. Then we get experience, a reputation, hopefully accomplish some good, and it's time to think about where we really want to end up.
I don't know what it means to be a fan today. Not really. I participate as much as anyone, but still ...
Our sports heroes live the lifestyles they like, the lifestyles they want. And in the end, they're not so much different than us. They move around. My favorite Jazzmen from the 2009-10 season were, in order: Deron, AK, OMSW, Millsap, Memo, Fes, KK, CJ, Ronnie P., KOOF, Ronnie B., Yatta, Othyus Jeffers ... I start to lose my emotional connections after that. And now we face a reality in which every single one of those guys will probably be gone within another year. And not gone because they retired. Not gone in the Stockton/Malone/Hornacek way ... but gone playing for another team, to be cheered by some other fans.
Yes, my first loyalty is to my team, but I still follow Deron and the former Jazzmen. Just like I still keep in touch with friends who have moved out of my quiet little neighborhood.
As a person, it's sometimes sad. As a fan, it's sometimes strange.
Rants and Raves about ... about what exactly?
I'm known for getting off on emotional rants. Sometimes they're I feel a little embarrassed later. I once freaked out about a trade that never happened. I'm more recently flipping out about playing time that hasn't been divvied up yet for even a single game. Hell, training camp hasn't happened, and I'm pissed that Kanter and Favors aren't getting their fair shots.
And we all do it. Jamaal Tinsley is apparently signed, and Twitter goes crazy. Does it mean the Jazz don't want Earl back? Or that Ronnie's gone? Or that the Jazz don't know what the hell they're doing?
We don't know!
But we have strong opinions anyway. At least I do.
Ten years ago, these would have been game-time discussions with my brother and maybe a couple buddies. Now the rants become part of the never-ending noise of the internet. Ten years ago, I'd rant and be done. Today I rant, read comments, defend, counter-argue, research, rebut, roll eyes. Repeat.
BobbyD31 and I have been arguing over which direction the Jazz ought to go for a long time now. Neither one of us changes our mind. We're both convinced we're right. And the argument just gets rehashed and rehashed. Of course I'm to blame, since I'm the one who writes the posts.
But it's kind of funny. On one hand, the arguments happen because there's so little else to discuss before training camp even starts. On the other hand, why must discussions happen?
Because it's the internet, and it's always there, of course.
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As a fan, I want to be able to cheer for my team. I want to have players that are both good and fun to cheer for. I want entertaining dialogue with other fans. I want to analyze stats and see if it all makes sense to me. And I want my voice to be a part of it all.
It's an amazing world sometimes. I occasionally have Twitter conversations with the Jazz Beat Writers. They've actually read my stuff. So has David Locke (of all people!). Did Lee Benson or Doug Robinson or Brad Rock ("The Rockmonster!") ever chat with their readers? Did they ever take time to investigate insights from their fans? Not like today—because fans' ideas weren't available.
My Jazz fan "friends" include a dude who has my dream alias (That's you, BBJ), a doctor living in Detroit, a guy in (I think) North Carolina, a BYU fan & housewife, a gal who lives ... I actually have no idea where Moni lives except it's often nighttime for her when it's daytime for me. I argue with a dude who writes music and lives in New York. It's a funny thing—I write music too but that's not what gets discussed here.
And then there's the people who comment and debate me. People I really only know by their SBNation usernames.
We debate and rant and laugh and create silly nicknames and memes.
And I don't know what it all means. Not right now. We cheer for a team that will may never win a championship. We cheer for players that could move on to bigger and better things in a few years. And we discuss it all with strangers.
And in a strange way, it perfectly mirrors life as we live it today.