I wrote in a tweet earlier today that the All-Star Break is a time for analysis; not just for the team, or the coaching, or ownership – but we need to analyze ourselves as well, jazz fans. I would be lying if I said that our team was kicking butt right now. They aren’t. There are debilitating injuries, rampant off-court speculation, stars in slumps, and epoch changes contributing towards that one thing which we, as a fan base are so unfamiliar with – bad losses. Our team is struggling right now, and over this All-Star weekend I’m going to delve into that. Before I do, though, it’s important to preface ALL of this with one, simple fact:
We are Jazz fans.
We’re not Miami Heat "fans" who generated spontaneously overnight a few months ago. We’re not dormant Boston Celtics fans who needed off-season trades for two franchise players to give a damn. We’re not Oklahoma City Thunder fans who have never had success (or a team) before. And we’re not Portland Trailblazers fans who, when the going got tough, stopped going to home games. [By the way, this is something all the bloggers fail to mention, btw – how do you call them the "best" fans in the league if in losing seasons they show up in 16k, 15k, 16k, and 16k bunches, but in winning seasons they show up in 20k droves. That’s called being "fair weather", get it straight bloggers.] We are Jazz fans. Our team is struggling right now, and we are not going to abandon our team.
We are not fair weather fans. The players may get in slumps, the men in the front office may change, and heck, even our beloved Jerry Sloan may step down – but the constant above all other constants in the history of the Utah Jazz is that the Jazz fans are the most passionate and fiercely supportive/defense fans in the league. When a guy like Andrei Kirilenko or Mehmet Okur likens Salt Lake City to Europe, it’s more than a population density, or even ethnographic similarity – it’s also a fact that Jazz fans are loud and go nuts just like the passionate European fans. The Jazz fans will never betray their team. That is, true Jazz fans would not.
It would be all too easy to ditch on the Jazz when they aren’t blowing out teams at home or winning 55+ games a season. The easy way has never been the Jazz way though. Right now the only remnant of our past glories remains the unbroken line of rabid fandom.
If even only a small part of you loves the Jazz, and is saddened by how everything is going wrong this year, remember that you are physically capable of and emotionally in control over your job as a part of Jazz Nation. A smart guy said "Be the change you want to see." Jazz fans are not placid cows who react only when prompted by flashing lights or the prospect of a free taco.
I can tell you that right now no one feels worse about this rough patch than our players. They need our support. If we cheer hard and fight hard for them they will see that. They will then play hard and fight hard at home. It’s nice to yell when we get a fast break dunk and the other team takes a time out. The Jazz fans that we are used to make the visiting coach call a time out because it was just way too loud when his own team had possession of the ball.
You remember those days. You were part of those days. These were the fans that I desperately wanted to join, the loyal fans that propagated Jazz fans all over the world. I’ve met Utah Jazz fans all over, people around my age that had never even been to the United States, let alone Utah, partly because Jazz fans never said die. Even in the bad old days when Frank Layden had to bring in a prosthetic heart into the locker room (because the Jazz, our Jazz, were accused for not having one of their own) the fans were loud and aided our team psychologically in the Salt Palace.
We are Jazz fans, and we are legion. Not everyone can go to the games, but we all still care about this team in the good times. We should be that much more loud, supportive, and rabid in the bad times. Just because our team is losing doesn’t mean our team is full of losers.
Just because our team is losing doesn’t mean we fans have to lose hope in the franchise. The Jazz fans did not lose hope back in 2005. That Jazz team only won 26 games, but enjoyed an average attendance of 18,756 loud Jazz fans each home game. As an average, that mark would place the attendance for that 26 win season as the 8th best for all 30 teams in the last decade. (Obviously, our overall decade average is 19,217 Jazz fans per home game, or 5th best in the NBA.) Our team had lots of injuries, but our home court was still rocking when it was Milt Palacio running things. How rocking? 2k to 3k more rocking than those great Blazers fans when they were sucking, that's how.
Our fans were happy to see Jazz basketball, and helped our team through a really rough patch. The fans didn’t leave, and the team reloaded. We’re in a similar situation this year. We shouldn’t be down on our franchise. We shouldn’t be down on our players. And we shouldn’t be down on our front office. It’s not like they are actively trying to do bad – they could have let Boozer go for nothing, but worked it for a trade exemption to get Al Jefferson back. They also got Earl Watson, Raja Bell, and Francisco Elson to fill in as consummate professionals and vets that no other teams were going for. The Jazz did not break the bank in reloading in one off-season. Admit it, we're hard on Greg Miller because he has huge shoes to fill. He cares more than he lets on. They same front office we were happy with gave us fans the idea that we’d be a Top 4 team this year. Now we’re killing them for the team being half injured, and for the team over-achieving in November.
We’re better than that as people. We’re also better than that as fans. We’re Utah Jazz fans. Let’s not abandon our team, get down on our players, and give the rest of the NBA any new fodder to disparage us by.
It would be easy to jump back on the band wagon next season when another training camp and roster moves better balance our team and we’re winning again. But we’re better than that. It’s precisely the frame of reference that all the bad years gives us, that makes the good years worth it. The Jazz did not start off in the NBA as a contender from day one. Even after moving to Utah there was an uphill climb.
Jazz fans were there back then. Jazz fans were there when Stockton and Malone were making All-Star Games. Jazz fans were there in the NBA Finals years. Jazz fans were there in the Ben Handlogten year. Jazz fans were there when Andrei became an All-Star. Jazz fans were there when we finally became a free agent destination. Jazz fans were there when we drafted Deron Williams, and he became a star. Are you, a Jazz fan, really going to leave in the middle of a season where, despite all the crazy crap that’s happened, we’re still right in the thick of things, only a good run away from being the 5th seed?
Maybe we don’t even make the playoffs this year. That would suck. But what would suck more is if our fans give up on our team, when our team needs our support the most. After all, you’re a Jazz fan. Why don’t you start acting like one! (Or, uh, like a Man, or something . . . )