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Utah Jazz fandom and the barrier to entry: why this season matters

Amar's three Ws of the season, and why the traditionalists have to adapt to their new audience.

"Will the Indian dude in the 6th row stop showing me his nipples...."
"Will the Indian dude in the 6th row stop showing me his nipples...."

When I first heard that Trey Burke was traded to the Utah Jazz I was sitting a few feet away from David Stern announcing that Nerlens Noel was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans. This was three picks ahead of Burke even being picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and eight picks before the Jazz would select Shabazz Muhammad. That's how the news goes in the media pit at this type of event. I was shocked. Early on during the NCAA tournament I had just assumed that Trey Burke had played himself out of a reachable range. Mentally I had never thought of him being on our team. And for a brief moment I got a chance to feel like the fortunes of our franchise had changed. Trey would alleviate some of the ball handling duties from Gordon Hayward, allow Alec Burks to play shooting guard, and play the pick and roll and pick and pop game with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

That short moment of happiness changed into action when I had to pack up my stuff and run from the Barclays Center floor into the bowels of that building to find the interview room so I could be the first "Jazz media" person to welcome Trey Burke to our family. (And I was, btw)

The next day on the plane ride home I thought about two things: a) how much work I had to do to report on the draft stuff, and b) how our team could turn out. My summer was hectic in real life, and the front office did me no favors by going into a crazy direction. Our team passed on re-signing Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley (for a bit), and DeMarre Carroll. The team traded for Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, and Brandon Rush; and signed John Lucas III.

Clearly the fix was in, and the losses in 2013-14 were to pile up. But it was with the stated overlying purpose to put the ball in the hands of our youth, the same youth I briefly got a chance to imagine playing on the floor together back during the first round of the NBA draft. The losses would come, but so too would development. (I honestly do think that in performing such a confidence and mastery dependent task like succeeding in professional sports no number of ours in a gym can replicate actually playing in the damn games.)

Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey went so far as to talk about this season in terms of three Ds. (Not just development, but also discipline and defense too!) So here we are in December, with a quarter of the season over, and we don't look like the team I envisioned in June, or in July after free agency.

Who is to blame for this? Of course it's me for having the expectations that in a season of development and discovery we would actually get to see our high priced lotto picks play with one another.

A lot of the ire this season is thrust upon the head coach Tyrone Corbin. I have said a lot about it so far this season already. Many others have as well. I know that if I were head coach Biedrins would be in mothballs this year. Jefferson too. I'm not coach. I'm just a guy who watches all the games; keeps tabs on what happens in the games based upon professional scouting tools; and builds a frame of reference that is over two decades long to use to gauge performance in the games. There's no clever way to explain my relationship to the team - from being someone who interviews former players, professional player agents, and hopeful players themselves it appears like I am a reporter of some sort. I've had national journalists let me read their stories from their laptops even before the stories went to their editors. People who work for the NBA head office know me by name and face. So, clearly, I should write with some level of decorum.

But I'm also a fan. I came into this as a fan. I never wanted to make this a career, and believe me, I'm not going to. I have my own biases, and thankfully due to the medium here and the people I work for, I am allowed to present them. What most of us do here is write opinion. I delve into statistics more, but I also release a rant now and then. I don't really see much of the difference between what a Gordon Monson does (who doesn't always write in a neutral point of view) than what a Diana Allen does - except perhaps Gordon has a better editor, and Diana has way more post-grad experience.

That's the other tricky aspect of writing in today's WEB 2.0 - the traditionalists are pissed at us, and want to piss on us. That's the most polite way I can put it from my personal experience with some of the people I have had the joy of interacting with. I can see their point of view. Let's say you are a professional broadcaster and you went to school to learn which cables to plug into a mixing board and which end of a mic to talk into - you're obviously going to think you know more and do a better job than some schlub who puts out a podcast on the cheap without having had the broadcasting degree. Similarly, an actual journalist who went to school for years and paid his or her dues to work her way up in traditional print media is going to distance themselves automatically from the crazy cat lady who writes about stuff on her blog once a month.

I can understand that. An auto mechanic can't perform a colonoscopy, but a GI doctor still needs the grease monkey to rotate his tires. Everyone has to work together here for society to exist. Traditional media needs traditional audience. But the audience has shifted, and traditional media will need to evolve or die. (Btw, why would you ever force yourself to listen to someone or read someone you don't like when today you have near limitless options to get your news and opinion from - not just in sports blogs, but all over the world on any topic?)

We are the new audience, the non-traditional audience. Look at me, I asked a lot of the questions on draft night that got put up into the official NBA transcript for that night. The closest I got to journalism school was dating a journalism student back in the mid 90s. That is just so offensive to the ‘traditionalists'.

And really, what the internet has done is that it has lowered the bar of entry. And that's why if you interact with staunch traditionalists they are really snotty at times to their ‘new' audience. Before in the old days not everyone could see every game, and the word of the ‘newsmen' were the word of law. They knew more than you because they saw more than you. Now I can watch every single game from my phone, or tablet, or PS4, or laptop, or desktop, or TV. They still see a lot more than most of us, but look at my darling Andy Larsen from Salt City Hoops. He's not a journalist either, he's a mathematician, but he's in there every day asking questions too and getting answers. Andy has the access that was once a barrier to him only a few, short years ago when he was writing for JazzBots. Think about that.

The best analogy I have is that the traditionalists who wish to continue the specific fabrication that they will always know more than fans about everything are like the Catholic Church before the time of Martin Luther. Martin Luther translated the bible from Hebrew and ancient Greek into the common language of the common man in his day, and that lowered the bar for entry for people to actually learn for themselves the word of God.

The advances of the internet, verily, the WEB 2.0, is the Martin Luther for the common man to "actually learn for themselves the word of God" today. It's not just sports, it's everything. You don't have to shackle yourself to one of CNN, FOX, or MSNBC. Check out RN or A-J sometimes guys! Similarly, for sports you don't have to limit yourselves to just the National Media (which may not even cover your team) or the Local Mass-Media (TV and Radio which may or may not be free from influence). You get everyone's take. On a given night in Jazzland now you can get a take on Jeremy Evans ' improved shot from a Sikh girl living in Calgary who is a Chicago Bulls fan, to better understanding end of game strategy from middle aged Croatian ex-player who is now coaching in North Africa.

Basketball is a fixed thing, but now we have many more eyes on it, many more brains thinking about it, and thankfully, many more hands typing about it. I didn't go to journalism school, but I write more every day than some who have. I didn't go to broadcasting school, but I can make a funny internet video now and then. While I didn't go to those two schools I surely benefit from and appreciate those who have. (In fact, now that I have been forced to dipping my toes into those pools I now know better how deep they are.)

I know that I have changed over time, from being a fan to being more than a fan. It doesn't really matter if I am just a fan, or a reporter, or a journalist, or a media guy, or whatever. What title I have is nearly meaningless today. What matters more is what I do. And I am, if nothing else, a consumer of digital content. If you put out an article on the NBA, I want to read it. If you broadcast a youtube video on your reaction to a game I want to watch it. If you put in the time to churn out a podcast, I want to listen to it. If you diagram plays, or write a funny song, email me that.

The barrier for entry "into" that protected "we know better than you" world is lower. But I think that misses the point. The point shouldn't be protecting the castle from the unwashed hoards (like some people feel the need to do - while also exposing their distinct lack of understanding of the game of basketball, but that's another story...), now that we have the most access to each other in human history we should champion that.

We all have opinions about the NBA, about the Utah Jazz franchise, and about this specific season. It would be really absurd to try to turn the volume knobs down and just hear what I have to say. I don't have the ego that some traditionalists have.

I'm lucky to be a part of SLC Dunk. We're new media. We're new audience. We're both. We're people on one side of the ‘access' barrier, and people on the other side as well. Layton, former editor of the sports section at the DN; and Diana, former writer for the Provo DH-SE, have both been credentialed people covering Jazz events. Their experiences and talents are welcome here. We have Peter, who while also coming from a non-Journalism / non-broadcasting background, without a doubt knows the NBA Salary Cap and trade clauses better than any local traditionalist media member. I bet my kidney on that. Prodigal Punk and Mychal both know a lot about organizational structure, management, and motivation from their educational and work experiences. One of them is actually on a few e-mail lists with some LHM Company bigwigs. Yucca and Spencer know tons about learning and development from being professional educators. Clark and I know a little about the human body and injuries. Heck, Texas was a semi-pro ball player who runs the Dick Motta flex offense in pick-up games.

SLC Dunk is a special place not just because of us contributors, heck no. What makes SLC Dunk special is all of you - the lurkers, the fan posters, the commenters, and anyone else who doesn't fit into those three categories.

My goal is to help make this site a place where we all can read, for ourselves, the word of God. We're the common audience that should be allowed to make up our minds for ourselves on the word of God. Not have it dictated to us from on high - by people who wish to use status to distance us from them. (I'm sorry, there is no evidence that Richard Jefferson is having a successful season.) I'm sure in the history of mankind there once was maybe one Priest who fiddled around with the exact translation of the Latin from the Bible into something that fit his sermon better. Similarly, I'm sure in the history of traditional media there once was maybe one media member who fiddled around with the exact emphasis or stats from a game to fit his or her point of view better. Thankfully, we all have a greater, unfiltered access to information now.

I'm all about abolishing the bar to entry. Sure, some stuff just isn't professional quality - but that only means your way of communicating needs polish, not the quality of your opinion. We're not about shutting anyone up, cutting any calls, or playing the "I'm X and you are not, so I know better" card here at SB Nation. So please, in this season where things have gone a certain way, please speak up. This isn't just about development and discovery for our team, but for us as well.

I want to be a better fan. I want to provide better content. And I want to make SLC Dunk feel like your home as much as it is my home. Those are my Three W's for this season. They don't work as nicely as Lindsey's three Ds - but that's why he makes the big bucks. And I don't.

So, while this season continues to form day by day, remember that you have the authority and executive power to make this season one of your most involved seasons as a fan. Heck, one of you is going to succeed me here. It could be someone who is a contributor here already, or a lurker right now who hasn't even written on fan post yet. While the Jazz may win or lose this year remember that you have most of the tools necessary to find your own word of God from the basketball we watch.

And don't let anyone talk down to you because you are ‘just' a fan. Every single person in sports started off as that. Everyone. Being a fan should only be a put down in the minds of people who want to create and maintain these barriers; which is sick, because most of those people rely on us to be their audience. Be a fan, which is easier than ever before because of all the tools we have now. Find your own path, and share it. In a season of many questions we can't ever have too many answers.