Grab Bag: Real Love

Like any good sports fan, I’m superstitious, so it’s with no small amount of trepidation that I dare post this.

Here goes:

I am a Dallas Mavericks fan, and I’m feeling good. Real good.

In about 12 hours, I could be feeling bad. Real bad. Game 2 of the Mavericks’ Western Conference finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder is tonight, and a Mavericks loss would erode my buoyant confidence considerably.

But that is then. This is now. And now, I’m feeling awfully good about a team I’ve rooted for since I was 10 years old.

You see, basketball was my game as a kid. I didn’t set the world ablaze or anything, but I played it with boundless joy, and it was the single sport at which I could generally hold my own with my peers. When the Dallas Mavericks embarked on their inaugural season in 1980, I was in the fifth grade, playing for a basketball team called the Chaparrals in the Richland Youth Association, and the emergence of professional hoops in my hometown gave me a tangible team to root for, if a bit futilely. (The first Mavericks team, you see, finished 15-67. As it turned out, that first losing season prepared me emotionally for the many, many, many losing seasons to come.)

I can still remember guys on that team. Jim Spanarkel, who was a star at Duke. Abdul Jeelani, who scored the first points in franchise history. Tom LaGarde. Stan Pietkiewicz. Brad Davis, the only guy who hung on long enough to play with some decent — even terrific — teams in Dallas.

I loved that team, and the Mavericks, historically, are tough to love.

Consider this:

  • They’ve been associated with four Hall of Famers: Alex English, who played out the string of a long career there; Adrian Dantley, who came over when the Mavs traded their franchise player, Mark Aguirre, and never wanted to be in Dallas; Dennis Rodman, who barely had time to get a tattoo in Dallas; and Don Nelson, who as coach of the Golden State Warriors administered possibly the most embarrassing playoff loss in history to the Mavs.
  • In 1988, they made it all the way to Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, falling to a great Lakers team. A year later, they were a consensus pick to go all the way. They finished 38-44 and jettisoned Aguirre (breaking my heart) to the eventual champions, the Detroit Pistons.
  • In 2006, they made it to the NBA finals against Miami, promptly took a 2-0 lead, had a double-digit advantage late in Game 3 … and lost that game, then three more in a row.
  • And then there’s the Golden State debacle, which I’ve already mentioned and don’t care to mention again.

Those with short memories like to point out that the Mavs are in the midst of 11 consecutive seasons with 50 or more victories. That’s fine and dandy. But the decade previous was marked by a similarly long string of hopelessness. From 1990-91 to 1999-2000, the Mavericks exceeded 30 victories just twice.

Like I said, it’s not easy to be a Mavericks fan.

But, look, I’m trying. Here they are, up 1-0 in the Western Conference finals, led by the best player in their history, Dirk Nowitzki, a guy who can score 48 points on just 15 shots, the very definition of offensive efficiency. It’s early, but it’s also undeniable: The Mavs have the look of a championship team.

If it happens — a very big if — I’ll be one happy bastard.

You see, I’m also a Dallas Cowboys fan. I’ve suffered enough, don’t you think?

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