The NBA is a hypocritical, communist-sympathizing league of shortsighted sycophants, but basketball is still a beautiful game, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Atlanta Hawks make a deep run this postseason.
Nashville never had a team growing up, so my allegiances have always been up for grabs; and Atlanta teams, the Braves especially, always seemed to be the most natural fit for team-less Southerners. Gary Sheffield Jr. has graciously allowed me a bandwagon seat for this Phoenix Suns run, but that journey will eventually come to an end. The Memphis Grizzlies should be the natural choice for fandom, but the rest of Tennessee doesn’t really claim Memphis (when you’re bad you get put in the corner).
So maybe this young Hawks team, bursting with talent and swagger and primed to be contenders for the next few seasons, will be my new favorite commies for a while.
That is, unless their generationally-inept front office decides to pull a ‘Time Warner Media’ and play for the balance sheet instead of a title. The Hawks haven’t won the big one since my own father was in diapers (1958), despite being a major market with lots of strip club options. The bad luck and bad business it takes to lose that consistently for sixty years is astonishing.
Back in the day, I would occasionally play golf with the local municipal drunk (you know the type: smells like an ashtray, knows every dirty joke, sports a low handicap since he doesn’t have a job, etc.). Other than drinking beers on the course, his favorite pastime was complaining about his bad luck, and one day he summed up his heartbreak so passionately and perfectly that I never forgot it: if it was raining pussy, Tommy, I’d catch the one with a dick in it. Next time you’re feeling philosophical, really give that one a think, and then consider how much tube steak Atlanta has caught over the years to be that bad for that long.
And now, stacked with young talent who seem to genuinely like playing together, Hawks brass is already publicly forecasting roster changes.
“It’s complicated, of course, because what we’re trying to convince people is we’re building something, but let’s not kid ourselves, our job is to run a good business,” Owner Tony Ressler said. “What we are trying to achieve is literally keeping our best players, as you could imagine, trying to make clear that we’re going to have to spend a lot more than we have this season. We fully expect that. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to keep every single player that we want to keep. Pretty good bet, pretty good assumption we will not. But I do think we have several years that we should be able to build some real stability. If the question is are we scared of the tax, are we scared of going into the tax? I’m scared of paying the tax and not being a good team, yes, that I’m scared of, but if we have to go into the tax to be a great team for a period of time, so be it.”
NBA media is undoubtedly giving themselves rugburns bowing down to an “honest” owner giving “real” answers, but let’s actually be honest: all he really said was that they prefer money to winning.
Whenever I read answers like Ressler’s, I immediately wonder if professional sports front offices really want to win the big one at all costs, or if they truly prefer the morphine drip of bargain-priced competitiveness that keeps fans hooked but never really pays off.
The Hawks made a deep run and reinvigorated a franchise fanbase that’s more accustomed to lottery picks than playoff games, and maybe that’s exactly what ownership wants. Shows the fans a little thigh, make them think they’re getting lucky, and then pull the rug out from under them. If the team somehow pulls off the big one, then great; if they flirt with it and come up short, then that’s fine, too—the spike in revenue is all that ever really mattered.
So to the diehard Hawks fans out there, all I can say is pack an umbrella. The sweet summer showers have already begun, but who knows what might fall from the sky.
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