Category Archives: Fan Life

A preview to my NBA preview: The fates have decided this won’t end the way I want. But you know what? I’m okay with it.

My thoughts exactly.

As The Couchletes’ resident NBA guru, I’ve been tasked with providing a little content to whet your appetite before the real games begin. Before I get there though, I wanted to deliver a preview to my preview. First, I should explain two important elements that have not only shaped my overall view of sports, but more importantly for this post and on a more micro-level, Basketball.

First, I am a fan of Minnesota sports. This fact alone puts me in rarefied air. Only fans of all Cleveland sports and those who root for the Buffalo Bills can even begin to lay claim to a more miserable sports existence. Whether it’s the Vikings, all University of Minnesota athletics, losing the North Stars to Dallas (only to see them win the Stanley Cup a few years later), the early retirement and death of Kirby Puckett, or pretty much the entire existence of my beloved Timberwolves I’m accustomed to disappointment and heartache. To be sure, there are years when it seems like something different could happen. But when those rare times come along, those times when it feels like the stars could finally align, I can rest easy because fate, I know has other plans. Plans that mean something especially horrendous is in the works. When this happens a lot of fun is had trying to imagine what that horrendous thing could be. Trust me though, it’s always so much worse (Brett Favre anyone?).

Second, I have a non-sexual man crush on Ricky Rubio that at times veers dangerously close to being non non-sexual. Of course, this second fact fits perfectly like a pair of Russian nesting dolls with point number one. I am used to disappointment. As a fan of Minnesota sports, I am not allowed to have nice things.

I mention these because I thought the demise of Ricky Rubio’s ACL last year would have taken care of point number one this season. How could we be good without our dear Spanish Unicorn? But then a funny thing started to happen. The Timberwolves front office, long whipping boy of the NBA’s elite pundits, turned intelligent. They dumped below-average players like Darko! Michael Beasley, Anothony Randolph, and Anthony Tolliver. They traded for 3-point specialist Chase Budinger and do-shit specialist Donte Cunngingham to serve as front-line back ups.

Never a team to engage in free agent spending, they went outside their comfort zone and signed a possibly rejuvenated Brandon Roy out of retirement and a possibly rejuvenated Andrei Kirilenko out of Russia. Joining him from the former iron curtain would also be his CSKA Moscow/Russian National Team teammate and floppy haired muppet Alexey Shved.

I mention all this because up until a few days ago this team was a mid-seed playoff team at worst (even with Rubio out until the end of December) and a team that could actually scare title contenders like the Thunder and Lakers at best. I mention a few days ago this was possible because a few days ago Kevin Love hadn’t broken his hand doing knuckle push-ups.

Can the Timberwolves make the playoffs without the best power forward in the league for the first month? More than likely yes. Their November schedule is easy enough and the rest of the roster talented enough that they can probably put together a .500 record. If they can do that, they should be fine. But this is beside the point. Because if I’m being honest, it really doesn’t matter. Not in the NBA.

You see, because unlike the NFL or MLB where literally anything can happen once you reach the post-season (just ask St. Louis) the NBA is built solidly upon a hierarchy, a veritable glass ceiling that all but a few teams in a given season cannot hope to break.

So, unless you’re fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, or Miami Heat you might as well start relaxing right now and just focus on enjoying quality basketball because your team ain’t winning shit.

More than any other league, being a fan of NBA basketball means you engage in the Sisyphean task of hope and despair every season. Why? Because maybe sometime your team will be bad enough so you can draft a Kevin Durant or, global warming will turn your city into a place full of nice weather and beautiful women. But if you don’t live in a beautiful location and you can’t draft a well-balanced superstar with zero ego than you’re pretty much out of luck. Enjoy pushing that boulder this season, who knows, maybe you’ll actually get it to the top this time… oh wait, I know… you won’t.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Not really. Because NBA fans have found ways to accept the fact that our favorite team won’t be spraying themselves with champagne (well, at least after winning a championship) at the end of the season. We’ve come to appreciate the little things. Because even if baseball and football are America’s games let’s face it, baseball is boring and football either won’t exist or will have morphed into a variation of two-hand touch within the next 20 years. That leaves us with Basketball, a sport full of the most physically gifted athletes partaking in a game that is so inherently beautiful and thrilling to watch it really doesn’t even matter that my team has essentially no chance of making it out of the first round.

But then again, isn’t that what we should want? Where’s the fun in some team who barely made it into the playoffs going on a run and winning it all? Sure, for a brief instant it might be thrilling to watch an underdog run off a series of wins but underdogs don’t win on their skill. They win when they make the game ugly. They win when they take a game out of its natural rhythm. They win when they get the refs involved. They win when they strip the beauty, grace, and excitement out of a beautiful, thrilling, and exciting game. So why would I want to root for that?

Basketball is not like any other sport. Basketball is all about fate. Fate put me in my place. In hindsight I’m just thankful it taught me my lesson before the season started. But if I’m being honest, I’ve still got a lot to be thankful for. I’m still going to get to see my team run Rick Adelman’s “Corner Offense” beautifully from time to time, their passes careening from one side of the floor to the other before ending in a Kevin Love 3-pointer from the top of the arc, or a Nikola Pekovic dunk. I’m still going to get to see Ricky Rubio smile and do Ricky Rubio type things. I’m also going to see Tony Parker run around like a whirling dervish, James Harden’s beard, LeBron James’ evolving post-game, and I’m going sit back and feel the terror and beauty of a Steve Nash/Dwight Howard pick-n-roll game wash over me in an awesome wave.

These are all things we’re going to see this year, these and so many more. Because though we may know how the story is going to end (and trust me, I’ll still hope against hope that I can get that boulder up the hill this time) we don’t know how it’s going to get there. But one thing I do know is that it will be thrilling and it will be beautiful.

One last thing I’m thankful for: I have NBA League Pass, which means I can see and enjoy all of the above.

Hope you’ll watch with me this year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to tempt fate.

By Mark Gaspar
Follow Mark on Twitter at @markgaspar

10 Things We Really Hate About “Fans”

It happens every single year. Either a handful of sports teams that are typically bad end up playing well or a sports’ season approaches its climax and “fans” come out of the woodwork to be a part of it. We all know these people by a variety of different labels: fair-weather fans, bandwagoners, casual fans … annoying, etc. In the spirit of being somewhat nice let’s stick with “casual fans.”

Casual fans are passionate and interested, purchase merchandise, tickets, and concession food just like the rest of us. They drink lots of beer and enjoy tailgating. They may even be knowledgeable about the sport at-hand. The problem isn’t what they do when they show up it’s when they choose to show up, if they do at all.

“Real” fans always care about the sport or team, or both, and have been around through the good and bad times every team inevitably experiences over the years. They don’t magically appear in October for the NLCS. They don’t spontaneously turnout for the NFC Championship game. They’re always there. They can name the players on the team and in most cases recant important statistics about them.

Ask any of this of a casual fan and more often than not you won’t get a reply. I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people and about a lot of different sub-topics of this overarching concept of fandom and most ask, “what does it hurt?” The answer to that is really simple: absolutely nothing, but for fans of teams that often struggle a little loyalty and stick-to-it-ness would be greatly appreciated. And I know what will be said, “but the casual fan is just as important as the diehard.” My only response to that is: To whom? Fortunately for me, I don’t care about your money so whether you come once a year or not at all isn’t important.

With all of that in mind, we wanted to put together the Top 10 things the faux-fan would do. If any of these apply to you it may be time to reassess your approach because chances are you’re making yourself look like a fool to a great number of people.

1. If you live in a state but pin your fandom to out-of-state franchises, yet have no reasonable reason for why that is.

2. If you wear team gear that is sewn together to pair the jerseys/logos of two different teams.

3. If all your team gear looks brand new or is from some commemorative event (World Series, All-Star Game, Playoffs).

4. If the way you talk about sports changes come playoff time. “The [team name]s are ok. I kind of follow them” to “The [team name] are awesome, I love them, never miss a game!”

5. If you can’t name more than two players on “your” team.

6. If you take time off from work to go to the playoffs but never attend regular season games.

7. If you root for two teams from the same sport that are from the same general area or play in the same division (e.g. You can’t be both a Yankees and Mets fan or a Red Sox and Orioles fan).

8. If you’re “Fantasy Sport Guy.” Playing fantasy sports does not make you a “fan.”

9. If your team isn’t very good, you haven’t been following but still insist on reliving the glory days of your franchise.

10. If you only repeat things you’ve heard or read about your team while participating in conversations about sports.

New Roster Acquisitions

Writing a blog is harder than you’d think. Not so much having ideas or opinions for posts, but actually typing out your ideas. It’s hard to fit the time in to write among everything else going in every day life – full time jobs, family activities, social activities and other commitments. Rahul and I have come to realize this first hand.

All that said, we’re in this. It’s something we want to be doing. We love sports and we love talking about sports. We enjoy the banter we have on our Facebook page with our followers and among our followers.

If we’re going to do this, we want to do the best job we can with this blog. Good writing, good perspective and consistency. The consistency is the hard part.

So how do we make sure we continue to make this a better blog? How do we make sure we meet that consistency of posting that can get difficult? We add more Couchletes. Today we’re announcing that we’re adding three more writers to the team.

Hoa Nguyen – Hoa lives in San Francisco. He’ll willingly admit that he’s no sports expert, pointing to his first round selection of Peyton Manning in his fantasy draft this year as proof, but don’t let his humbleness fool you. He knows sports much better than he admits. Hoa will be adding a comedic element to The Couchletes that we don’t really have right now. While Rahul and I may think we’re funny, our wit doesn’t come close to matching Hoa’s. He has some pretty cool stuff planned that we’re really looking forward to.

Mark Gaspar – Mark lives in Chicago, but was born and raised in Minnesota. Yes, he’s a fan of all the Minnesota teams – the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild and even the Minnesota Golden Gophers – so sports have been a bit difficult for him lately. Actually, for quite a while. But he’s optimistic. If this isn’t his team’s year, maybe 2018 will be? Mark will be able to provide perspective as that fan whose team is not even close to being in contention. Now that I’ve ripped on his teams enough, in all seriousness, Mark loves the NBA and the NFL and will bring some good opinions.

Ryan Lack – Ryan lives in Livermore, California. The far east bay of the San Francisco Bay area. He grew up a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A’s and Golden State Warriors. Ryan spent some of his college years at Texas Tech watching his school get beat up by the powerhouse Big 12 teams. He’s still loyal to his Red Raiders though and is quick to inform you that Wes Welker was also a Red Raider. Ryan follows all sports pretty closely and I’m sure will have some interesting things to talk about.

We’re excited to welcome these three new Couchletes. You’ll be hearing more from them in the very near future and their bios will soon appear on the About our Team page so you can learn more about them.

Welcome to the team, guys!

Come on Board, the Weather’s Great!

Bandwagon fans. Fair weather fans. Dedicated sports fans hate both of them. Is one worse than the other? I’m not sure, I think they fall into the same category where they’re just disliked by other more committed sports fans. In fact, as I was thinking about this post, I realized there’s a blurry line separating these two kinds of fans.

A fair weather fan is a fan who only shows support for a team when that team is performing well.

A bandwagon fan is someone that suddenly starts liking a sports team that those around him/her likes. Typically this is done when a team starts playing well.

So you see, there’s that gray area. People don’t usually bandwagon a bad or mediocre team. It’s always a team that’s winning, thus – fair weather?…  So I’ll ask again, are these two type of fans different? Is one worse than the other?

I think many people have started merging the definitions of fair weather fan and band wagon fan. Separating the two has become difficult because people will often say a fair weather fan ‘jumped on the bandwagon.’ It’s more like they woke up rather than jumped on though. To answer how they’re different and which is worse, I think you have to look at the two as mutually exclusive, like this:

If someone is a fair weather fan, they have a team, they just aren’t always following them closely. If someone is a bandwagon fan, they’re likely to change the team they’re rooting for. For instance, let’s say someone is a Seattle Seahawks fair weather fan. They’re not going to suddenly start liking the Dallas Cowboys if the Seahawks aren’t winning. Seattle is still their team, they just aren’t following them as closely because they’re losing. They’re not going to switch teams. Now let’s say that someone else started liking the Seahawks one year because they were winning, finished 11-5, went to the playoffs and lost the NFC championship game. The next year the Seahawks face a lot of injuries, have a tougher schedule and finish 6-10. That bandwagonner stopped ‘liking’ Seattle in that down year. But not only did he stop following them, he started ‘liking’ the St. Louis Rams because they had a good year.

There are a number of ways the two types of fans are similar though. One of the most obvious is their team gear. Do all the shirts, caps and jackets they own with the team logo on them look new? Then they’re either a fair weather fan or bandwaggoner. In 2010 in San Francisco there was a huge influx of San Francisco Giants fair weather fans. Many knew next to nothing about ‘their team,’ but since the Giants were pulling off a surprising run in the playoffs, ‘fans’ were coming out of the woodwork. And new Giants gear was appearing on these ‘fans’ all over town.

This fair weather fan experience was something new to me and it was what really gave me the idea for this post. I hadn’t seen anything like it. I’m from the midwest. People either like sports or they don’t. Yes, there are fair weather fans (they exist everywhere, every team has some), but not to the degree I was witnessing in San Francisco.

I have a good story about fair weather experiences in 2011, the year following the Giants World Series win.

–The next day I went to another Giants-Indians game (told you I don’t get to see them much…and yes, they lost…again). Justin Masterson was pitching for the Indians. In the first inning I hear the guy behind me say, “Oh, look at their pitcher’s batting average! .000, must be his first game. Welcome to the big leagues, bud!” Now, right next to Masterson’s batting average on the scoreboard was his record. 5-5. Five wins, five losses. He’s obviously pitched in at least ten games this season. It’s called interleague, bro. Our pitchers don’t bat in the American League, bro. Learn the game.

I like telling that story. And to all my Giants fan friends. I’m sorry. You’re not all fairweatherers. Many of you really do know baseball. You just have quite a few fairweatherers out there, more than I’m used to from the midwest. I guess there’s more to do around the Bay area, so people don’t dedicate as much time to sports. And a lot of people moved to this area from other parts of the country or even from outside the country. I have no problem with the fairweatherers, I just wish they didn’t try to act like they’re some kind of sports expert.

Back to my original question of which is worse – fairweatherer or bandwaggoners, I think I’ve answered that now, at least for myself. It’s the fair weather fan.