Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bitterness, Nostalgia, and NBA Basketball

I hate the New Orleans Hornets. It seems kind of petty and sad to actually see it in print, but it’s true. I came to this realization last night as I watched the San Antonio Spurs knock the Hornets out of the playoffs. Now, I have no animosity toward any of the Hornets’ players or coaches. I have nothing against the city of New Orleans. I hate the New Orleans Hornets because they used to be the Charlotte Hornets. I grew up as a die-hard Hornets fan. My dad would take me and my brothers to 5 or so games a year, and when I was in high school and could drive, I’d buy cheap playoff tickets every year that the team made it. I sat in the Charlotte Coliseum (affectionately known as “The Hive”) and watched the team play against Michael Jordan’s Bulls, Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers, and Grant Hill’s Pistons. I watched Alonzo Mourning block shots, Glen Rice rain down threes, and Baron Davis weave through defenders to dunk over guys a foot taller than him. I enjoyed fun times with family, nights out with friends, and several dates with a cute girl from school who would end up becoming my wife. I’ve got many great memories from my teenage years that the Hornets are a part of. So, when owner George Shinn (restraining myself) alienated fans with his behavior and demands and moved the team to New Orleans after my freshman year of college, I was pretty upset, and didn’t watch an NBA game for about 3 years.

Then, in 2005, a new NBA era began in Charlotte with the Bobcats – our expansion team awarded by the NBA after they recognized the raw deal the city got from the Hornets. I’ve become a fan again over the past 4 seasons. I’ve adjusted to the new colors and name, been excited by the young, scrappy players, and even attended a couple games while visiting family back in Carolina. As I’ve started watching NBA ball again, I knew I didn’t much care for the Hornets, but I really didn’t realize that I hated them until last night. I flipped over to the game to see what promised to be (and was) a good and exciting contest, but as soon as I saw that familiar logo, it’s like the anger came surging back all at once. Suddenly, I wanted to see the Spurs destroy the Hornets. I wanted to see all those fans in their matching white T-shirts go home sad. I wanted to know that the team had still never made it farther in the playoffs in New Orleans then they had in Charlotte. I remarked to Heather how much I hated that stupid yellow that had been added to the Hornets’ teal and purple. When I saw a friend at work today who I enjoy talking basketball with, I burst into a demented laugh while remarking that the Hornets were done for the year. Another friend accurately remarked that I sounded possessed.

As the day went by, I started asking myself the question – why does that team bother me so much? Why did simply watching a basketball game incite so much bitterness in me? I honestly think that it’s because watching the Hornets brings up all the memories I talked about before, with a stinging reminder that they’re done and gone, and I can’t add to them or relive them. I have lots of similar memories surrounding Carolina Panthers football, and those memories are relived in a way with every game I watch. I’m adding to them. I can look forward to watching a game with my little girl, to sharing that excitement and joy that sports can bring with her. We’ve got her a little baby Panthers cheerleader outfit to wear this fall. I can’t buy her a Hornets shirt, though. That chapter of my memories is closed. The night that I spent with Heather wearing white headbands and waving white towels with 22,000 other screaming people while the Hornets swept the Miami Heat out of the playoffs in 2001 is not one that I can have jogged to my memory with every new Hornets game I watch. It’s over. Watching the Hornets play last night jogged those feelings to my memory, but it did so along with the feeling that I’ve been robbed from getting to add to those memories. Because of my sinful human heart, my reaction was anger and hatred, pointed dead center at 12 basketball players that had nothing to do with the whole mess. The far better reaction, and the one I’m focusing on today, is to remember those memories, remember the joy they brought, and look forward to the new and different ones to come. Just because that team’s no longer there doesn’t mean my memories are cheapened in any way. Plus, I’ve got a new team to pull for, and a brand new slate of memories to make with them. In some strange way, God has used the experience to remind me of my propensity to lash out with (or hold in) anger when I feel wronged, and to remind me of his goodness that knows no end. Don’t get me wrong – I won’t be cheering on the Hornets anytime soon. In fact, if the Bobcats win only one game next year I hope it’s against them. But I don’t think I hate them anymore. Maybe.

No comments: