I've been trying to put my thoughts on this potential move in writing for the past month or so, it's been a rough go. I've started this post roughly 800 times, using hundreds of different angles and just can't finish it. The emotions are too raw still. I wish I could say it's helped me work through the seven stages of grief. I wish. Instead, for the past month I've been alternating between crippling depression, blind rage, and drunk. Sometimes a mix of all three.
Often, when I'm in one of those moods, people will ask me what's wrong and almost scoff at my anger/depression over a sports team. That's always pleasant, especially when they see I'm not joking and feign sympathy. I know it's kind of stupid. I don't need to be told that getting this worked up over a sports team isn't healthy, just ask my liver. Trying to explain why I care so much is a lofty task. It's been something that's just ingrained in me for so long that I'm not even sure why I care so much, I just do. This post will explore that.
The simple answer is always that, like all sports, it's an escape from reality. Well, it was an escape before the escape become more depressing than real life. But it's never that simple. I have plenty of other escapes from writing to video games to pro wrestling. Sure, the Kings are my favorite one, but the seasonal nature of sports has gotten me used to getting by without it for long stretches of time. For me, the answer to why this bothers me so much is in another main function of sports, education.
Charles Barkley may have infamously said that he's not a role model and parents should raise their own damn kid. While he was right, athletes are far from ideal role models, the ever quotable Round Mound of Rebound neglected the lessons that can be learned from sports in general. From a very young age the Kings became my team over any other team in any sport, thus I've learned so much about life in general from this organization. Watching my long standing learning tree being uprooted before my eyes has been one of the most depressing experiences I've ever witnessed.
The first thing I ever learned as a Kings fan, hell, the reason I am a Kings fan is because of passion. My memory isn't what it once was, but I just barely remember my first Kings game. Not a lot of it mind you, just fuzzy yet important details. It wasn't even a game really, just some preseason scrimmages at the Spanos Center in Stockton. My dad, having been born in Oakland and raised in the Bay Area, was a big Warriors fan. Looking back at it now I'm fairly certain my dad's intent was to take me to see his favorite team take on those hapless losers that just moved from Kansas City a few years prior and hopefully create a new Dubs fan in the process.
Needless to say, Pops' plan didn't play out as intended. While the experience helped strengthen the bond between us through our mutual love of the game of basketball, I remember being amazed at the passion of the Kings fans. I wished I cared about something as much as these fans did. I was still so young then that I didn't have a favorite band or TV show, but I knew that if these people cared so much about those really tall dudes on the court then they must be something special. Just like that I had a favorite team.
To my Dad's credit he didn't fight it, he embraced the Kings as his second team. He even bought some of those multi-game ticket packs during the mid-90s (during which we took a young Chris the Greek to his very first game against the Suns on my birthday). While my memory of those Warrior scrimmages are blurry and vague (cut me some slack, I was 8), these games are vivid memories. The 96-97 season will be forever etched into my consciousness because I witnessed 17,000 people will a team to their first playoff berth in a decade.
During various points in this relocation saga people have reminisced about when Arco was the loudest. With all due respect to the glory days Kings of the early 2000s, that 96-97 season wins in my book hands down. If those Warriors scrimmages introduced me to true passion, that mid-90s run at the 8 seed showed me the power of that passion. That season made me a Kings fan for life.
That kind of passion can drive a man crazy. To say 2002 was tough is a gross understatement. People always speak derisively about bandwagon fans, myself included, but I don't blame them. It's borderline masochism to follow a team like this. For a split second we all talked ourselves into Quincy Douby being the starting PG of the future. I'm pretty sure that's the definition of insanity.
The last month and a half has been one excruciating slow descent into madness, punctuated by the fact that when the season ends we won't know whether or not to say "Goodbye" or "See you next year". The question we've all been asked a million times is "What are you going to do if they leave?" I honestly don't know. Sure, I'll get on Twitter all full of piss and vinegar with claims of boycotting the NBA and the city of Sacramento, but the reality is I have no fucking clue what I'm going to do. I'm too emotionally invested in this team to give up at this point.
I've watched Cisco grow into becoming the backbone of the team. I've seen DeMarcus bitch slap the naysayers with his flashes of brilliance that point towards him fulfilling the manbeast potential we all know he has in him. I saw Geoff Petrie pluck Marcus Thornton from obscurity on the Hornets bench and gleefully ran all over the living room when he transformed into the clutch shooter we've been begging for for years. I've watched Tyreke...oh my God have I watched Tyreke just be Tyreke. The glory days Kings will always have a special place in my heart, but they were a collection of established players that came together at the right time to take the city by storm. This team? This is our team that we've carefully watched over the recent lean years, patiently waiting for them to realize their potential and return to prominence.
That's the most frustrating part about this ordeal. We're on the cusp of something great. Fair-weather fans may have abandoned this team (justifiably or not), but those with the passion/insanity to stick around know what this team is capable of even though our W/L record deceives that notion. That's not to say it would be easier to let them go if the team sucked, but the fact that they might move just as they're finally putting it all together is a swift kick in the nuts on par with even the most devastating moments in franchise history. Yet, in the face of all of this, my passion hasn't waned. Hell, it's somehow grown.
I don't know what I'm going to do a week from now. I just know that I love this team. Omri, DMC, Tyreke, Dontè, JT, Cisco, even Beno. They can be maddeningly inconsistent at times but good Lord are they fun to watch. Next week is going to be tough, but that's next week. I'll deal with it then. This week's all about displaying the pride that this specific team taught me. I'm damn proud of this team and I intend on showing it during these final 2 games. If that sounds crazy, then slap a purple straitjacket on me and wheel me out of Arco Hannibal Lecter style. This passion will never die, even if the apathetic masses in Anaheim reap the fruits of our labor.