Threw on a shirt this morning to take the dog out and didn't even notice until I got outside that it was my "claw" and "antler" shirt, from the Rangers' glory years, which had somehow unexcavated itself from the Great Cave of Shirts that Make me Sad. Along with my "Free Roddy B" t-shirt.
As the dog did his business, it was hard not to be bitter, not just because, despite who was holding the leash, it was I who had been dragged outside early on a Sunday morning to watch another mammal do what it had to do, but because it made me realize again just how bad these last two years have been for Dallas sports fans.
Most championship windows are short, but not this short. You remember. In 2011, the Rangers, sad sacks for much longer than the Mavericks, were poised to follow in the exact footsteps of the first non-Cowboys, non-Stars championship team in Dallas history. Same amount of games, same performances. Then there was some coaching mistakes, then there was a Mark Lowe meatball, then there was nothing.
Since that moment, when DFW was about to take home its second championship in a few months, and its only championships, ever, in either sports, the Mavericks have played a total of four playoff games, the Rangers lost another one and now seem likely to miss the playoffs for the second straight year. It has not been a fun time to be a sports fan.
I started writing here in 2011, shortly after the Mavericks won, and although, as it happened, I never got to write for you guys about a good Mavericks team, I watched with happiness and pride as this site grew and grew. Sometimes , when I'm writing an article now, I wake up from it and remember when we were happy about our Mavs, and it feels like a dream. It feels like we've been unhappy for so long. And we've been better, and we've been angry, and every big move was a failure and every new move seems bad.
I wish that there were a way to wash the bitterness off, to write about the potential of Ricky Ledo and Jae Crowder, to dream a bit, but it's very hard. Of course, we never even got a championship defense, sacrificed to a dream that is now definitively unrealized. As the "claw and antlers" Rangers, with Cliff Lee and CJ Wilson, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton, were losing to a team starring Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria, then gearing up for one more go, as the Mavericks were preparing to trade Dampier for Chandler, who could foresee a future where, if the Mavericks DON'T start Samuel Dalembert at center, they'll be in big trouble? And who could have imagined it would come so soon?
Tanking is a New York Times fad. Supposedly everyone's doing it, supposedly it's the smart thing to do, but actually it's not worth talking about, just a bored idea from bored editors. It's not worth having an argument about, it just empirically doesn't work. There's actually nothing more that needs to be said than no player drafted in the top four, after 2003, has ever won a championship(other than Darko Milicic, who counts the least). No player drafted in the top 4 has won a championship with the team that drafted them since Tim Duncan in 1997.
There really isn't anything else that needs to, or could be said. It's a strategy that empirically doesn't succeed, and that makes it's a bad one. It's just hot right now. Since I work in a field which is pretty poorly funded, but in which research is exhaustive it's a constant source of amazement to me that here's a field with probably ten billion dollars floating around in it, at least, in which so many high-powered people just believe, as a matter of course, something for which there's no support to be had.
And I could add, too, for those of you who want to blow it up and start over, that the number of teams who have won championships even in subsequent decades are the Lakers and the Celtics. Don't know where the idea is that you can get really bad and be really good again within even 15 years, but in terms of winning championships, if you're not the Lakers and Celtics, it's never happened even once.
There's a still more important reason not to tank, though, and that's that sports are, fundamentally, unimportant. They don't matter. You're going to watch the waning years of Dirk Nowitzki's greatness and then, if history is any judge-or to put the emphasis more accurately, unless something completely unprecedented happens, for non-Lakers, non-Celtics teams-you're going to watch a really bad Mavs team for 15 years or so. Or at least, one that isn't a title threat, again. So you can either watch Dirk retire as a Maverick, then have a bad team, or just have a bad team. I know which one I'd choose.
But there's a more important point here, and it's this: this unimportance, coupled with how very, very important it is to us is a great reason not to be bitter. All it does is add misery in an often miserable world, and I'm not admonishing you, I'm admonishing me. It has been a tough two years, and the tough part is the velocity. The rug wasn't even pulled out, it was stolen, Lebowski-style, and the room has fallen apart.
So this is just to say I'm sorry. We try to be objective, here, and so a lot of us are not too fond of the Monta signing, for example, though I suspect I'm happier about it than most. But how much is genuine disgust, and how much is the hangover from what could have been? I just don't know. I know I was looking at a team likely to play intelligent ball and score 80 points, and now I'm looking at a team less likely to play intelligent ball and more likely to score 100. If there's two ways to look, the 2011 hangover has often, often made me look away from the good.
It would be the most foolish of endeavors either to only be happy about teams which win championships, or to be permanently unhappy with those who probably won't, because nobody wins championships. Because since 1983, 8 teams have won, which means the fans of 22 teams have....what..only been miserable for 30 straight years? Only been happy when they've been able to delude themselves?
Or can we, having been to the mountaintop and so on, still come back to a more positive place, not just because of what happened-they finally won one-but because of what ishappening? No one knows how good Dirk be for how long, Calderon's a top-4 PG in terms of passing, and a top-2 or 3 in terms of shooting, Monta, on his last good team, once scored 25.5 points on 45% shooting over the course of a whole season, and there has never been a 2nd scorer on a Dirk-led Mavericks team capable of doing that, and the Mavericks should have those three guys as a core, collectively costing under 30 million dollars, with 30 million dollars to spend, in the summer of 2014. Meanwhile, Gal Mekel and Ricky Ledo looked pretty credible against one of the top picks in last year's draft.
If the Mavericks are good this year, it'll be a pleasant surprise. If they're bad, they'll get a good pick in a loaded draft. And still have that core. And have that big pile of cap money coming their way. Is this delusion? Maybe. But I think I like it better than disillusion. And I'm going to try my hardest to take a deep breath, and count to ten before I Oscar-the-Grouch this team I love, by word or deed in the months to come. I don't promise I'll always succeed. But I'd like to give it a shot.