Over the past five years, I have become a fan of good weather for a sports team with which I was obsessed. And I have to tell you: it’s wonderful.
I grew up addicted to watching basketball, reading about basketball, playing basketball (bad), playing basketball video games, talking basketball. And my team was the Sacramento Kings. And kings have been horrible for most of my childhood. All my childhood? Close enough.
I remember the 1996 playoff series against the Sonics as if it were yesterday. I was a teenager but I felt like a 5 year old child on Christmas morning watching this series. Pure Catharsis, even in defeat.
I loved Mitch Richmond and I booed when the Kings passed John Wallace to someone named Predrag Stojakovic. (A shrewd analyst even then, that’s right.) I cried for Bobby Hurley and believed in Corliss Williamson more than anyone. As someone who really enjoyed the Fab Five, I was on the moon when Chris Webber introduced himself. I savored the time he announced. So much so that sports blogging became a thing, I created a site that eventually became Sactown Royalty, the second NBA blog on SB Nation.
For nine years, I led and developed a community of like-minded fanatics. I wrote in detail about Bonzi Wells, Mike Bibby, Shelden Williams, Desmond Mason, Jason Hart, John Salmon, Francisco Garcia, Mikki Moore, Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Thomas Robinson, Omri Casspi, Donte Greene, Greivis Vasquez, Tyler Honeycutt (RIP), Sylven Landesburg, Orien Greene – Orien Greene started as leader at an opening night of the Sacramento Kings! There were Justin Williams, Bobby Brown, Chuck Hayes, Kenny Thomas, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Marcus Thornton, Rashad McCants, Bobby Jackson, Travis Outlaw, Andres Nocioni, Ronnie Price, Quincy Douby and exactly one Drew Gooden game. I had an argument with the play-by-play guy, two local columnists, several national journalists, the general manager, the press relations manager, the owners, two head coaches and the wife of a head coach. (I think I have since buried the hatchet with everyone except for one of the head coaches, the play-by-play guy and one of the national journalists. I think. It’s hard to keep track of all my professional quarrels.)
I was the hardcore fan of the model. I hated the Lakers with disturbing fervor. I watched every game in a season of 17 wins and I wrote about this horrible team 10 times a week. When I didn’t watch or write about them, I thought about them. I was hoping that someday I could write and research and see a good team.
And if I had continued like this, I would still be waiting.
In early 2014, I handed over the reins of Sactown Royalty to the team who is now at the Kings Herald. I continued to watch all of the Kings’ games that season, even after removing the professional requirement. I was still a big fan of the Kings. But over the next two years, I stopped the obsession. I stopped watching every game. I stopped thinking about free agency, the coaching carousel and the NBA draft first through the lens of what they meant to the Kings. I stopped being overwhelmed by the weaknesses of the doomed franchise and started to appreciate how hilarious the team was.
I stopped worrying so much when the team gave me so little to do. I became a fan of good weather.
Before the coronavirus stopped, I was at the point where I looked at the Kings as much as I looked at, say, pelicans or grizzly bears (two teams quite fun to watch, but for which I don’t really have any interest in ‘rooting). If the Kings were on and the game was not entertaining, I would change it. If they were chasing a three-game losing streak, I would roll my eyes and watch the highlights of the Lakers. If they won a few games, if Harry Giles had a good stint, if De’Aaron Fox looked healthy for the first time in months, I would be excited. I allowed myself to take advantage of the Kings as a fan without wrapping myself in the traps of suffering when things went south.
I had deprogrammed myself from an obsessive fandom into something that certainly looked healthier.
From time to time, someone will tweet that I never had to be a real Kings fan since I left him now, after a decade of cursed climbs. What a nightmare vision of the fandom, unless you want to absorb an infinite and eternal despair, you simulate it! The world suffers enough without false ass purity tests Hobbies. And that’s the key here: do you see your fandom as an identity or as a hobby? This is the transition I made. This is where so many fans who can’t get into the 2007 opening night lineup but who wear the beanie or T-shirt live. Having it as an identity is perfectly fine as long as it doesn’t lead you to watch the fandom, to determine who is good enough to be admitted to the happy times when misery rises for the team.
As a person who wore his fandom like a second skin before and now wears it like a hat, I can tell you that being a fan of good weather is a perfectly valid way to play sports. In fact, if your team is punishing your psyche as much as the Kings have been towards their fans, I recommend it!
In fact, if you’re interested in conversion, let the coronavirus shutdown dissociate you from the obsessive fandom. Allow this break to detach your fandom identity from your corpus and ensure that this team earns your loyalty not by mere continuous existence but by success or good works or the creation of happiness. You owe nothing to the Knicks, Browns, Mariners, Liberty, Arsenal, Georgia football, Mets, Kings, Hornets, Jaguars, UCLA basketball, Sharks or the United States senior soccer team. You can make them try to earn your fandom and save yourself from little miseries when they continue to fail.
The lure of nostalgia and identity and, in many cases, the fandom and geography of the herd are strong. I fully understand and respect those who cannot get rid of the skin. For those of you who remain fans of all time, good luck.