An Unpopular Position

A lot of people maintain that since D'Antoni's teams didn't win the championship, they essentially "got us nowhere"/were somewhat pointless, or a waste of time. I thoroughly disagree. Stan has said many times that ENJOYING THE JOURNEY is a huge part of what makes sports special, and I can say that I thoroghly enjoyed the journeys that the SSOL crew took us on.

This wasn't written by me, but it sums up my feelings far more eloquently than I could:


For the last few years there has been this ongoing debate on the value of the Suns as "entertainment". The crux of the argument is that Phoenix, while fun to watch, has never made it to the finals (let alone won the title), so one has to question whether the team can be regarded as successful or, more to the point, whether it was worthwhile to maintain a "fun" approach to the game with no assurances that this philosphy could ever make them championship.

Before getting to my almost-certainly-unpopular position, let me point out that there are no assurances in any sport. Ever. The Pistons have been held up as a paragon of teamwork and defense, but it isn't as though they punch a ticket to the finals every year. Their successes are tempered with failures. And like most teams, the failures are more frequent and often more celebrated.

The issue with Phoenix, however, was the absence of any ultimate success and the definition of success as "winning during the regular season" or "being fun to watch". Bill Simmons - love him or hate him - captures this perfectly in his piece on the Suns as "critically acclaimed".

So I'll cut to the chase - I liked the Suns as entertaining and "fun to watch", regardless of thieir limited yields in the postseason.

Here's the thing: I'm not an old guy, but I'm certainly not a young guy. And when you get older, the weight of reality seems a lot heavier. You might have kids and a career and mortgage payments and medical issues (for you or the family), and your folks get older and maybe pass away, and you have wills to write and tuition to save for and eveything in the public domain seems to hit you a little harder.

Enter sports.

When you're young, you can obsess about sports - every little stat, every transaction, every story in the news. Sports probably occupied 85% of my free time as a teenager. But nowadays, sports is a mostly-pleasant diversion from real life. I watch the games I can, I keep an eye on the nightly scoreboard when possible, and I visit places like this to discuss issues with likeminded fans from time to time. But sports is no longer the panacea it once was.

The biggest value of sports, for me, is entertainment. There are 82 games in a year, spanning 6 months. The playoffs, in contrast, last for a couplle dozen games over a month and a half. If you focus solely on the latter at the expense of the former, you're going to hand wave a lot of time away just to be disappointed (very likely, given that only one team wins it all) at the end of the season. Of course you are upset if your team exits the playoffs, no matter what, but is there not substantial value to watching a Suns-Nets double OT shootout (even if it's ultimately meaningless?) If you devalue the regular season to focus solely on the playoffs, you are missing Kobe's 81-point game, you're missing an unlikely string of Arenas buzzer-beaters, and so on.

I, for one, miss the "fun to watch" Suns, and I'd take them back in a heartbeat even if it meant continual struggles in the playoffs. Life is short. Sports is entertainment. I don't want to spend the season grimacing through 82 games or being bored to tears by a plodding half-court system, even if it results in Ws. I want fun and excitement and a fun distraction from the things in life that matter.

That distraction was undervalued, packaged, sold, and unceremoniously kicked out the door. If it results in a championship somehow, make no mistake - I'll be thrilled, I'll jump for joy, I'll fly to Phoenix to watch the parade. But I'll also be sad that it came at the expense of 6 months worth of fun and entertainment. Because if those things are suddenly valueless to you, then you had better be drawing a paycheck for it. Otherwise, what are you really getting?

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