Soccer kids get participation trophies. Parents don’t call them losers when they lose games. They call them winners for trying hard, even if they miss the ball when they kick at it. Or when they strike out for
eighth eighteenth time in a row. I mean, who really counts right?
Our saving grace is competitive sports. Played by guys and gals whose blood isn’t running through our veins. That’s where we can channel those unspoken frustrations. So we can yell at them. Hold them to higher standards. AND CALL THEM LOSERS WHEN THEY LOSE.
We hold it in when it’s our kid. Or our kids’ friends on the team, even. Oh sure, we are absolutely VICIOUS to the kids on those other teams, but that’s generally under our breath, or at least not loud enough for those other kids’ parents to hear us and punch us in the mouth in the parking lot after the game. I mean, there’s a reason we match all the kids to their parents so we know who can kick our ass and who can’t. We size them up.
Back to the Suns now.
We have the right to get mad at these players. We have the right to call them losers when they lose. We can yell. And hold it against them when they don’t put out their best effort.
They don’t get participation trophies, dammit!
Well, maybe they do, actually. Their participation trophies are huge freaking salaries, bloated bank accounts (or if they’re still in college then scholarships), all the women/men they could ever want, and friends for days. Everyone LOVES supreme athletes. Everyone says yes to them. Everyone wants to be just like them.
On a more “trophy” level, they can earn themselves individual awards. All-league, all-rookie, all-star, this of the year, that of the year, and so on.
So, why can’t we call them out for being losers? Why can’t we hold it against them?
Because we are fanatics. We develop affinities. And we defend them against all comers.
Some of us defend just certain players. We subconsciously balance our unerring defense of player X by cutting down the same faults in player Y.
Others tend toward defending the whole team. Like soccer dads.
The Phoenix Suns have turned me into a soccer dad*.
*kudos to former contributor and current tweeter Rollin Mason for putting this storyline into my head as I watch yet another Suns loss
As the Suns careen toward their fourth consecutive sub-30 percent win rate season (they are 11-37 as of this writing), I can do nothing but find solace in each player’s strengths, and in their potential to turn their weaknesses into even more strengths down the road.
Hence the constant defense of the team’s two best players, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker. Yes, I know they have flaws. And I recognize them in measured tones, but I don’t wallow in them. I don’t harp on them because where does that get me? I am not their trainer, not their coach, not their spirit guide. So, why bother broken-recording the flaws.
I re-direct that frustration toward other players, most notably the ones who are no longer Suns. Or, if I’m “lucky”, I can channel that frustration toward a player or two currently on the team that doesn’t appreciate his role. Like Ariza this year, or the Morris twins in years past, for example. I want to defend players who love the team, love the franchise, love their lot in life.
You can tear down Devin Booker all you want, if that’s your way of dealing with frustration. I just find it weird that you would choose one of the guy who wants to be a Phoenix Sun, who appreciates his fortune in life and wants to bring joy back to the valley. Same for Ayton. He loves it here, is having fun and taking in his rookie season like a kid in Disneyland.
I also defend players who are undersized, or undertalented, or under-something to where they feel like they have to work harder than anyone else on the court to succeed. So I enjoy guys like Mikal Bridges, Richaun Holmes and De’Anthony Melton because they just try so hard.
And that’s the key. Do they care about Phoenix? Do they care about the Suns? And/or do they try harder than most anyone else out there?
That’s where I put my loyalty, while ignoring whatever is happening on the scoreboard. Because it’s not about wins and losses, right? It’s about the kids having fun, learning sportsmanship and not getting hurt.
Yep, I’m a soccer dad.