My knowledge of basketball consists entirely of the most rudimentary understanding of the pick and roll. I learned this in grade nine when my height and running speed deceived a high school coach into believing that I could be something more than awkward and gangling with a basketball in my hands. I was Darko Miličić before Darko Miličić.
I’m not really a basketball fan. I admire it from afar. The coordination. The leaping. The running. The endurance. My ignorance to the finer points of analytics and tactics affords me a certain wonderment as a spectator that’s absent from other sports for which I have a greater understanding.
With the start of the NBA playoffs earlier this week, I decided to alter this comfortable hands-off relationship I had developed with the sport. I wanted to end the neutral observer nonsense, and pick a team to support, hopefully, throughout the next month, and if it worked out, perhaps longer.
Typically, this is a less conscious decision for sports fans. We often cheer for teams based on regional bias, or we support a club because our parents supported that club. Or, if we’re particularly rebellious, we swear allegiance to a franchise because its the main rival of the one with which our parents have allied themselves. I’m cheering for the Chicago Blackhawks because you just don’t understand, Vancouver mom.
My forced approach to the NBA playoffs pushed me to reflect on the differences between watching a sport as a neutral observer and obsessing over a sport as a fan with a rooting interest. It’s vastly different. For many of us who support a team, the individual outcomes of tiny instances within a game that all add up to produce a result are the sole responsibility of the players on the team over which we obsess.