By Lance Fell
I have a Spurs tattoo on my upper left shoulder. And it is perhaps my favorite tattoo. And whenever someone sees it, they always say one of two things:
1.“Dude, you really love the Spurs.” Or they say…
2.“It’s Just a basketball team.”
To the first, I reply with a simple yes. Yes, I love my Spurs. But the second statement has no simple answer, because if you’re from San Antonio, then you know the Spurs are more than a basketball team. They are more than 82 games a season. They are more than the four championship banners hanging in the rafters of the AT&T Center. The Spurs are a part of our community, and also a part of our culture.
It’s hard to describe exactly how much the Spurs mean to San Antonio. It’s really something that has to be seen with your own eyes. Almost every car or truck has a Spurs sticker or emblem. And no matter what bar or restaurant you walk into here in San Antonio, I guarantee you’ll see multiple people in Spurs gear. We Spurs fans are proud fans and have an undying loyalty to the Silver and Black, a loyalty that will never be broken. Let me give you an example of how loyal Spurs fans are.
My friend Matt and I went downtown a couple nights ago to watch the end of the Spurs-Knicks game. While venturing through the Riverwalk, Matt ran across a longtime friend and another guy he was with. So we all walked into the next bar we saw and sat right in front of the television. There were Duncan and Ginobili jerseys all around us, and I was beginning to feel right at home when all of a sudden the guy that Matt knew said something that shocked and appalled me.
He said, “I hate the Spurs.” I quickly turned my head, said a couple profane words, and proceeded to ask this guy where he was from. And of course he said the one thing that Spurs fans hate more than the 0.4 Dereck Fisher shot. He said, “I’m from Dallas.”
As soon as he said Dallas, I had to stop myself from gagging. I couldn’t believe I was sitting at a bar and drinking beers with a Mavericks fan, in my Wake Forest Tim Duncan jersey nonetheless. I felt dirty. I felt lied to. So I stood up, looked him straight in the eye and said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry Dwayne Wade has your ring. I’m sorry you have a seven footer who’s scared of posting up, and I’m sorry you’ll never hoist a championship banner in the American Airlines Arena, ever.”
Everybody’s jaw dropped. I looked at my friend Matt and he couldn’t believe it. And before Mavs guy could say anything, I walked out. No good-byes, no see you laters, nothing. And it felt good. Actually, it felt great. I walked around downtown that night with my shoulders back and my head high, because I felt like I had not only defended my beloved Spurs, but my beautiful city.
I hope whenever that Mavs fan thinks of San Antonio, he thinks of me, and how big of a jerk I probably came off as. But also of how loyal and dedicated I am to my team and my city. There are plenty of reasons why we Spurs fans are so loyal, but there’s one thing that separates the Spurs from all other professional franchises. Of the ten most populated cities in the country, San Antonio and San Jose are the only cities with one professional sports team. Besides the Alamo or the Valero Alamo Bowl, the Spurs are the only thing in our beloved city that gives us any kind of national media attention. The Spurs represent the nearly two and a half million people in San Antonio, and the surrounding areas, to the nation. And they do it with an elegance and grace that is unrivaled in modern sports.
Dallas has three professional sports teams; the Mavericks, the Cowboys and the Stars. I would go ahead and put the Rangers in Dallas too. But I want to look at the bigger two franchises, of course I’m talking about the Mavericks and the Cowboys. The Cowboys have been known as America’s team for almost four decades and they have had a great amount of success. But they have been riddled with off-the-field problems. They had problems during their dynasty in the 90s and more recently with Adam Jones. The Mavericks, on the other hand, didn’t start having great success until Internet mogul and billionaire Mark Cuban bought the team in 2000. Yet, Cuban has always been the center of some controversy. Whether he’s getting fined for making remarks towards the referees or Kenyon Martin’s mom, or getting charged with insider trading, the Mavericks owner is always in a media storm.
You never hear of the Spurs caught up in any scandal. Sure, Peter Holt might have had his drinking issues, but he’s battled his demons and came out on top. It’s not that the Spurs shy away from media attention, in fact there have been more nationally televised games this year than any I can remember.
They just focus on winning and if the media notices then so be it, and in San Antonio, we take great pride in that. We take pride in not being the Jailblazers, or having our superstars argue with our coaches. We take pride in the fact that our players aren’t seen on SportsCenter in handcuffs.
The people that make up the Spurs organization are strong people with good morals. People like David Robinson, who teaches at his local church and founded the Carver Academy. Strong military people like Gregg Popovich, who is a graduate of the Air Force Academy. And in San Antonio, a city with strong military roots, people like Popovich and Robinson personify what this great city is all about, and that’s accomplishing your goals while staying true to who you are, and who your family is. Family is always the most important thing in San Antonio.
San Antonio is the anti-Los Angeles, it’s the anti-Chicago, it’s the anti-New York. And it’s even the anti-Dallas. But that’s what’s so great about San Antonio; it’s a small town, yet, it’s a thriving metropolis steeped in rich heritage and an affluent culture that makes anything a part of its traditions, a part of San Antonio. That’s what the Spurs are, a tradition. Like fiesta every April, your niece’s quinceañera or tamales during Christmas, the Spurs are a tradition passed down from family to family, generation to generation. They are as much a part of San Antonio as the Alamo, the Missions and the Riverwalk. And they are also a part of us, our families and our friends.
It’s because we think of the Spurs as our family and friends that we have all of our emotions invested in them. With every win, we feel a kind of euphoria, and jubilation. We feel happiness and excitement. Yet with every defeat, we have a sudden feeling of hopelessness and desperation. Our emotions are so invested in their success, that one loss can turn the most joyous of events, say your grandmother’s birthday or your cousin’s graduation, into a dark and dismal occasion.
On a personal note, my son, Elliott, was born on June 14, 2007, the day the Spurs won their fourth NBA Championship. And while I was celebrating the birth of my son, the city of San Antonio was celebrating another title. Needless to say, it was the greatest day of my life. Every time I see my son’s face, I see my city celebrating, people running up and down Commerce Street waving their brooms. I don’t think there is an emotion that can really sum up how I feel when I think about June 14, 2007.
I love my Spurs. I love them like a Saturday afternoon at St.Marys University during Oyster Bake. I love them like a reggae festival at the Sunken Gardens. I love them like a weekend at the rodeo with George Strait and Alan Jackson. I love all those things because they bring excitement and joy to San Antonio. And that’s what the Spurs do. They bring an excitement and joy to San Antonio that is immeasurable. I love my Spurs, and no matter what happens, if they win 50 games, or lose 50, I will love and cherish them because they have given me some of the best moments of my life, and for that, I am forever grateful.
That’s why I have a Spurs tattoo.