LET'S FACE IT, Jazz fans. It's not easy to hate the Spurs, is it?
It just isn't the same as having the Rockets around, with Charles and Hakeem throwing forearms and playing Whack-A-Mole with John Stockton's head. It isn't the same as playing the Sonics, with Gary Payton running his big yap. It isn't nearly as fun as having the Lakers in town, with Shaq slapping your center and throwing his big caboose around the court while the rest of those Gen X punks run their smack.The problem with the Spurs is that you actually, well, like them. You want your kids to be like them. The Spurs are nice. Their own coach says they're not just nice, they're too nice.
How do you hate nice?
They even lose well. After Thursday's 109-106 overtime loss to the Jazz, Avery Johnson said, "We can't complain about anything that happened tonight."
You have to work hard to think of reasons not to like the Spurs, so as a public service we've already done that for you. Reasons to hate the Spurs:
1) They showed up.
2) They're trying to beat the Jazz.
3) They almost beat the Jazz, twice.
4) They're from Texas.
5) That's about it.
"They are a hard team to hate," said Adam Keefe. "because they're good guys, they're solid citizens, they don't talk trash, and they don't take cheap shots. They just play hard."
What a novel concept: A team that just plays basketball. The Spurs are about as controversial as Janet Reno. If you want a circus, go watch the Lakers or Knicks or Heat. The Spurs don't run into the stands to cuss fans. They don't glare at referees or opponents or wear attitude on their faces. They don't climb into people's faces. They don't break laws. They rarely argue calls. They don't fight. They don't retaliate. They tried to talk tough after Karl Malone cold-cocked David Robinson with an elbow. They vowed revenge, but it never happened. They showed up this week and just played basketball.
The Spurs don't make it easy for opposing fans to hate them. They even play nice. They have a 21-foot front line, but they play a finesse game. Go figure.
Just try working up the kind of healthy hate for San Antonio that you had for Houston last week. Can't be done. Where is Dennis Rodman when you need him?
"We don't have any thugs, we don't have any problem players," says Monty Williams. "We just have guys who are really good guys, genuinely good guys."
Precisely. Cheering against the Spurs is like cheering against apple pie and mom.
How can you hate David Robinson, an officer and a gentleman, The Admiral? How can you hate a smiling, religious, gracious, clean-cut man who shows up for games in a white shirt and suit? A guy who signs autographs patiently for fans, complete with a scriptural passage -- Matt. 6:33.
A guy who forgave Karl Malone.
How can you really root against a guy who, as he was leaving the locker room after a Jazz game last season, stopped unsolicited to talk for a couple of minutes with an 11-year-old boy who was standing nearby?
How do you hate a guy who quotes the Bible and says his idea of a great time is relaxing at home with his wife and children? A guy who reads books, plays the piano and saxophone, has a degree in math and once scored 1,320 of a possible 1,600 points on the SAT? A guy who, when he saw a couple of teammates reading a men's magazine on the team bus, asked that the bus stop and that the magazine be removed.
How do you hate a guy who not only is a perfect role model, but wants to be a perfect role model.
But let's try hating someone else -- say, Avery Johnson. Good luck. Try jeering the man with the 12-year-old face. He's a petite version of Robinson, another polite, happy, religious fellow. He spoke at a religious revival in the Alamodome an hour or so after playing against the Jazz in the same arena. He kneels in prayer with Robinson and Monty Williams before every game. Yeah, he's a bad guy. He grew up one of 10 children and has never forgotten his humble roots. He has founded a charitable foundation.
How can you hate a guy who was never drafted and was passed around among NBA teams like a bad cold? He practices five hours a day in the summer. He's one of those "church-going" Spurs players whom Rodman referred to on David Letterman. Don't you have to like someone Rodman makes fun of?
Go ahead, turn your fan's wrath on Tim Duncan, a kid rookie who plays the game and keeps his mouth shut. He's humble, he's unselfish, he passes the ball, shows up for practice early, stays late. Seriously, who can't pull for a guy whose childhood teammates used to call Mr. Clumsy. Try to make this guy a bad guy. He ignored zillion-dollar offers to finish school and make good on a promise to his late mother. When he was whistled for a questionable goaltending call, he started the protest, then smiled and said nothing.
How can you not pull for Will Perdue, Mr. Trade Bait? Everytime the trading deadline approaches, he has to run and hide, inasmuch as that's possible with a pair of Size 20 (left) feet. He gets treated like a speed bag and comes back for more. Last year he had a broken thumb, a fractured eye socket, a sprained ankle, an injured hamstring and a torn ACL. Know what he does when he disagrees with a call? He smiles. Try booing this guy.
The only guy on the team with any attitude is Jaren Jackson, but how can you fault a guy who made it after playing in three leagues and for nine NBA teams in eight years for the league minimum.
Chuck Person might be the easiest target for Jazz fans, but how can you really hate the only guy out there who is in worse shape than you are?
If only the Spurs would cooperate, you could really learn to hate them. If only they would deck Stockton once, or pound the scorer's table or talk some trash, it would be so much easier to cheer against this team. But they won't. Bring on the Lakers or Sonics.