Sports fans live on hope. It is the dominant emotion of fandom. There is the depression, anger, frustration, amazement, and joy that comes with every play made or missed, every game won or lost, but those feelings pass and what is left is hope. You do not stay a fan of something for any other reason.
The Atlanta Hawks are a better team than they were last year, but even more importantly, they are fully healthy. This team can give its best shot. It seems a bit odd, but hope lives on the known. The "what ifs' of sports tear down hope like few things can. To have all the possibilities, to know win or lose this team can give max effort is the easiest way to buy in. There need be no wait for next year. There need be no lurking "what if" to keep you hesitant. Another team may be better, but they will have to prove it against our best.
Now, most people think that means a win or two in the second round for Atlanta. Some think a Bogut led Bucks could have taken this Hawks team down. And those things all may be true, but what I know is this team is healthy, and when the Hawks are healthy, they can beat anyone.
Last year, Atlanta came in to a series against Cleveland with three starters seriously hurting. The injuries killed the punchers chance and took the hope with it. All you start to do as fans is think about how this is not who the team is, how the potential does match the reality, and when you feel short changed, you just think abut how these tickets are not worth the price. You think about "what ifs" and get upset about the waste of 82 games because of bum ankles and tweaked wrists. There is no worse feeling than a playoff run that tells you nothing about your team. What you want is, in victory or defeat, to know where your team stands.
This year Hawks fans will know where their team stands. After six years of rebuilding, we will finally have a measuring stick. And so going in to this second season, you may be like me and not expect an Eastern Conference finals trip. But I know very few people who do not think this Hawks team can beat anyone in a game.
The regular season shows potential. The playoffs show reality. And so yes, the potential for the Hawks to make a deep run is smaller than an Orlando or a Cleveland, but it is there. And for the first time with any real potential, the Hawks are at their full strength. Reality is about to come.
You might not like the direction of the team, you might be all too aware of the weaknesses, but the anatomy for hope is finally in place. Might as well step in. It is what being a fan is all about