RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 26: A vendor sells vuvuzelas and American flags outside the Royal Bafokeng Stadium ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between USA and Ghana at Royal Bafokeng Stadium on June 26, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
I am sick of my freedom not being free. There was a time five years ago when there was nothing more free than being an Atlanta Hawks fan. You walked into Philips arena and if you could afford a beer, well you could afford America. Because it was all there. Huge expanses of seats held up by steal and concrete, a game on display we stole from another country and made better, and the ability to invest in something that no one else believed in. The whole damn experience should be on stamp or something.
These days things are different. These days I care about Zaza Pachulia’s decreased rebounding rate and want to compare projected salary cap numbers to get the precise percentage of how badly Joe Johnson’s contract screwed our franchise. I need to know Jeff Teague’s projected stats based on second year players who started under ten games their rookie season, and I refuse to go to sleep at night until I internalize just how bad each Josh Smith jump shot should make me feel. These things may need to be done and figured out, and I may know everyone of these stupid answers, but they are not why I started rooting for the Hawks or why I am going to do it again this year.
If you told me five years ago the signing of Jason Collins would affect how excited I was for the season, I would either say the Hawks are going to be horrible or I have lost sight of something kind of important. And if you told me, I actually cared how much one half of the victory cigar weighed, well then I would call myself a communist because I clearly am more a fan of stats than I am of freedom.
You see stats bind you. They either depress you or leave anxiously sure of yourself. They don’t make you root harder for a guy or a team. They don’t make you buy jerseys or invite your friend to a game. They take away freedom and replace it with fact.
The New York Times had an article today about a survey that measured religious knowledge. You know who knew the most? Agnostics and atheist. And it is does not surprise me. If you don't have the experience, you better know the facts. Now listen, as someone who went to grad school in the area of religion and subscribes himself to one of them, the results are sad because religions fight and debate each other all the time, and if you are going to have that kind antagonism, you better know your stuff. If you are going to say Muslims are a violent religion or Christianity breeds bigotry, I hope you have something to back that up with more than personal judgments. And if you are going to say Gilbert Arenas has a worse contract than Joe Johnson or you would rather have Josh Smith than Chris Bosh then by all means have the win shares ready and the PER in reserve.
But I never once darkened the door of a church because I knew who Martin Luther was and I never once bought a ticket to an NBA game because Mo Evans never turns the ball over. I did those things because I had the freedom to and found meaning and enjoyment in the experience. I became connected to something bigger than myself. And if you firmly encamp yourself in that way of thinking than charts and figures can certainly add to the experience, make you see things in new ways, but when those things dictate why you show up or how passionate you root, the belief is gone and so is the fandom.
For all the horrible things that LeBron James did this summer, the worst is that he tried to take away our freedom, create a team that was so good you had to cheer for it. And while many people were critical of his methods, they had no problem buying into his facts. Now your idiot if you root for someone other than Miami, Orlando, and maybe Boston in the Eastern conference. Now, you have to be in some kind of denial to buy season tickets to some other team. Everything is an argument and the Hawks can’t win any arguments so you might as well stop looking for the joy in this team. But as outside articles and bloggers point to how hopeless the Hawks season is, they only hold onto facts, and facts rarely have hope and they never have freedom.
And so, with all due respect to the many who hammer the Hawks, this is not some Chinese gymnastic facility where only the great have meaning. I enjoy the game of basketball and the Atlanta Hawks are my team. You can take your highfalutin, egotistical, top down knowledge that leaves you with nothing to hold to but facts, and I am going to go be a part of something. Something that is not perfect. Something that will not always end well. But something I am a fan of. And if for a second we in that fandom, we can forget Joe Johnson’s contract break down or Josh Smith’s jump shot percentage, and watch the Hawks play basketball for you and for me and for this city, I promise you the joy will come through highlight dunks and fast break threes and we will be a part of something no stat can give you, the freedom of experience.
Go America and Go Hawks!