Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jazzfans

One phrase that I have come to finally accept in the harsh reality of sports fandom is this: There's always next year.

As depressing as that sounds, my heritage and loyalty to one team and one team only in the National Basketball Association for 26 years and counting, has been defined by those four simple, insignificant, powerfully depressing words. Granted, the Jazz haven't had nearly as much heartbreak and suffering as the Red Sox, Bills, Browns, Cavaliers, or Cubs. However, we have had our punches to the ovaries mind you.

Let me recount for you:

My initial allegiance came back in 1984 when I threw a party in heaven. The Jazz had just drafted future Hall-of-Fame point guard John Stockton. The next year we drafted another Hall-of-Famer, Karl Malone. It was only up from there I thought.

When I was 6 years old, my Dad and I were watching the 1991 NBA playoffs. The Jazz had just been embarrassed by Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers. I believe that was when I heard those words release from my Dad's mouth. "There's always next year, son." He said with a sigh of frustrated depression.

Jump ahead to 1994 and 1995. I was a hard-core fan by this time. I had posters, I had pennants. I even got grounded for trying to give myself a Utah Jazz tattoo. Granted, I was 9 years old, but still. That was one tattoo I would never have been ashamed of. His Airness had just retired. The Jazz were at the top of their game. We were gonna do it this year! We had to! Who was going to stop us? Oh, I forgot, the cursed Houston Rockets. A team that had a traveling center, and the ugliest creature known to man. Tell me that Sam Cassell's face doesn't bring vomit to your mouth. The team that knocked us out of the playoffs both years went on to win the title. Titles that we could have had. But hey, you know what, there's always next year, there's always next year.

Fast forward another three years. We were dominant. We were beating up other opponents. We were pick n'rolling every defense to shreds. We had the best record in the league in '98! John Stockton, Karl Malone, Horny, B-Russ, the Big Dog, we had it made. We were gonna do it! Until the greatest player of all time, on one of the greatest teams of all time decided to finish up their second three-peat. Thanks MJ, you crashed yet ANOTHER young boys hopes into smithereens.

But hey, there's always next year right? 1999 was our year. It had to be. I can still hear the commercial that aired on 1320 KFAN all throughout that lockout season.

Announcer: "We knocked in 97. We banged our fist in 98. But this year, we're kicking down the door!"

We didn't. The Trail Blazers did it again, sending us back to the infamous phrase.

Things changed. We lost the all-time assists, and steals leader. The 2nd-highest scorer of all time switched jerseys. We went through a seven year rebuilding process. And then in 2006 we had it. We were almost there. We had D-Will. We had AK-47. We had the shooting big man Okur. We had who was at that time, a beastly big man whose name I shall not put on this blog. We won the division and made it all the way to the Western Finals. But nope. Tim Duncan said, "I'll take that NBA trophy, I'd like to add it to my other 3."

And so here I sit. My team is at the tail end of what appeared to be a groundbreaking, but what turned out to be a pathetic season. We'll have to wait another 7 years before lottery picks and trades can make us a contender again. But until that day comes, I'll keep saying the same doctrinal phrase as I always do while the lockers get cleaned out;

There's always next year...

What do you think?

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